WHL Stock Watch: Dominant starts from Denton Mateychuk, Jagger Firkus
More than five weeks into the WHL season, there has been no shortage of impressive starts.
The Prince George Cougars are the league’s top team now, winning 10 of 14 games alongside a league-leading power play. The Moose Jaw Warriors take the second-place spot, with a narrow goal-differential but the top-end talent to edge out victories.
The scoring race is dominated by the hottest line in the CHL (more them in a second), a couple of family names for prospect heads, and a bevy of draft-eligible prospects covered in an earlier article.
With so many hot starts, let’s put extra emphasis on the risers this time.
Stock Rising 📈
Denton Mateychuk, D, Moose Jaw Warriors (Columbus Blue Jackets)
There might not be a more impactful player in the WHL right now than Denton Mateychuk. He’s controlled the game for years now, but he’s reached another level this season. The 15-point, nine-game stat line, alongside a nine-game point streak, speaks to that.
Mateychuk looks more patient with the puck. He draws pressure closer, feinting, spinning, and passing his way through it. Sure, there are turnovers, but his improved ability to weaponize pressure creates even more scoring chances up the rink for his team.
When the puck comes back the other way, there isn’t a better defender in the WHL. With a suffocating gap, precision stickwork, and non-committing footwork, Mateychuk kills the vast majority of rushes that target him – and many where he jumps into support.
He’s the complete package.
Jagger Firkus, RW, Moose Jaw Warriors (Seattle Kraken)
With 29 points in 14 games, Jagger Firkus hasn’t just carried over last season’s hot finish but built upon it. He has a goal in 11 of 14 games so far. Not bad.
The diversity of Firkus’ goals and scoring chances has been especially encouraging. He’s not firing away pucks from distance. He remains adaptable, capable of finishing in-tight, from range, off-the-pass, and with wristers off the rush. The wrister is his best shot, using a number of different angle changes to beat goalies.
While Firkus has just two even-strength primary assists this season, his playmaking looks better, too. At this rate, don’t be surprised if Firkus leads the league in scoring.
Zac Funk – Ondřej Becher – Terik Parascak, Prince George Cougars
The hottest line in the CHL might also feature the league's three biggest surprises.
Zac Funk, the league's leading point-getter with 30 in 14, never had a point-per-game season until this year. Ondřej Becher is just 10 points away from last season’s total in 49 fewer games. Meanwhile, Terik Parascak, with 17 goals and 12 assists, had just five games of WHL experience entering the season.
The line’s success comes down to details and creativity. Each player brings a hard-working, give-and-go style. When one player has the puck, the other two are getting open. They support and anticipate opportunities. Instead of trying to outrace or outhandle defenders, they use each other to bypass defenders. Then, each has the skill to connect with a cross-slot pass and fire instantly.
Look for Parascak to start appearing inside the first-round in draft rankings, Becher to earn a selection a re-entry, and Funk to get an entry-level deal.
Noah Chadwick, D, Lethbridge Hurricanes (Toronto Maple Leafs)
Readers of the Elite Prospects 2023 NHL Draft Guide knew that when the Leafs picked Noah Chadwick, it wasn’t a bet on size and toughness – it was a swing on upside. So far, that’s looking like the right assessment, as the playmaking blueliner has tripled his scoring clip this season.
At the point, Chadwick’s always looking to draw pressure to beat it, either with a pass or increasingly, some flashy footwork. He looks nimbler, and his confidence seems to grow each weekend, becoming increasingly daring. Not every play works, but it’s safe to say he’s become a force.
Statistically, there’s an argument that Chadwick’s earned a few more points, too. Through a handful of games, he’s setting up chances at a clip that would’ve landed in the 99th percentile among CHL blueliners last season. His breakouts are trending up, too.
It’s time to start getting excited about his potential.
Honourable Mentions: Cayden Lindstrom (2024 eligible), Tij Iginla (2024 eligible), Graham Sward (Nashville Predators), Gavin McKenna (2026 eligible), Roger McQueen (2025 eligible), Brayden Yager (Pittsburgh Penguins).
Stock Steady ↔️
Nate Danielson, C, Brandon Wheat Kings (Detroit Red Wings)
Given Nate Danielson’s production, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that he would end up in the Stock Falling section. After watching the tape, it’s clear that he remains the same highly effective player.
Danielson easily outraces opponents in the WHL. When combined with his weaving rush patterns and handling skill, he’s essentially an automatic on entries. He still has the same playmaking desire and goal-scoring ability.
Sure, he still lacks some precision and imagination as a passer, but the percentages just haven’t been in his favour so far. With a bit more puck luck for the recipients of his passes, he’ll blow eclipse the 1.15 point-per-game from last year without much difficulty.
Marek Alscher, D, Portland Winterhawks (Florida Panthers)
Points and performance have yet to align for Marek Alscher. Last season, the Panthers’ third-rounder took a significant step offensively, participating in far more plays with his activation game and showing more of a playmaking side from the point.
Early in this season, Alscher’s quieted down a bit. He’s lost some of the creativity in the offensive zone, and his powerplay time went from limited last year to non-existent this year. He has just three points in 10 games as a draft-plus-two player. That’s concerning.
But it would be a mistake to write him off. Maybe Alscher never quite figures out the offensive side to the level that seemed possible a year ago, but he’s still a precision breakout passer, and the defence looks tighter this season.