Buzzing the Net teamed up with some of the WHL's finest play-by-play announcers to put together a list of the league's top 10 talents.
To the surprise of no one, Everett Silvertips blueliner Ryan Murray topped the list. That's not to say the Columbus Blue Jackets No. 2 overall pick had no competition. Portland Winterhawks winger Ty Rattie was a very close second. From then on, the announcers' opinions have their major differences, besides the fact they all think the Edmonton Oil Kings have a handful of tier-1 players.
Thanks to Saskatoon Blades' Les Lazaruk, Swift Current Broncos' Shawn Mullin, Kootenay Ice's Jeff Hollick, Victoria Royals' Marlon Martens, and Tri-City Americans' Craig West, here is a look at BTN's list of the top 10 players in the Dub. This list is a composite of top-10 lists submitted by each broadcaster.
1. Ryan Murray, defence, Everett Silvertips — Murray very likely wouldn't be on this list if it wasn't for the billionaires fighting with the millionaires that has caused the NHL lockout. But until Ohio becomes his full-time home, the guys in the press boxes believe the White City, SK., native is the best player in the league.
Murray isn't a very flashy player. He tends not to throw huge jaw-dropping hits like Red Dee Rebels' Mathew Dumba or put up 5-point nights like Rattie. He stands out as the Dub's top player because he can control the tempo of a game. His impeccable smarts and skating puts him one-step ahead of his opponents. He puts himself into position to stop players before they even makes their move. Moreover, he slides past players without them being able to contain him because of his elusiveness and speed.
The St. Louis Blues second rounder potted 57 goals last year, adding 64 helpers through 69 games. The Dub may have to start charging Rattie for the high volume of goal lights they have to replace regularly in Portland. Perhaps the CHLPA will jot this down on their list of major issues they have to tackle out West.
Rattie has gotten off to a slow start this year, only scoring one goal and three points throughout his first six games. It is no reason to panic in Portland, though. The 6-foot, 176-pounder seems to get better as the year goes on, particularly in the second season. The 19-year-old has notched a total of 30 goals and 59 points in 55 playoff games.
3. Hunter Shinkaruk, wing, Medicine Hat Tigers — Shinkaruk broke out into a star last year in his sophomore season with the Tigers, scoring 49 goals and 91 points in 66 games. The writing is on the wall for the 5-foot-11, 175-pounder to be a top 10 pick this June.
The way Shinkaruk takes the puck down the ice is true art for scouts. He dazzles defenders, ripping around them with the puck on the string. Very few players possess the combination of elite speed, hands, shooting, and smooth skating as Shinkaruk does.
Shinkaruk received a lone No. 1 ranking from Lazaruk. "In my mind, he is the most dangerous, prolific player in the Eastern Conference, if not the entire WHL," the Blades announcer said.
4. Laurent Brossoit, goaltender, Edmonton Oil Kings — Brossoit and Blades' Andrey Makarov were the only goaltenders nominated. But Brossoit takes the cake between the pipes, being the only puck-stopper to receive multiple top-10 votes.
Brossoit is the backbone of the Oil Kings. The Calgary Flames prospect stood tall in their championship season, maintaining a 2.04 average and a .933 save percentage throughout 20 post-season games.
Despite his large 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame, Brossoit moves very fluidly from post to post. He is a technically sound goaltender that lets very few soft goals past him.
5. Michael St. Croix, centre, Edmonton Oil Kings — St. Croix is at the helm of the Dub's top offense in the league. He leads by example, scoring 45 goals and 105 points in 72 games last year.
St. Croix has steadily improved his point total since joining Edmonton in 2009. Having already posted a 100-plus point season last year, it will be interesting to see what type of arc St. Croix's scoring curve will be at this year. If it continues as it has been the past two years, it seems the New York Rangers prospect is poised for around a 135-point season. St. Croix is definitely capable of leading the league in points. However, Rattie and Shinkaruk will be tough completion.
6. Griffin Reinhart, defence, Edmonton Oil Kings — With the Oil Kings losing Buffalo Sabres prospect Mark Pysyk to the pros, Reinhart is the new anchor on Edmonton's back end. That's not to say he wasn't a major impact player last year. He was a catalyst in his own end, consistently shutting down opponents' top scorers. He also made a dent in the offensive zone, netting 12 goals and 36 points in 58 games.
Having a 6-foot-4, 202-pound stature combined with possessing an ample amount of raw skill is quite rare to see. That's why the New York Islanders selected Reinhart No. 4 overall last June. He has the potential to develop into a cornerstone defenceman in the NHL.
7. Morgan Rielly, defence, Moose Jaw Warriors — Rielly missed nearly all of last season because of a knee injury. But in the 18 games prior to his injury and in the five playoff games after his return, the 6-foot, 205-pounder looked like a star. He eluded body checks and dangled past opponents as if he was a man playing against boys.
Having lost the likes of the Dylan McIlrath, Quinton Howden, and Cody Beach to the pros, the Warriors are no longer an Ed Chynoweth Cup contender this year. They will be heavily depending on Rielly to bring them back into the second season. The Toronto Maple Leafs prospect has gotten off to a great start, notching two goals and seven points in six games.
8. Curtis Lazar, centre, Edmonton Oil Kings — The 6-foot, 198-pound centre seems poised to blossom from a 20-goal scorer to a one of the league's top players. Therefore, if he does tap into his huge barrel of potential, he should be a high pick in the 2013 draft.
Lazar does a lot more than just score. The 17-year-old is a complete player. He blocks shots, plays the body regularly, and will drop the gloves on occasion. He is the type of person all players want for a teammate and all coaches want in their arsenal.
9. Brenden Kichton, defence, Spokane Chiefs — Since breaking out in 2010, Kichton has become a household name among WHL fans. He is quite possibly the top puck-moving blueliner in the league, having scored 74 points last year and 81 the year before.
Kichton is the lone 20-year-old on this list. He has yet to sign a contract with the Islanders after being drafted 127th overall by them in 2011. The 5-foot-10, 185-pounder needs to earn a contract with New York in his last season of major junior eligibility.
10. Mark McNeill, centre, Prince Albert Raiders — McNeill had a disappointing season last year. His 71-point season was 10 points back from his sophomore year with the Raiders. Some questioned his drive and consistency.
The Raider faithful are desperately hoping McNeill will lead them back into the playoffs. On paper, they look like a strong squad. It is too early to tell for certain, but to the delight of Prince Albert fans, it seems they have what it takes to make some noise in the post-season.
Honourable mention: Seth Jones, defence, Portland Winterhawks — Nearly every announcer made note of how they didn't rate Jones high in their top 10 or in it at all because they haven't seen the 6-foot-4, 206-pounder enough live to have a strong take on him. Most announcers also went to say Jones will likely be in their top 5 by the end of his rookie season in Portland.
Other honourable mentions: Pittsburgh Penguins first-rounder Derrick Pouliot, who scored 59 points in 72 games from the blueline for Portland last year, received three lower top-10 votes. Red Deer Rebels' Mathew Dumba is one of the league's top complete players on the back end and received three lower top-10 votes. Kootenay Ice star Sam Reinhart could break out into one of the top players of the 2014 draft class, received a lone top-5 vote.
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen