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Photo Credit: Candice Ward/Calgary Hitmen

Which Hitmen could get drafted this year?

The 2020 edition of the annual NHL Draft is just over a month away. In addition to the usual intrigue about the Calgary Flames and their picks, there’s some mystery surrounding the Calgary Hitmen. The Hitmen have had 10 players selected over the past five drafts: will any Hitmen get drafted this time around?

Let’s handicap their chances.

First off, four players that ended the 2019-20 season with the Hitmen won’t be drafted because NHL clubs already hold their rights: RD Jett Woo (Vancouver), LD Egor Zamula (Philadelphia), RW Mark Kastelic (Ottawa) and C Carson Focht (Vancouver).

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There’s no surefire, slam-dunk top NHL prospects this year. But there are a few Hitmen that have good chances of hearing their name called.

Distinct possibilities

RD Luke Prokop is a first-time eligible and has a lot of good qualities. He’s big. He’s smart in all three zones. He’s effective defensively and his offensive production five-on-five compares well with the top WHL draft eligible players at his position. With Woo and Zamula likely headed to pro (and overager Dakota Krebs graduating), Prokop will get tons of PP time next season, too. He’s ranked 130th among North American skaters by Central Scouting and he’s probably my favourite “buy low” 2020 WHL prospect.

G Brayden Peters moved into full-time WHL duty this past season and his quiet consistency supplanted Jack McNaughton as the Hitmen starter by mid-season. The big knock on Peters is his sample size, just 37 WHL games, but he’s steady, smart, and tends to bounce back well from bad goals and bad outings. The question is if scouts can project him based on just 37 outings.

C Riley Stotts is re-entering the draft after not being signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs. A 2018 pick, Stotts had 68 points this past season and emerged as one of the team’s most consistent offensive players. He’s not overly flashy or showy, but he’s consistently taken steps (albeit small ones) in each of the past three seasons.

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Less likely possibilities

LD Jackson van de Leest was invited to Flames rookie camp a year ago and he has a lot of qualities that scouts love. He’s big! He moves well! But the big knock on him is he hasn’t taken a big step offensively (yet).

C Riley Fiddler-Schultz took a step in 2019-20 and has been a productive regular in the Dub for two seasons. But he’s inconsistent offensively and been limited by injuries, which may lead to questions about his playing style. That said, when he’s “on” he’s one of the best Calgary players.

LW Orca Wiesblatt is almost as talented as his younger brother Ozzy, a prospective top pick in this year’s draft. The only knock on Orca is his consistency: you won’t notice him for long stretches, then he’ll pop off three or four awesome outings.

Probably Not

RW Josh Prokop has been rock-solid for the Hitmen, but he seems to have topped out as a productive complimentary player for them.

LW Adam Kydd has been a useful depth body and has some upside, but has only played 53 games and it’s unclear what his WHL ceiling will be.

G Jack McNaughton was great in 2018-19, but took a step back in 2019-20 and lost his starting gig to Peters.

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C Cael Zimmerman is a great forechecker but he’s been limited by injury and his offensive numbers haven’t emerged yet.

RD Evan Toth, RW Connor Gabruch, LW Conrad Mitchell, C Blake Allan and RW/RD Devan Klassen are all useful depth bodies at the WHL level, but haven’t generated much offense (individually or as a group) and so are long-shots at this point.

Very Little Chance

RD Dakota Krebs and C Kyle Olson have both completed their WHL careers and are aging out. Both have enrolled in university. Given their ages and that they’ve both gone through several drafts without selection – Krebs was never drafted, Olson was picked by Anaheim but not signed and went through 2019’s draft unclaimed – they seem safe bets to go undrafted again.