Regina right wingNick Henry is like most players entering his NHL draft season in that he tries to avoid all the rankings, as difficult as that might be.
"Obviously you see them, people are tweeting about them, you see them on social media," he said. "So you really can't avoid it now. But you're taking looks because it's an exciting year to be part of."
Henry, 17, was a C-rated skater in NHL Central Scouting's preliminary players to watch list in October, and that perceived slight energized him into a season that ended with him No. 25 in Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2017 NHL Draft presented by adidas.
The draft will be held at United Center in Chicago. The first round is June 23 (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN). Rounds 2-7 are June 24 (10 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN).
"He just continued to produce from the start of the season until the end," John Williams of Central Scouting said. "He has a very good shot and is very good at finding open space in the offensive zone. He's shown that he has a real good touch around the net, very good compete level and he is strong on the puck."
Henry (5-foot-11, 189 pounds) quickly moved up the rankings. He had a B rating on Central Scouting's November players to watch list and then was No. 25 in the midterm ranking in January.
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He finished the season second among Western Hockey League rookies with 35 goals and 81 points.
"Adjusting to the [WHL] wasn't too bad," he said. "There were some speed bumps but I played with two really good payers in Sam Steel (Anaheim Ducks) and Dawson Leedahl (New York Rangers). … A little bit before Christmas I was getting used to it and then after Christmas I really felt I hit my stride."
Henry said the low ranking provided some good early-season motivation, but he also understood why it happened. He had played the previous season with Portage of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League and was more interested in the scholarship he received from Western Michigan University than playing in the WHL this season.
Regina acquired his rights in a trade with Everett during the WHL bantam draft in May 2016 but he didn't sign with them until Sept. 1.
"Wasn't that a hard discussion but it was a long discussion," Regina coach/general manager John Paddock said. "We acquired his rights at the bantam draft and he made his decision after the last tournament game in our rookie tournament we have. He pushed it right to the end. That was maybe a little bit frustrating for us. But the fact is that he wanted to consider his options. He had been thinking about the college route since the previous winter when nothing was happening otherwise in the [WHL]."
Helping Henry was playing with Steel, who led the WHL with 131 points (50 goals, 81 assists).
"Steel and Henry like to make plays," Paddock said. "They're smart players with the puck. … They're going to make plays, they're going to score goals, they're going to create opportunities."
Henry said his focus during the offseason will be on improving his skating. He's also looking to get stronger.
"I'm going to be putting a lot of hard work into it this summer to be better and go from there," he said. "I've got a skating coach I work with in Winnipeg, Dave Cameron, and then I'm going to be finding a trainer to work with this summer."
Paddock, who has NHL experience as a player, coach and general manager, said Henry has a chance at a solid future in professional hockey if he can improve his skating.
"I think he needs to pick up half a step in skating," he said. "If he does that he'll be a good player because he can do those other things. … He has a lot of NHL things you don't teach. Just needs to get a little bit quicker and a little bit stronger and figure out that aspect of it. He's a young player that hasn't done it yet but he has a good chance to do it."