In a draft year with an abundance of talented defensemen, I will be the first to admit that there simply aren’t enough blueliners featured in this series. It’s my fault, I couldn’t get enough viewings on Owen Power, Aidan Hreschuk, and Sean Behrens this season. Being based in Canada makes it more difficult to watch players in the US and the plan is to watch them closely next season.
As far as defensemen I was able to watch this season go, Halifax’s Cameron Whynot was atop my list of players I wanted to profile for this series. The calm, wise-beyond-his years defenseman was dominating leagues at 13 and 14 years old, and fans did speculate he had exceptional status potential.
Seen as the best defenseman available for the 2019 QMJHL Draft, Whynot went ninth overall to Sherbrooke (the third blueliner taken). The Phoenix dealt him over the summer to acquire a veteran player from Halifax as they built up for a championship contending season. That turned out to be the best case scenario for Whynot.
Whynot started the year on the third pair for the Mooseheads, who were rebuilding after hosting the Memorial Cup last season. After Halifax lost the team’s best defenseman, Justin Barron, to a blood clot for the majority of the season, and dealt veteran blueliner Walter Flower at the trade deadline, Whynot was thrust into a larger role, playing top pair minutes at times for the Mooseheads.
Though he didn’t have the offensive production many were expecting, Whynot still had a very promising rookie season given the situation he stepped into in Halifax this year. Injuries and trades gave him the opportunity to play on both special teams (where he recorded three points on the powerplay and one assist shorthanded). The smooth skating defenseman loves to rush the puck up the ice, and though he has a ton of offensive potential, Whynot doesn’t sacrifice defense in order to create offense.
Whynot has great vision and is an excellent passer. He can create offense from the rush and knows when to pinch and sneak in from the point to provide another option offensively. Whynot’s positioning at both ends of the ice is exceptional and he didn’t shy away from using his large frame to win puck battles.
As the season progressed, Whynot looked a lot stronger in his own end and supremely confident with the puck. There were less turnovers and careless giveaways, and he will likely get top pair minutes with Barron next season. Whynot did take the most penalties of any QMJHL rookie this season, so along with increasing his offensive production, discipline will be something he needs to work on next year as well.
Strengths: Skating, Positioning, Instincts
To Improve: Discipline, Offense
Whynot has a deep toolkit; he’s a great skater who is smooth and efficient, with a 6’01’’ frame. He can rush the puck easily out of his zone; he’s the best pure puck-rusher in this draft class. He really opens up ice for himself with his agility, evading checks and creating space. Whynot is a workhorse defenseman, he’s been leaned on heavily throughout his minor hockey, but especially this year where he was commonly playing every second shift, and he rarely ever came off the ice in special teams’ situations. [2019 Black Book]
“Cameron played midget AAA at 14 years old and is an all-around, two-way defenceman,” Bouchard said of the Valley Wildcats star. “He’s really good with the puck and he has a great shot. He has a big upside offensively and he’s a great skater. For Central, he’s the number one D for the draft and is near the top overall. Richard, Nause and Plandowski are close to him, but for us Cameron is the most complete D in the draft.” [Carl Bouchard via The Chronicle Herald]
Wow, when he’s on his game, he’s a force. A great skater who’s adept at getting himself into a scoring position, Whynot finished the year with 13 goals and 40 points for the Wildcats, while also evolving his physical game. Whynot is susceptible to giveaways and trying to do too much, but he has a game-changing ability that allows him to totally take control of the pace. Whynot is not afraid to take the puck end to end and it was rare that he wasn’t the best player on the ice. If he can limit his mistakes, he’ll truly be a star for the future. [The Hockey News]
Love Cameron Whynot (2021). Smart and mobile defenseman. Loves to control the tempo. In this clip, you will see him avoid a breakout with a man on. Instead, he goes behind his net and re-groups. Then he delivers a breakout pass. #2021NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/L5CWaEmQlG— Josh Tessler (@JoshTessler_) December 11, 2019
Statistics from Elite Prospects and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.