It hasn’t been the season that the Moose Jaw Warriors — or many of their players — had hoped for.
© Times-Herald photo by Matthew Gourlie
Moose Jaw Warriors goalie Justin Paulic stops Regina Pats winger Braden Christoffer in close in Western Hockey League action Friday at Mosaic Place.
Monday, a quartet of Warriors got some good news as they were all ranked by the NHL Central Scouting’s mid-term rankings for the upcoming NHL draft.
As expected Brayden Point was the highest-ranked Warrior as he was listed as 53rd amongst North American skaters. Defencemen Dallas Valentine was 109th and Alexey Sleptsov was 143rd.
Justin Paulic was ranked 13th amongst North American goalies.
Kingston’s Sam Bennett was ranked first amongst North American skaters. Bennett’s injury opened the door for Point to take part in the CHL Top Prospect game Wednesday in Calgary.
Most players say they don’t pay much attention to the draft hype, but Paulic really hadn’t been paying much attention to the process. He said he was thinking about it being a big season for him in the summer, but was a little surprised by his ranking.
“I wasn’t paying a lot of attention. I had kind of thought that they would come out it earlier in the year, so when I didn’t hear anything I assumed I wasn’t on it,” said Paulic who is keeping the mid-term rankings well in perspective. “Some teams might have me higher and other teams, I might not even be on their list, so I just want to keep proving myself. I’m just thankful to be scouted.”
The rankings came a few days after Paulic allowed three goals in five shots. After putting together a strong second-half of his rookie season, his sophomore campaign has had more peaks and valleys. He is 8-19-3-3 and his stats have taken a dip so far: he has a 3.64 goals-against-average and a .890 save percentage.
“I want to try to relax a little more and let things happen and not try to force things to happen,” said Paulic.
Though Valentine is six-foot-three, he’s usually at his best when you don’t notice him. As a defensive defenceman with a goal and six points in 43 games, he was happy to get a little recognition.
“It’s nice that they’re recognizing that. I’m a stay-at-home defenceman. I just up into the rush when I get the chance, but I want to try to keep playing my game,” said Valentine who added that he’s not too worried about his draft stock.
“It’s my first full year in the league. I’m just going to keep trying to develop. If I get drafted that’s great and if not I just hope to keep developing,” said Valentine.
Sleptsov was a member of the Russian under-18 team last year and the former CSKA Moscow junior said he was happy with his ranking. One of the reasons he came to the WHL was to try to earn an NHL shot and he cited 18-year-olds Nikita Zadorov, a former London Knight, and Valeri Nichushkin, the Dallas Stars rookie who was also named to the Russian roster for the Sochi Olympics, as examples of players who have had quick success in the league.
“I want to play with Russian guys in NHL. They will help me speak English,” said Sleptsov with a smile.