2023 NHL Draft prospect profile: William Whitelaw is an interesting blend of skill and intensity
The Minnesotan has the potential to add a little bit of everything for one lucky customer.
There is no doubt that William Whitelaw is a talented player. The Rosemount native was a point-per-game player this year while playing in the United States Hockey League with Youngstown. Can he continue to maintain his highest level of play during long and consistent periods while moving up to face more difficult opposition?
Birthplace: Rosemount, Minnesota
Date of birth: February 5, 2005
Weight: 172 lbs.
Team: Youngstown Phantoms (USHL)
Selected first overall in the 2021 USHL Futures Draft, Whitelaw has had plenty of admirers since a young age. Before making the permanent leap over to the USHL, he recorded a whopping 110 points in 55 US High School games with Shattuck St. Mary's 18U Prep team. Apparently, he has been seen as a stud-in-the-making ever since he was in fifth grade, and was named a finalist for the Wiz Wyatt Player of the Year Award.
He demonstrates an intriguing blend of feistiness and skill, which in no way is hindered by his relatively small stature. It will be interesting to see how he tackles his next step as he joins a depleted and struggling Wisconsin Badgers team this upcoming autumn.
A deceptive and mentally quick player, you get the feeling that he just glides away from his opponents. Not necessarily by being a more fluent skater, but by using his stick and his puck skills in a more efficient manor than most other competitors. His overall intensity forces opposing defencemen to always be on their toes. If not, he will use his pace to be all up in their grill sooner than they realize possible.
Dobber Prospects: #30
Elite Prospects: #23
Hockey Prospect: N/R in Top 75
Hadi Kalakeche: #31
Bob McKenzie (TSN): #65
NHL Central Scouting: #42 (North American Skaters)
Corey Pronman (The Athletic): N/R in Top 37
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): #64
If you look purely at skill level, Whitelaw is a first-round calibre prospect. It's more a question of how much of a detriment you believe his lack of size will be going forward. Whitelaw does not play the game like a small player. He is a fierce forechecker who reads the play tremendously.
This is also why he's seen as a player who can add value while playing 5-on-5 and in both formations on the special teams. In Smaht Scouting's report of Whitelaw, they compare him to current Vancouver Canuck Connor Garland. An understandable comp, when you factor in the combination of a diminutive stature, a tenacious forechecking and a knack for finding the opposing net.
To get even more data, I chose to run Whitelaw against two other small-ish, high-motor forwards from the last few drafts when checking Byron Bader's Hockey Prospecting Tool. As we can see from the picture below, Whitelaw compares favourably to both Dallas Stars' prospect Logan Stankoven and Toronto Maple Leafs' Roni Hirvonen in their respective draft year.
Exactly what the data means or how Byron has crunched these numbers is too advanced for me to understand, but favourable numbers for a current prospect will always make me raise my eyebrows, even if it's ever so slightly.
His combination of work ethic and high-end skill has already taken him a long way and, barring major injuries, it is hard to not see William Whitelaw churn out some sort of future NHL career. According to people in the know, it is more likely that he will turn into a winger at the next level. Nonetheless, solid NHL potential remains solid NHL potential regardless of positional value.
Which team will be yearning most for a pressure monster of a middle-six forward, with some scoring upside and a relentless motor, when we enter the draft's second round?
Both through last year's draft and in player acquisitions, Kent Hughes and Martin St-Louis have shown that they go after players who are smart, skilled and hard-working. That is why I think one would be wise not to sleep on the Montreal Canadiens as a possible landing spot for young William from Rosemount, Minnesota.