General manager Brad Treliving has a knack for trading down in the NHL Draft to acquire more selections for the Calgary Flames. This year, he turned the third-round pick acquired in the deal for Milan Lucic into a third- and sixth-round selection. Even without this deal, the Flames handily won that trade with Lucic, but the icing on the cake may be the selection of Cameron Whynot in the third round of the draft.
Who is Cameron Whynot
Born and raised in Kentville, Nova Scotia—a sister city of Camrose, Alberta—Whynot was selected ninth overall in the 2019 QMJHL Draft. He played the majority of his rookie season in 2019–20 prior to the COVID-19 shutdown, then put up a very good sophomore season this year, putting up 23 points in 34 games for the Halifax Mooseheads. He led all defencemen his age in points this season in the Q.
Although the Mooseheads played the most games of any team in the Q, they finished fourth in their division with a 15-19-9 record and were -31 in goal differential. Yikes! Whynot finished the season seventh in scoring on the team, and second among defencemen behind former first round pick Justin Barron. League-wide, Whynot finished 16th among defensemen in points and was +13.
What does Whynot bring to the table?
Other than a really fun name, Whynot is a really interesting player to evaluate because his D-1 season and D-0 season give two different pictures. In his first year, Whynot was significantly more defensive in his style of play. A prototypical stay-at-home defensive defenceman, he was less inclined to jump into the offense, letting his partner handle that role while he floated in the neutral zone waiting for the puck to come back the other way. Think Chris Tanev‘s role when he was skating alongside Noah Hanifin last season.
However, last season, Whynot showed a ton more offensive potential, jumping up into rushes and taking on more of an offensive role. He even got a bunch of time on the powerplay, which allowed him to show off his great skating. Take a look at this clip of him slipping around a defender at the blueline:
However, there is some disagreement around his skating. Jack Han of The Hockey Tactics Newsletter noted that when skating backwards, Whynot tends to centre his weight, making it hard for him to shift suddenly to keep pace with a faster forward. That being said, his ability to breakout and activate the weak side is excellent.
Han went further to note that defencemen in the Q face among the fewest number of pressured breakouts in junior hockey, which leads to defencemen who do not know how to respond to threats as effectively as in other leagues. That being said, defencemen from the Q still make the NHL and can learn this skill as they develop.
The good news in Whynot has a great number of skills in his arsenal. He has a strong shot from the point, which he can keep developing to get stronger and especially to be more accurate. His defensive game is generally very good as well, but can work on using his big frame to box defenders out more effectively.
The long and the short of it is Whynot has a lot of phenomenal underlying skills that still need a couple seasons to really develop to be close to NHL level. However, he has taken a huge stride forward from his D-1 to his draft year, and assuming he takes another step forward next season, he could work himself into the conversation as a top-four NHL defenceman.
What is next for Whynot?
Next year is going to be critical to determine whether Whynot is the real deal or just along for the ride. Over the last couple seasons, Whynot has been paired with first round pick Justin Barron in Halifax. With Barron heading to the AHL next season, it will be on Whynot to put the Halifax D core on his back. He will need to show that he is as good if not better without Barron than he was with him.
The good news is that his skills on the ice are individual. His skating, shooting, and defensive play were the result of his skills not anyone elses, and clearly there is a lot to like about Whynot’s game. He will just need to keep growing his game on the ice and keep working on his confidence off the ice in order to earn a contract with the Flames.
While he has not been one of the more talked about prospects for the Flames this off-season, Whynot should get more recognition than just cliche puns about his name. He has legitimate underlying talent, and next season will be key to see if he could be NHL bound or not.