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CHL Storylines: Top draft-eligible players to watch during CHL playoffs


With the 2023-24 Canadian Hockey League regular season at an end, the focus turns to the postseason as teams try to win league titles and qualify for the Memorial Cup in Saginaw.

For the players who are eligible for the 2024 NHL Draft in Las Vegas, the playoffs are another showcase to prove to NHL scouts that their talent and drive qualifies them to be top prospects.

With analysis from TSN’s Director of Scouting Craig Button, here are some of the top draft-eligible players to watch in the CHL playoffs.


Ontario Hockey League

Zayne Parekh, Defence, Saginaw Spirit

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Parekh and the Saginaw Spirit know that they will be participating in the Memorial Cup as tournament hosts in May. However, whether they will go into the tournament as J. Ross Robertson Cup champions remains to be seen.

Parekh helped lead the Spirit to a West Division title and finished second in the Ontario Hockey League with a 50-14-4 record behind the London Knights. They will be taking on the Owen Sound Attack in the first round of the OHL playoffs.

The 6-foot right-shot defenceman made an impact in his rookie season, recording 21 goals and 37 points. But he took his game to another level this year, becoming the premier offensive defenceman in the CHL.

Parekh led all CHL defencemen with 33 goals and 96 points in 66 games and led OHL blueliners with 33 points on the man advantage.

“Parekh has great anticipation and puck skills to go along with great vision,” said Button. “He also has the patience to go with it where he doesn’t force plays and looks to see where there’s an opportunity and use his quickness to exploit it.

“He’s solid defensively, but he’s going to do it differently with stick positioning, anticipation and understanding what he needs to do. You can’t play that many minutes and have that kind of success and not be good defensively.”

The Nobleton, Ont., native also helped Canada to a gold medal at the Hlinka-Gretzky U-18 tournament last summer, registering three assists in five games.

Parekh is ranked No. 3 on Button’s updated draft list and TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie listed him as No. 9 on his mid-season rankings.

Sam Dickinson, Defence, London Knights

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Dickinson helped lead the London Knights to the top of the OHL with a 50-14-4 record. They enter the playoffs as the top seed in the Western Conference and will play the Flint Firebirds in the first round.

Dickinson got his feet wet in the OHL last year, recording nine goals and 23 points in 62 games while playing behind Montreal Canadiens prospect Logan Mailloux and Philadelphia Flyers prospect Oliver Bonk as the primary puck carriers.

After Mailloux moved onto the American Hockey League, Dickinson took the roll next to Bonk on London’s top pairing and has thrived.

The 6-foot-3 left-shot defenceman finished fourth among OHL defencemen in scoring with 18 goals and 70 points in 68 games this season. He also ended up second among OHL defenceman with a plus-56 rating and recorded 28 points on the man advantage.

“I think his game is a lot like [Florida Panthers defenceman] Aaron Ekblad,” said Button. “He can be on the power play, penalty kill, he has a big shot, and he’s not afraid to jump into the attack.

“Dickenson is probably the more well-rounded player [compared to Parekh]. Parekh probably has the edge offensively, but Dickenson has a slight edge defensively because he’s a little bit bigger and sturdier.”

The Toronto native represented Canada at the Hlinka-Gretzky U-18 tournament last summer, leading them to a gold medal.

Dickenson is ranked No. 6 on Button’s list and McKenzie listed him as No. 7 in his mid-season rankings.

Jett Luchanko, Centre, Guelph Storm

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Luchanko was taken in the first round of the OHL draft by the Guelph Storm and registered five goals and 14 points in 46 games as a rookie. The 5-foot-11 centre had an opportunity this season to play a more prominent role on the team’s top line and he took full advantage.

Luchanko led the Storm in scoring with 20 goals and 74 points and was a force on the man advantage, finishing tied for fourth in the OHL with 33 power-play points with teammate Braeden Bowman and London Knights forward Easton Cowan.

“I would describe Luchanko as a lower-case Nick Suzuki [of the Montreal Canadiens]”, said Button. The more I watch him, he’s got the same subtleties, hockey sense, and awareness of what’s going on out there. He can play in every situation and do it well.”

Luchanko helped lead the Storm to a 33-28-7 record and will take on the Soo Greyhounds in the first round of the playoffs.

Button ranks Luchanko No. 21 on his most recent list and McKenzie ranked him 26th in his mid-season rankings.


Western Hockey League

Terik Parascak, Right Wing, Prince George Cougars

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Parascak helped lead the Prince George Cougars to a 49-15-4 record for the top spot in the Western Conference and the second-best record in the WHL. They will be taking on the Spokane Chiefs in the first round of the playoffs.

After being drafted 76th overall in the 2021 WHL Draft, Parascak didn’t join the league right away and played high school hockey with the Edge School U18 prep of the Canadian Sport School Hockey League for two seasons.

“Terik built on his confidence [while playing for Edge] and came into the WHL where he’s not trying to find his confidence, but build upon it,” said Button. “He’s more emotionally and physically mature, and built on all the things that allow players to be successful at that age.”

Parascak appeared in four games with Prince George last season, but it wasn’t until this season where he made his presence felt.

The Lethbridge, Alta., native led all CHL rookies with 43 goals and 105 points 68 games. His 105 points also placed him eighth in WHL scoring and 43 goals was ninth in the league.

“I think he’s a top-two-line scoring forward [in the NHL],” said Button. “He’s a smart, crafty player who scores and makes plays equally well. He has the ability to think the game and process it quickly.”

Parascak is ranked No. 16 on Button’s list and McKenzie listed him as No. 27 in his mid-season rankings.

