It's not easy for a young player to make the jump from United States junior hockey to the NCAA. That's what William Whitelaw is trying to do this season, his first with the Wisconsin Badgers.
If you're looking purely at productivity, you might see his 7 goals and 13 points as somewhat average. But Whitelaw is a true 18 year old, producing at a near top-six pace in a league dominated by players several years older. Honestly, he's doing really well.
Taken by the Blue Jackets in the third round (#66 overall) at last summer's NHL Draft, Whitelaw was coming off of an exciting USHL Championship run with the Youngstown Phantoms. He's made a relatively quick adjustment to the NCAA, building off of that strong season. Last month, he was one of the final cuts for team USA's World Juniors roster.
Though undersized (listed at 5'9", 173 pounds on the Wisconsin Badgers site); Whitelaw is a really tough player to contain. He plays the game at a rapid pace, darting around the offensive zone to find open space. He has a strong hockey IQ and can generate offense in a variety of ways.
It's his shot that is going to turn heads as he develops, however. Whitelaw can fire the biscuit in a hurry, with a quick release from a variety of shooting postures. He's one of those rare snipers that can shoot from anywhere in the offensive zone and score - even from range.
That said, as with any player taken in the middle rounds, he's a bit of a project. He'll need to dial in consistency and learn the ins and outs of playing against bigger, stronger competition. The good news here is, the Jackets can let him develop at his own pace in the NCAA; which is the perfect scenario for a player like this to learn and grow.
Once he rounds out his overall game, I do think he can turn into a middle-six goal scorer at the NHL level. Whitelaw looks like a really solid prospect for the Blue Jackets.