I've been pretty big on Mitch Wahl for awhile now and every time I look at something else about him, I get a little more excited. Be it this Hockeys Future article that states "because of his special playmaking and defensive skills, the 18-year-old center is assigned to play against the opposition's best units the majority of the time. His maturity is well beyond his age" or glowing first hands accounts like this one via HF boards:
After being dissapointed that we selected a Californian at #4 in the draft, he surprised me with his skillset. As a 16 year old, I thought he was downright the best player on the ice at our camp. His skating looks similair to Scott Gomez, he is poetry in motion and never stops moving his feet, plays solid in his own end, and isn't afraid to go into the corners. He's a fantastic playmaker already, he should progress nicely into a #1 or #2 center in the NHL. He's also shown that he's unafraid to drop the mits, another thing that surprised me. The kid is mature beyond his years, I think he could be one of our captains next year as a 17 year old.
It's not just the qualitative stuff either. Wahl's counting stats are solid, but things look even better if you go a bit deeper. His plus/minus has been team leading in each of the last two seasons, despite apparently playing against other good players. He's also been a better than point-per-game player for two straight seasons.
In addition, Tyler Dellow recently noted that ES scoring in Junior is probably more indicative of NHL success than PP scoring in this post on Rob Schremp. For those too lazy to click, Schremp scored a 75 points in his draft year, 47 of which (62%) were with the man advantage. In contrast, Wjotek Wolski (who was selected in the same year) scored just 67 points, but 46 of them were 5on5. I think we all know who the superior hockey player is today.
This got me curious, so I looked at Wahl's stats from last season. Just 5 of his 32 goals came on the PP (fewest amongst the top 5 scorers on the team) which was encouraging. Next, I went through the WHL gamesheets and discovered he scored a bulk of his total points at ES: from my quick tally, 40 of his 67 points came at 5on5, while just 18 were on the PP (I didn't count SH or EN). This was done manually, so the count may be off by a point or two, but the trend is there.
I haven't gone through his draft year (2007-08), but upon a first glance it looks to be similar: Wahl scored 20 goals and 73 points, but just 4 PPG. By comparison Drayson Bowman, the only player to outscore Wahl that year, managed 42 goals and 82 points...but 17 of his markers were on the PP.
So, despite the recent Hockey USA snub, I think the Flames may have stolen a player with the 48th pick last summer (ironically, with the only 2nd round pick the Flames have had...uh...ever (?) under Darryl Sutter). He'll be a guy to watch during pre-season this year.