Weight: 174 pounds
Draft: 2019 draft eligible
Luke Toporowski should be a top 90 pick in this year’s draft based on his strong play in the Hlinka Gretzky cup. The 17-year-old LW scored four goals and added an assist for five points in five games for team USA. Toporowski had a strong showing in this tournament, and it should be a preview of what’s to come for the WHL forward. He’ll return to Spokane this season and take on a much bigger role with the Chiefs. With the departures of Hudson Elynuik and Zach Fischer, Luke Toporowski could be placed into a top six role. Spokane is a team that doesn’t have a whole lot of NHL talent on it outside of Kailer Yamamoto, and even he could be leaving for the NHL this season. With that being said, Spokane’s young players will get a chance to shine this season. Toporowski leads their draft eligible class in terms of potential, and will be relied upon heavily this season.
In 2017, Toporowski came onto the scene as a smaller forward with a lot to prove. He did well in a depth role on a mediocre team, and finished with 23 points in 61 games. It’s about average for first year WHL forwards, but he’s not an average player. I love the way he skates. He’s quick, and his acceleration is great for such a young forward. Although he’s an undersized forward, he doesn’t shy away from physical play. He’ll fight, work hard in the corners, and lay the body here and there on the forecheck. A player of his stature playing as physically as he does is rare, and will definitely catch the eyes of scouts in the 2019 draft. His father and two uncles were hockey players, and all three were enforcers in juniors and in the pros. It could be why he’s able to play with a bit of an edge. Toporowski’s head is always up, and he’s always looking for a chance to make an opposing team pay for their mistake. He’s pesky, and can cause turnovers quite frequently. Toporowski is one of those players that’s a pain in the butt to play against, and he’ll constantly be pestering you in any zone.
Offensively, he’s close to being ready for the NHL. He has a quick, accurate shot, as well as good hockey sense. He can make good passes, and doesn’t turn the puck over often. It’s rare seeing a smaller forward in the WHL hover around the net, but Toporowski does this on a game to game basis. I love seeing consistency in a young forward, and I like what I’ve seen from him so far. Defense is obviously an issue, and he does get a little flat-footed in the defensive zone at times. He’ll get outmuscled, a player will sneak around him, or he’ll turn the puck over in the defensive zone which leads to a good chance. All of these are normal for a forward, and the good thing about him is that he learns from his mistakes. You’ll rarely see him make the same mistake twice, and he’s constantly improving.
As far as NHL ceiling is concerned, I see Toporowski being a third line LW with a little second line upside. You’ll see him on the second power play unit every once in a while, and possibly on the penalty kill. He’s reliable when you need him to be, and can be good for 35-40 points a season. The question isn’t “if” he’ll hear his name called in June, it’s “when.” Toporowski is likely a mid to late fourth round pick in the upcoming draft. He and Jaret Anderson-Dolan had similar rookie seasons, and I could see Toporowski being the same, if not better, than him.
Update: Luke Toporowski has had a great start to his draft year, scoring a goal and adding three assists for four points in three games. He has been given a more prominent role on the Chiefs with Elynuik and Yamamoto both in NHL or AHL camps, and he’s made the most out of the opportunity so far. He was recently given a “C” ranking by NHL Central Scouting, listing him as a player to be picked after the third round. With a bigger role in Spokane to start the season, I could see Toporowski climbing up rankings in the near future.