2023 WHL Prospects Draft Recap: Preston, Esler headline Chiefs’ 2008 class

Spokane, Wash. — The Spokane Chiefs selected forward Mathis Preston third overall and goaltender Carter Esler 22nd overall to headline their 2023 WHL Prospects Draft class on Thursday. The Chiefs had seven picks within the first 100 overall, selecting Preston, Esler, D Kaden Allan (24th), D Brayden Thompson (46th), F Cohen Harris (47th), D Rhett Sather (68th) and D Nolan Saunderson (90th).

In total, the Chiefs made 10 picks in the draft, including four forwards, five defensemen and one goaltender. Manitoba was well-represented, with five players hailing from the province. Two came from Alberta, one from British Columbia, one from Saskatchewan and one from North Dakota.

Players selected in this year’s WHL Draft are first eligible to join the Chiefs as full-time players during the 2024-25 season and can play up to five games as Affiliated Players in 2023-24.

Pick-by-pick Recap

1st Round (3rd Overall)

Mathis Preston — full announcement

Forward • 5’9″ • 146 lbs

Hometown: Penticton, BC

Stats (2022-23): 26 GP, 45 goals, 36 assists, 81 total points with Okanagan Hockey Academy U15 Prep (10 points on 7G-3A in four playoff games)

Scouting Report: “Mathis is an elite goal scorer with an elite-level shot and is an explosive skater who can break games open. We love how driven and focused he is — he wants to be the best, he wants to play with the best. He’s an exciting forward to add to the group we are building here in Spokane with the likes of Berkly Catton, Chase Harrington, Owen Martin and even yesterday’s selection in Brody Gillespie.”

1st Round (22nd Overall)

Carter Esler — full announcement

Goaltender • 5’9″ • 132 lbs

Hometown: Okotoks, AB

Stats (2022-23): 21 GP, 13-6-2, 2.98 GAA, .925 SV%, one shutout with Okotoks Oilers U15 AAA (7-1-1, 2.56 GAA, .936 SV%, one shutout in nine playoff games)

Scouting Report: “Carter is an athletic goaltender who is also very technically sound. He’s a great competitor who has a calmness to his game that rubs off on his teammates. He’s very focused and driven and studies his position very well.”

2nd Round (24th Overall)

Kaden Allan

Defenseman • 6’3″ • 175 lbs

Hometown: Hamiota, MB

Stats (2022-23): 34 GP, 25 goals, 24 assists, 49 total points with Yellowhead Chiefs U15 AAA

Scouting Report: “Kaden is a big, strong, two-way defenseman with great mobility and a big, heavy shot. We’re very excited to add Kaden to our organization.”

3rd Round (46th Overall)

Brayden Thompson

Defenseman • 5’7″ • 150 lbs

Hometown: Winnipeg, MB

Stats (2022-23): 36 GP, 10 goals, 17 assists, 27 total points with Sioux Falls Power 14U AAA

Scouting Report: “Brayden is a dynamic puck-moving defenseman with elite skating, excellent vision and poise.”

3rd Round (47th Overall)

Cohen Harris

Forward • 5’7″ • 124 lbs

Hometown: Humboldt, SK

Stats (2022-23): 30 GP, 38 goals, 41 assists, 79 total points with Humboldt Broncos U15 AA (25 points on eight goals and 17 assists in nine playoff games)

Scouting Report: “Cohen is a quick and agile player that can score. He has high-level offensive instincts and has a very quick release and accurate shot … Cohen is a high-character person that comes from a great family and has leadership qualities.”

4th Round (68th Overall)

Rhett Sather

Defenseman • 5’5″ • 117 lbs

Hometown: Rocky View, AB

Stats (2022-23): 32 GP, six goals, 23 assists, 29 total points with Airdrie Xtreme U15 AAA

Scouting Report: “Rhett is one of the smartest defensemen in the draft and he knows how to win. He comes to us with a significant upside. We feel incredibly lucky to get him into our organization.”

5th Round (90th Overall)

Nolan Saunderson

Defenseman • 5’11” • 157 lbs

Hometown: Brandon, MB

Stats (2022-23): 31 GP, seven goals, 21 assists, 28 total points with Brandon Wheat Kings U15 AAA

Scouting Report: “Nolan is a smart, smooth two-way defenseman. He defends well and makes an accurate first pass up the ice. He will bring character and leadership to our organization.”

6th Round (112th Overall)

Wyatt Dyck

Forward • 5’10” • 135 lbs

Hometown: Winnipeg, MB

Stats (2022-23): 34 GP, 35 goals, 43 assists, 78 total points with Winnipeg Wild U15 AAA (20 points on eight goals and 12 assists in 13 playoff games)

Scouting Report: “Wyatt is a hard-working, two-way center with a high motor, grit and leadership. Wyatt will be a hard player to play against.”

7th Round (134th Overall)

Cole Hunter

Forward • 5’10” • 140 lbs

Hometown: Oakburn, MB

Stats (2022-23): 34 GP, 20 goals, 31 assists, 51 total points with Yellowhead Chiefs U15 AAA

Scouting Report: “Cole is a smart 200-foot center with excellent vision and poise with the puck. He’s another player who will bring character and leadership to our group.”

10th Round (200th Overall)

Zaide Penner

Defenseman • 5’9″ • 140 lbs

Hometown: Fargo, ND

Stats (2022-23): 15 GP, five goals, 13 assists, 18 total points with Team North Dakota 14U AAA

Scouting Report: “Zaide is a dynamic, puck-moving defenseman with high-end vision and overall hockey sense. He plays a fast-paced and aggressive style that fits perfectly with the team we are building in Spokane.”

The Spokane Chiefs are a member of the U.S. Division of the Western Hockey League, the world’s finest development league for junior hockey players. Since 1985 the Chiefs have been a pillar in the Spokane community, offering family-friendly entertainment and a winning tradition, which includes: two Memorial Cup Championships in 1991 & 2008, two WHL Championships in 1991 & 2008 and four Western Conference Championships in 1991, 1996, 2000 & 2008. Over 60 alumni have gone on to play in the National Hockey League.

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