Photo Credit: Galvin Photography, Scott Galvin
William Whitelaw is a 2023 NHL Draft prospect, who played for the USHL’s Youngstown Phantoms past season. Whitelaw was selected first overall by the Phantoms in the 2021 USHL Futures Draft and made his USHL debut the following season. Prior to playing for the Phantoms, he played at Shattuck St. Mary’s, the MN Rangers 14U AAA squad and the MN Bruins 15U AAA squad.
This season, Whitelaw was nearly a point per game player. He had 61 points in 64 games for the Phantoms. In addition, to this point, he has played in two playoff games for the Phantoms this year and has registered two points in those games.
The Rosemount, Minnesota native is committed to the University of Wisconsin and will be wearing a Badgers jersey next season.
D.O.B – February 5, 2005
Nationality – American
Draft Eligibility – 2023
Weight –172 lbs
Position – Center
Handedness – Right
Whitelaw’s Style Of Play
Whitelaw has excellent puck manipulation that he will use off of the rush when driving to the net and facing pressure. He will draw attackers to one side to open up ice for himself on the other side. While along the boards mid cycle, Whitelaw doesn’t use his stick-handling to get himself out of sticky situations. Instead, he looks to pivot out from the pressure.
Not only does Whitelaw possess solid puck manipulation, but he also has good positional manipulation. When skating into the offensive zone with the puck and there is a decent amount of pressure waiting for Whitelaw from the get go, he’ll skate to a centered position along the point, that pulls the attacker with him and opens up an open lane on Whitelaw’s side for his teammate skating into the zone behind Whitelaw. Once his teammate is in range, Whitelaw then hits the teammate in stride or he will try a behind the back pass from a slightly angled position to get the puck to the open teammate.
Whitelaw loves to forecheck. Throughout the course of the season, Youngstown had deployed him as the #1 in 1-2-2 forecheck scheme. Whitelaw can net quality speed off of his crossovers to fight for loose pucks and to put himself into situations in which he can trap attackers along the boards with the puck. Once Whitelaw is in range of the puck carrier along the boards, he will close them off completely with a check and look to force a turnover in possession. He is constantly battling behind the red line and finishing checks whenever he can get to the attacker in time. In addition, Whitelaw does a good job of identifying those puck carriers who seem to be a bit vulnerable and will use his physicality to shut them down.
Whitelaw really likes to get under your skin. He can be like a shark when on the forecheck. He will bump elbows and make his presence known. Watch this clip and focus on #8 in white.
When without possession of the puck in the offensive zone, Whitelaw is wired to go to net front and get open ice for himself to collect pucks from the point that were meant for him or collecting rebounds. In those situations in which he is driving with the puck to net off of the rush, he will look to force the goaltender into playing low so he will drive the puck with his backhand once entering the low slot. The goaltender will drop low to take away the five hole, but Whitelaw is looking to manipulate the goaltender into doing so because he can that opens up a lot of space up. But, also it can lead to five hole goals like this one against Madison from March 24th.
Another example of what Whitelaw can do with manipulation at net front. Goal against Cedar Rapids from April 15th.
While Whitelaw does generate a lot of quality scoring chances at net front, I’d like to further fine tune his shot from range. He isn’t putting enough weight transfer into his shot, isn’t elevating his shot and needs to work on shot angling. Sometimes his shots from range are going wide because Whitelaw doesn’t have the stick blade aligned with the net. I’ve seen quite a few shot attempts across the games that I’ve watched in which Whitelaw is struggling to get his shot on net from the perimeter. When Whitelaw tries to complete a shot immediately off of a turn, he isn’t transferring enough weight when doing so and that is limiting the power that the shot could possess.
Speaking of angling with his stick blade, I have seen Whitelaw struggle with angling his stick blade and lining it up with a puck that is destined to come to him. Since the blade isn’t directly on the ice and not angled with the puck, you aren’t going to trap possession.
Whitelaw’s distribution is quite good when in tight situations. For instance, check out this primary assist on a Martin Mišiak goal. Whitelaw found a tight lane and feathered the puck through it. Plus, check out Mišiak’s Jaromir Jagr salute towards the end of the clip.
He can also be extremely deceptive with his puck distribution. Should he run out of room and looks to distribute the puck to teammates behind him, he will complete behind the back passes.
While Whitelaw does a great job at distributing when the pressure intensifies, he doesn’t look to pass to the slot regularly when pressure comes into play. He ends up shooting quite a bit.
