Sat Apr 30 01:00am EDT
With the Portland Winterhawks having a fistful of promising draft-eligible players, one can't overlook defenceman Tyler Wotherspoon.
The 6-foot-2, 203-pound Wotherspoon plays a vital shutdown role for the Winterhawks, who are tied 2-2 with the Spokane Chiefs in the WHL Western Conference final. Similar to Moose Jaw Warriors defenceman Dylan McIlrath, who was selected 10th overall by the New York Rangers in 2010, Wotherspoon's rugged play has helped his draft rankings. Wotherspoon is ranked 40th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. He is 10th among WHL skaters and sixth among the league's defencemen.
The Surrey, B.C,. native has been compared to NHL defenceman such as Scott Hannan and Matt Greene, but he tries to emulate his favourite NHL defenceman Brent Seabrook, who has a well-rounded game.
"My favourite player Brent Seabrook and I watch him and try and take after what he does out there," says Wotherspoon.
Wotherspoon scored a short-handed goal in Portland's 8-3 loss to Spokane on Friday. Like a lot of second-year junior defencemen, he's still figuring out how to chip in on the scoring side.
"I need to improve on the offensive side," says Wotherspoon, who had two goals and 12 points in 64 regular-season games. "Just getting quick shots off and making plays out in the offensive zone."
Wotherspoon has taken on an expanded role since the Winterhawks lost captain Brett Ponich to a season-endin injury during the regular season. Ultimately, the team who selects Wotherspoon will have hopes of him being their shutdown defender.
"Just the love for the game. All my friends did it and I joined in. I started playing road hockey as a kid and then I started playing on the ice."
2. How would you describe the way you play?
"I'd say I'm more of a defensive defenceman. I like to play on the penalty kill and I like to be reliable on the defensive side."
3. What part of your game do you feel will stand out to scouts the most?
"Probably my defensive play. Just being consistent and shutting down the top-lines out there."
4. Who's your favourite National Hockey League team?
"Growing up in British Columbia, I've always been a Vancouver Canucks fan. I had season tickets to their games when I was younger and it would be a dream of mine to play for them."
5. If you weren't playing hockey what other sport would you take seriously?
"It would be baseball. I use to play competitive baseball until I came over to Portland."
Kelly Friesen is a Western Hockey League writer for Yahoo! Sports Canada. Follow him on twitter @KellyFriesen.