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2023 NHL Scouting Report #45: William Whitelaw

Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day our LWOS Prospects Writers will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2023 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow Ben Kerr, Kyle Pereira and Frederik Frandson on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! Today we bring you our William Whitelaw Scouting Report.

William Whitelaw Scouting Report

William Whitelaw, born in Rosemount, Minnesota on February 5th, 2005, is a forward playing in the USHL. The young center stands at 5’9” and 172 pounds, and played with the Youngstown Phantoms this past season. He is currently committed to play for the University of Wisconsin next year. This season, he scored 36 goals and 25 assists for 61 points across 62 USHL contests. 

Despite the smaller stature and below a point-per-game pace, he still has seen his name ranked either late in the first or in the second. Some pundits have him ranked in the third round, however. Those rankings include being placed 23rd by Smaht Scouting, 28th by Daily Faceoff, 30th by Dobber Prospects and FCHockey, 39th by McKeen’s Hockey, 45th by Recruit Scouting, 46th by Draft Prospects Hockey, 48th by Elite Prospects, 65th by Bob McKenzie, and 76th by FloHockey and Craig Button.  

William Whitelaw Deep Dive

Right Wing — shoots Right
Born February 5th, 2005 — Rosemount, Minnesota
Height 5’9″ — Weight 173 lbs [175 cm/78 kg]

With undersized players, there are two groups of people. There are those who don’t mind the lack of size as long as the skill is there. Then, there are those that need to be blown away by skill, production, and skating to look at an undersized skater. In the case of Whitelaw, one group is willing to take an earlier risk on him with a late-first or early second. Meanwhile, that other group has him ranked later in the second or early in the third, not willing to take a big risk. So, what does he lack, and what do those in the first group intrigued by?

William Whitelaw’s Skating 

Whitelaw’s skating is effective. He has really strong acceleration, with a strong first step. With that, he can win short-area races to loose pucks, which is key when moving up to tougher leagues. A lot of battles are won and lost by who wins those short-area races. Additionally, he has exceptional edges and agility. He’s able to change direction on a dime and stop on pucks with ease. Also, he can change speeds with the puck on his stick. For example, he can slow down after entering the zone to get a defender’s gap to be off, then if the defender slows up to keep a tight gap, he can use his quick burst to catch him off guard. 

However, Whitelaw does have a bit of an awkward stride. It takes away from his top end speed. While he can take off pretty quick, he is much more quick than fast. Whitelaw won’t be burning defenders with regularity off the rush, and he lacks that extra gear to truly impact the game with his skating. But, with improved mechanics and NHL level coaching, on top of a lighter NCAA schedule to get him in the gym more, that can be improved. 

Offensive Abilities

Whitelaw is a fast-paced offensive player. To a high degree. He is all gas, always. He possesses solid hands, though nothing that will catch the highlight reel consistently. But where the pace shows up is how willing he is to go full-fledged attack through the slot. Whether that’s with his passing or getting into spots for his shots. He fires a ton of shots on net, and he attempts a bunch of passes into the high-danger areas of the ice. 

However, those risks don’t always turn into results. With some bad luck mixed with some poor decisions, his production never saw an explosion despite how he attacks the game. His shot doesn’t feature consistent accuracy or power, making him inefficient from distance. Because he can’t take advantage of long-distance shots, he’s forced to get in tighter. While he can get there, his slighter frame doesn’t allow him to be consistently effective, and it leads to some turnovers. Additionally, he doesn’t connect on his slot passes very often, which can also lead to turnovers. The biggest thing going for him is how good he is at finding openings in the defence away from the puck, setting himself up for scoring chances. 

William Whitelaw’s Transitional Abilities

Whitelaw’s transitional game isn’t as exciting to watch as his offensive game. That’s not to say he isn’t good, however. But, with a player who is as constantly involved in the offensive end, with a buzzsaw style of play, flying around the ice, you’d expect more involvement here. But, especially with exiting the defensive zone, he is not relied on very heavily. However, when he does get opportunities to move the puck, he makes the most of them. 

Not only is he effective when tasked with entering the offensive zone, but he can also create chances off those rushes. With his skating, paired with his hunger to attack the middle, he can be a threat. With an improved shot, plus maybe slowing his game down a bit, those rush chances can turn into results. 

Whitelaw’s Defensive Zone Play

Whitelaw’s defensive game isn’t pretty, but it isn’t for a lack of effort. Similar to his offensive game, he’s always moving. His forecheck is disruptive and probably his greatest strength when his team does not have the puck. When the opponent has the puck in their offensive zone, Whitelaw will hound the puck carrier. He can get carried away chasing the puck and leave his other assignments open. However, that relentlessness does cause chaos, which can force turnovers. 

There isn’t much organization or order in Whitelaw’s defensive style. Plus, his smaller stature doesn’t help him in board battles. However, it is important to note he is more than willing to battle, and he plays bigger than he is at times. But, Whitelaw really needs to slow down his defensive game a bit and find some order to the chaos. The willingness to battle is great, and the relentless puck pursuit is also a positive. But there are times where he needs to reel it in and cover his spot. 

William Whitelaw’s Potential

Whitelaw is a ball of energy. He forechecks like there’s no tomorrow, he attacks the slot relentlessly, and there’s hardly ever a shift where his feet aren’t moving. However, there are times where it’s too much. His offensive game has the potential to truly become game-breaking, but he forces too many passes, and his shot isn’t pro-ready. Working on his shot is one thing, but changing his style or having him reel it in is a whole different story. 

The one big thing to point towards is his off-puck ability in the offensive end, as that’s where he shows a high-end vision and play reading ability. If he can utilize that vision and awareness when the puck is on his stick, he’ll see an offensive explosion at the collegiate level. But his defensive and offensive styles are simply too chaotic that it does not project well to the NHL level, making him a boom-or-bust option. All things considered, there is a world where he can be a top-six forward some day.  

NHL Comparison 

William Whitelaw, based on style only and not based on future projection, is reminiscent of Connor Garland in a lot of ways. Garland is undersized, but plays like he is bigger than he really is. Additionally, he is also a buzzsaw, constantly moving his feet and being a thorn in the side of his opponents. Garland thrives in controlled chaos. The key word there is controlled. That’s what Whitelaw needs to do, control his tempo better and reel it in when it’s needed. 

Additionally, Garland has a solid shot that’s allowed him to have a 20-goal season under his belt. If Whitelaw can improve his shot, play more controlled in all three zones, and bulk up, he could be a Garland-esque player at the next level. 



Raw stats via Elite Prospects

Main Photo: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports


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