In a draft class as deep as this year’s, it’s easy to get lost in the hype of some of the top draft-eligible prospects. Alexis Lafreniere, Quinton Byfield, Marco Rossi, Cole Perfetti and Jamie Drysdale, among others, are the crown jewels of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, and all of whom have the potential to be franchise-changing players.
For a team like the Philadelphia Flyers, though, the odds of getting to select one of those top prospects is essentially zero. The Flyers are one of the better teams in the NHL, and it’s likely that they’ll have to wait until the end of the first round to make their selection. But even so, the 2020 class is deep enough that the Flyers could still select a highly touted prospect even if they were to win the Stanley Cup and have the last pick of the first round.
One such player likely to be available toward the end of the first round is none other than Prince Albert Raiders forward Ozzy Wiesblatt.
What a name.
Wiesblatt is projected to go somewhere late in the first round or early in the second, but after watching his game tape and learning more about him as an individual, one could argue that he’d be a surefire first-round prospect in most average draft classes.
What do the stats say?
It took Wiesblatt a little longer than some of his peers to really get his feet under him in the Western Hockey League. After being selected by the Prince Albert Raiders in the second round (No. 25 overall) of the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft, Wiesblatt appeared in just one game as a rookie. In order to better prepare for a full-time role in the WHL, he spent the majority of the 2017-18 season playing for his hometown Calgary Buffaloes, where he collected 21 goals and 41 points in 33 games.
In 2018-19, Wiesblatt finally earned a full-time role with the Raiders, and he immediately began making an impact. Though his numbers didn’t pop off the page — he only managed 15 goals and 39 points in 64 games (plus 10 points in 23 playoff games) — it was still an impressive campaign for a first-year WHLer.
But that was nothing compared to what he accomplished in his draft year. In 2019-20, Wiesblatt became a true game-changer for the Raiders. In 64 games, he logged 25 goals and 70 total points, which ranked second on the Raiders behind only Washington Capitals prospect Alexei Protas. Wiesblatt was one of the better offensive players in the entire WHL this past season as a 17-year-old, and it’s not unrealistic to assume that he’s on the cusp of becoming a legitimately dominant player in the junior ranks.
The Eye Test
There’s a lot to like about Wiesblatt’s game. Though he isn’t the biggest at his position — he’s only 5’10 and 183 pounds — he plays a hard-nosed game and thrives on getting under the opponent’s skin. He can skate like the wind, and his hands are some of the best in the draft.
Wiesblatt’s vision is outstanding, and his skill as a playmaker made him lethal on the power play for Prince Albert. He led the Raiders in every major statistical category on the power play with 10 goals, 17 assists and 27 points in 2019-20. And while he is more than capable of making highlight-reel plays on his own, his ability to create scoring opportunities for his teammates is just as impressive.
Wiesblatt plays a game quite similar to that of Travis Konecny. He and Konecny are essentially the exact same size and they both play much bigger than their listed height indicates. They’re both elite chirpers on the ice and aren’t afraid to mix it up after the whistle is blown. Like Konecny, Wiesblatt is capable of playing both wing and center (though he is more likely to play wing in the NHL).
While it’s far too early to peg Wiesblatt as the next Travis Konecny, the similarities between the two are obvious. With another year or two of development, Wiesblatt could realistically be a very good top-six winger with the added bonus of contributing regularly on the power play. If he reaches his full potential, though, he could end up being a staple on a team’s top line.
Not bad for a projected late first-round pick, eh?