Tij Iginla, Centre, Kelowna Rockets

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Iginla is the son of Hockey Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla, and it seems he inherited his father’s scoring touch.

The 6-foot centre had a modest rookie season last year with the Ed Chynoweth Cup-winning Seattle Thunderbirds, only recording six goals and 18 points in 48 games. Seattle then dealt Iginla to the Kelowna Rockets in June of 2023, where he was given a chance to shine.

“Playing in Seattle last year really benefitted him because he was playing and practising with top-quality players every day,” said Button. “He took that and made it work for him when he moved to Kelowna.”

Iginla didn’t let that opportunity slip away, finishing eighth in WHL goal scoring with 47 to go along with his 84 points. He finished second in team scoring to Washington Capitals prospect Andrew Cristall and was named team MVP.

“I see him as [Boston Bruins captain] Brad Marchand without the edge,” said Button. “I think he has that type of well-rounded game. He’s a really smart player who can make plays and knows how to play in all areas of the game.”

Button was the director of scouting for the Dallas Stars when they drafted the elder Iginla in 1995.

“I don’t think he’s like his dad,” said Button. “He’s competitive like his dad and he’s full of substance with no flash and dash. I might be underestimating him, because when we drafted Jarome we thought he would be a 30-to-35 goal scorer in the NHL. But we were wrong. He was a superstar.”

The Lake County, B.C., native helped the Rockets to fifth place in the Western Conference with a 33-30-5 record and they will take on the Wenatchee Wild in the first round of the playoffs.

Iginla is ranked No. 10 on Button’s draft list and McKenzie ranks him as No. 16 in his mid-season draft rankings.

Berkly Catton, Centre, Spokane Chiefs

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Catton has been projected to be a strong prospect for some time. The 5-foot-10 centre was drafted first overall by the Spokane Chiefs in the 2021 WHL draft and recorded 23 goals and 55 points in his first full season of major junior last year.

Catton took his game to another level this season, finishing fourth in scoring with 54 goals and 116 points. He also led the league with 10 shorthanded points.

“There’s not a light too bright for Catton,” said Button. “If you want to reach for the stars, you might compare him to a guy like [Carolina Hurricanes centre] Sebastian Aho. However, he could be more like [Los Angeles Kings forward] Kevin Fiala or [Stars forward] Wyatt Johnson.

“Catton has never shied away from any challenge and he’s a well-rounded two-way centre. For a player of his age, he’s got a really strong and complete game.”

Catton’s offensive outburst helped lead the Chiefs return to the playoffs after missing the post-season last year and will take on the Cougars in the first round.

The Saskatoon native was one of the best players for Team Canada at the Hlinka-Gretzky U-18 tournament last summer, recording eight goals and 10 points in five games en route to a gold medal.

Catton is ranked No. 15 on Button’s draft list, while McKenzie listed him as No. 10 in his mid-season rankings.


Quebec Maritimes Junior Hockey League

Maxim Massé, Right Wing, Chicoutimi Saguenéens

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Massé built on an impressive rookie season last year to put his best foot forward going into his NHL draft season.

Drafted third overall by the Chicoutimi Saguenéens in the 2022 QMJHL Draft, Massé registered 29 goals and 62 points to win a plethora of awards, including the QMJHL and CHL Rookie of the Year, and was named to the CHL All-Rookie Team.

Massé continued where he left off this season, leading the Saguenéens with 36 goals and 75 points in 67 games. The 6-foot-3 forward finished tied for third on the man advantage with 28 power-play points.

“Massé is another really smart player who can play with any number of players,” said Button. “I see him as a top-two-line player but because he has a lot of versatility in his game and can adapt to different scenarios and can play with anyone.”

The Rimouski, Que., native also represented Canada at the Hlinka-Gretzky U-18 tournament last summer, registering five goals and six points en route to a gold-medal performance.

Button ranks Massé as No. 28 on his draft list while McKenzie ranked him 35th in his mid-season rankings.

“Teams will have to be patient with Massé,” said Button. “He needs to be more physically mature and playing a little quicker and faster. That’s something I could say about any player at his stage, but if you can’t play fast or make plays in tight in Major Junior, you won’t be able to do it at the NHL level.”

Raoul Boilard, Centre, Baie-Comeau Drakkar

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Boilard had a significant impact on Baie-Comeau Drakkar’s push for the top spot in the QMJHL this season.

The 6-foot-2 centre led all rookies in the QMJHL with 22 goals and 62 points, helping the Drakkar to a 53-12-3 record. They will play the Charlottetown Islanders in the first round of the playoffs.

“To me he’s a lower-case [Toronto Maple Leafs prospect] Easton Cowan,” said Button. “At this point last year, I felt Cowan was a player who was continuing to rise up [the draft rankings] and Boilard is very similar in my view.”

Boilard also made an impression on NHL scouts at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in January by recording two goals and an assist to take home player of the game honours. However, Button says that playing well in that showcase is as much about building confidence as it is showcasing to scouts.

“What’s important to young players at that game is that they can prove to themselves that they can hold their own among their peers and prove that they are legitimately a top prospect,” said Button. “It wasn’t like people who he didn’t know who he was at the prospects game, but when he’s in that type of scenario, he shines.”

The Sherbrooke, Que., native finished the regular season on a six-game point streak as the Drakkar geared up for a playoff run.

“Boilard is always in the fight and in the competitive areas,” said Button. “There will be a lot of players who are drafted ahead of him that will be better than him. He’s not one of those guys who’s an attention grabber but he’s a really good, solid, two-way centre.”

Boilard is ranked 38th in Button's latest ranking and 74th in McKenzie's mid-season ranking.