June 21st, 2024

Five Tigers named to 2024 NHL draft watch list

By JAMES TUBB on October 26, 2023.

NEWS PHOTO JAMES TUBB Medicine Hat Tigers forward Cayden Lindstrom juggles a puck during warmup ahead of the Tigers' 3-2 overtime loss against the Saskatoon Blades on Sept. 30.

jtubb@medicinehatnews.com@ReporterTubb

In their first report for the 2024 NHL Draft, Central Scouting has tabbed five Medicine Hat Tigers to their watch list.

Five Medicine Hat forwards Cayden Lindstrom, Andrew Basha, Tomas Mrsic, Shane Smith and Vasyl Spilka were recognized Wednesday on the preliminary players to watch list, the first of four, from the NHL’s scouting service ahead of the 2024 draft.

Head coach and general manager Willie Desjardins was excited to see his players get recognized.

“It’s been a while since we’ve had that many guys on the list, it reflects well on our team,” Desjardins said. “But saying that, there’s a couple of guys that are off the list who could have been on as well. We have a group of pretty good players but I’m certainly excited for the guys that are on there.”

Wednesday’s selection marks the first time since 2015 the Tigers have more than two players recognized.

Lindstrom, along with six other WHLers, were listed as ‘A’ prospects, meaning they are considered potential first-round picks.

Andrew Basha was ID’d as a ‘B’ rated prospect, indicating a potential second or third round selection, Tomas Mrsic was given a ‘C’ rating, touted for the fourth or fifth round, and Smith was ranked as a ‘W’ skater, as someone to watch and could be taken in the sixth or seventh round. Smith shares the team lead in goals with 10 and his 14 points to start his sophomore season.

Spilka was given a limited viewing ranking, the only player on the list, as he is returning from injury to start the season and did not have enough viewings to have a ‘W’ ranking.

Lindstrom is the first Tiger to be given an A rating since Cole Sillinger ahead of the 2021 draft. The 17-year-old Chetwynd, B.C. product says it feels good to get the ranking, but doesn’t change anything for him on the ice.

“I still have a lot of improvement to make and things to improve on, like my defence,” Lindstrom said. “Even though the grading says whatever it says, I still have a ton I need to get better at.”

Lindstrom is second in team scoring with 10 goals and 15 points through 12 games. He was even happier to see four of his teammates recognized and for the Tigers as a team to garner that attention.

“It means a lot for all of us, the last couple of years we haven’t been getting as much recognition on our team but I think now people are finally seeing how good our players are and how skilled they really are. I’m proud of them,” Lindstrom said.

A November birthday puts Basha in the 2024 draft class, giving him a chance to build off his 20-goal, 56-point campaign from a season ago. While Basha, like most players, is already motivated to be his best, he says the opportunity to make his ‘B’ ranking into an ‘A’ is just another level of motivation to build off.

“The goal is to go as high as you can, I want to be a first-round pick, that’s what I am striving to do with the draft,” Basha said. “But to be even put in any category for the NHL draft is something extremely special. It’s been my lifelong dream playing in the NHL and this is just another little step closer to that goal. It’s definitely cool to be put in a category like that.”

A total of 63 WHL players were named to the NHL Central Scouting’s list, with 37 forwards, 19 defencemen and seven goaltenders recognized.

Being given a ‘C’ rating was special for Mrsic, who credits his teammates for getting him to this point of recognition. Mrsic has three goals and 10 points this season and looks to build off a 23-point rookie season.

“Last year I don’t think I had the season I wanted but coming into this year, I’ve had a pretty good start and I think this is going to help with confidence, and just lead to making better plays,” Mrsic said.

For the Tigers who weren’t named to the list, associate coach Joe Frazer says it should be another chip on their shoulders.

“Everybody wants to be on the list. When you are, it should drive you to work even harder and when you’re not, it should motivate you to prove it wrong,” Frazer said. “It’s all how you look at things and either way, you can spin it into a positive motivation.”

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