The Western Hockey League, one of three bodies that form the Canadian Hockey League, was established in 1966 as the Western Canadian Hockey League with seven teams situated in Saskatchewan and Alberta.
It was originally considered an 'outlaw league' by the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association before becoming sanctioned by the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association after a 1970 reshuffling. After the additions of teams in the United States in 1976 and 1977, the league's name was shortened to the Western Hockey League.
The past 20 years have marked rapid expansion for the WHL, including the Calgary Hitmen in 1995. By 2007, the league expanded to 22 teams, where the WHL currently sits.
With a rich history, the Western Hockey League have a plethora of players that have graduated to the National Hockey League.
Among the WHL alumni include current NHLers Jarome Iginla, Ryan Getzlaf, Zdeno Chara, Robyn Regehr, Jay Bouwmeester, Marian Hossa, Cam Ward, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Shea Weber, Patrick Marleau, Dion Phaneuf, Andrew Ladd and Karl Alzner.
Current Flames Mikael Backlund, Lance Bouma, Roman Horak, Cory Sarich and Blair Jones also played in the WHL.
Retired alumni of the WHL include Joe Sakic, Scott Niedermayer, Trevor Linden, Bobby Clarke, Theoren Fleury and Lanny McDonald.
WHL AT THE DRAFT
2012 - 32 (6 in first round)
2011 - 33 (5 in first round)
2010 - 42 (7 in first round)
2009 - 31 (5 in first round)
2008 - 37 (9 in first round)
2007 - 37 (9 in first round)
2006 - 24 (4 in first round)
2005 - 43 (4 in first round)
FLAMES IN THE WHL
The Calgary Flames haven't been shy to select from the WHL. The club has selected 16 players from the league since 2007, including four in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Over the same time span, twice the Flames have used their first pick in the draft to select a player from the WHL, which includes standout Sven Baertschi.
Brett Kulak (4th round, 105th overall)
Coda Gordon (6th round, 165th overall)
Sven Baertschi (1st round, 13th overall)
Tyler Wotherspoon (2nd round, 57th overall)
Laurent Brossoit (6th round, 164th overall)
Maxwell Reinhart (3rd round, 64th overall)
Joey Leach (3rd round, 74th overall)
Michael Ferland (5th round, 133rd overall)
Patrick Holland (7th round, 193rd overall)
Ryan Howse (3rd round, 74th overall)
Gaelan Patterson (7th round, 201st overall)
Mitch Wahl (2nd round, 48th overall)
Lance Bouma (3rd round, 78th overall)
Ryley Grantham (6th round, 168th overall)
John Negrin (3rd round, 70th overall)
Keith Aulie (4th round, 116th overall)