Since he’s usually being deployed as the #1 in a 1-2-2 forecheck for Youngstown, he is usually the last one back into the defensive zone for the Phantoms. When he gets back to the zone, he looks to skate into space and take away a skating lane to the slot when he sees an attacker looking to flee with the puck from the half-wall boards. Whitelaw will extend his out stick to cause puck disruption when in range. He will look to stick lift the shaft of the attacker’s stick to shake the puck free. Should the puck end up in the hands of a teammate, Whitelaw will skate into space and that allows his teammate to pass the puck towards Whitelaw. The teammate is stuck trying to ward off the attacker who lost possession of the puck and so Whitelaw having open ice in front of him is an attractive option.
While Whitelaw will use stick lift to cause puck disruption, he won’t shy away from using physicality to win possession of loose pucks. When a puck breaks loose and he is in position to make it a challenge for the attacker to grab a hold of the puck, he will use his physicality to do so and even at open ice.
When in control of the puck in his zone and runs into pressure, he looks to pass and has no issue passing through tight lanes. If he has a tight lane to use, he won’t hold back if he is trying to thread a cross ice feed. But, if he can’t find that tight lane to pass through, he audibles and looks to complete a behind the back pass to get the puck away from pressure and to a teammate behind him.
You won’t often see Whitelaw use his stick-handling to shake free nor try to manipulate the attacker’s position. He either looks to make the pass or dumps the puck down the ice.
As I mentioned in the defense section of the report, Whitelaw has usually been deployed at #1 in the 1-2-2 forecheck for Youngstown and that means to more often then not Whitelaw is the last Phantoms forward back in the neutral zone when the attack is driving the rush. But, when gets into position, his hunger for the puck is evident immediately. He looks to take away space and put pressure on attackers closer to the opponent’s zone. Should oppositional puck movement shift from side to side on a dime, Whitelaw has shown that he has the speed via his crossovers and edgework to put himself into a slightly more centered position to defend against the puck carrier. Since he is taking a centered position, he forces the attack to drive along the boards and that allows his defensemen to trap the attacker at the defensive zone blue line.
Whitelaw uses his crossovers nicely when driving up through the neutral zone when he attacks the middle of the ice and encounters multiple attackers that he has to shift around to complete the transition. But, if pressure becomes far too intense, Whitelaw is quick with his decision making off of the rush. When on the move and facing pressure, he’s shown time and again that he can quickly distribute the puck while skating up through the zone. He looks to get the puck into the hands of a teammate at the offensive zone blue line to complete a give and go zone entry. By completing a give and go zone entry, that will allow him to transfer possession of the puck and then skate up into slot to create space for himself. That then leads to the teammate completing a controlled zone entry and firing a pass to Whitelaw.
When he doesn’t have possession of the puck in the neutral zone, but the Phantoms do have possession, he looks to create the intriguing passing lane that leads to successful zone entry for the Phantoms by parking himself near the offensive zone blue line.
Whitelaw’s skating is quite strong. He has excellent straight line extensions and crossovers to generate speed. Whitelaw does a good job of leveraging both when looking to beat an attacker to a loose puck when he is slightly further back then the attacker who is vying for the puck with him. By leveraging both crossovers and straight line extensions, he can build up the acceleration through his crossovers and shift his angling before adding to his speed with a lengthy power stride. Constantly, you will see Whitelaw use his crossovers to get himself into position to put tight pressure on attackers when reacting to sudden changes in oppositional puck movement.
When the Phantoms are pushing the puck up the ice and he is leading the rush, he uses his crossovers to avoid pressure by shifting his direction. If he doesn’t have possession of the puck, he will use his crossovers nicely to shift his positioning quickly east-west to open up passing lanes for his teammate to use.
I believe that Whitelaw is a top six winger at the NHL level. While he has played center in his youth, if you play him at center in the NHL, you would have to change his puck hunting approach and In my opinion that would be a huge mistake.
I would go with Conor Garland as a player comparison for Whitelaw. Like Garland, Whitelaw is tenacious in his pursuit of the puck in the offensive zone and does a great job with distribution when the pressure is on.
If you draft Whitelaw, you want him to keep developing his physical play in all three zones. He is constantly looking to pounce on attackers for the puck in the offensive zone, but it’s a little bit less prevalent in the neutral and defensive zones. In addition, I’d like to see Whitelaw work on his shot angling and pass to the slot more when pressure closes up on him. If Whitelaw replaces a few of his shots from distance when pressure is present to passes to the slot through tight lanes, his assist totals will go up.
May 3, 2023
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Josh Tessler. If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @JoshTessler_.
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