(Photo courtesy Larry Brunt/Spokane Chiefs)
At this point in the season, you usually can start to see the elite prospects begin to separate themselves from the pack. And one player who has done just that this season is Berkly Catton of the Western Hockey League’s Spokane Chiefs.
Over the last couple of seasons, this versatile 17-year-old forward has showcased that he can excel at playing center and wing. While he currently stands at just 5’11 and roughly 163 pounds, he most certainly does not let the fact that he is not the NHL’s ideal size hinder his point production.
Case in point: in his draft minus one year, Catton was able to post an impressive 55 points for the Chiefs as a 16-year-old.
How does he do this, you may be asking? Well, to start, Berkly is blessed with the kind of breakaway speed that allows him to create separation from the opposition. But better still is the fact that once he enters the offensive zone, Catton has shown that he also possesses both the stick-handling ability and mental wherewithal to be able to slow the play down and analyze what will be his next, best course of action. This is important because Berkly is a dual threat. For example, If no one is open, you can expect this relentless young talent to take matters into his own hands by showcasing his tremendous puck protection skills as he proceeds to drive that piece of vulcanized rubber right to the front of the net by using any means necessary. Once there, Catton frequently manages to finish off the play with no less than two defenders on his back by effortlessly elevating the puck over the (out of position) overzealous goalie’s shoulder.
But like I said, Catton is no one trick pony. When it’s in the team’s best interest or all other measures seem to break down, Berkly will not hesitate to dish the puck off to awaiting teammate like Connor Roulette, who has managed to put more than his fair share of pucks in the back of the net over the years. Catton does so by showing extreme patience. Relaxed as if he is in a state of nirvana, Berkly calmly lets the play develop around him, waiting until the precise moment when his teammate is in an ideal scoring position before saucering a perfectly placed pass to their awaiting stick blade.
What’s exciting is Catton’s talents are proving to be ever-growing. Even before this season started, he was able to have scouts sit up and take notice when he was able to lead Team Canada to a Gold Medal in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, where he led all participants in both goals scored with eight as well as total points with ten.
That pre-season success, mind you, has only managed to emulate to the regular season with the Chiefs, where Berkly has thrived, complying an unbelievable 19 goals and 22 assists for 41 points in only 27 games played. Now, folks, let me inform you that his 1.51 points per game average currently projects Catton to finish the season, scoring 48 goals and 55 assists for 103 points!
To date, the only knock on Berkly’s game would be his previous lack of defensive responsibility. But although his career WHL plus-minus average before the season started was a horrendous -43. Catton must have focused on the defensive side of the game this past off-season because he has been able to remain even this year when most of his teammates continue to struggle in that category, seeing that they play against some of the most dynamic scorers in the game today on a nightly basis.
That’s why, with all those previously mentioned skill sets in place and Catton still appearing to get better with each and every shift he takes, I could easily see this young man one day becoming a top-line center for whichever lottery team so chooses to draft him this summer.