I’ll own a bias, here: I liked Jett Woo before I ever knew much about him, because his name is dope. Even with the usual caveat about not drafting for need, I liked him even more when I learned he was a right-shooting defender who can skate. Is he someone to look at when the Leafs draft 25th overall?
Jett Woo, RHD, 6’0”/205 lbs.
Jett Woo via EliteProspects
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So, we’ll start with the statline. Woo’s offensive numbers don’t jump off the page; in raw points he’s 58th in the WHL for defenceman scoring, but that does him little justice considering he missed considerable time with injuries. If you scale him by points per game he improves, but he’s not blowing the doors off at the junior level and no one drafting him should expect an offensive defenceman. He’s by no means useless offensively, but that isn’t going to be where he makes his money in the NHL if he gets there.
I assume my readers are, well, able to read, so I won’t dwell on this too long except to point out one other encouraging thing from a defensive defender. Woo does not rack up the penalty minutes, despite a reputation as a fearsome hitter. Physical players can terrorize junior leagues if they get their bulk earlier than the competition; Woo is no giant but he’s very solid. It’s encouraging that he’s picking his spots well—you might compare his penalty total favourably with, say, Andrew Nielsen’s in the WHL.
The introductory thought on Woo is summed up by Peter Harling, of Dobber Prospects:
Woo can play an impactful physical game as he is a hard hitting defenseman at 6-0, 205 pounds and a right shot defenseman. He missed the Top Prospect Game due to injury.
You can find many people saying variants on this in lists, and so I will focus on a few reports that seem to have more to say about him. This piece from Ben Kerr at Last Word On Sports has lots of encouraging things to say; I especially like the sound of this bit on Woo’s skating:
Woo’s mobility helps him to play an effective two-way game. He has good speed and acceleration in both directions. He also has strong edgework and agility, allowing him to quickly change directions. This helps him to maintain gap control, and makes him very difficult to beat in one-on-one situations. Woo has tight pivots, allowing him to transition quickly from offence to defence and vice-versa. He skates with a low, wide stride and generates a lot of power. This helps him to be strong on the puck and fight through checks. Woo’s balance helps him to win battles on the boards, and in front of the net.
I’m a cheap date for an agile defenceman. Buy me a drink and tell me more of these pivots.
Future Considerations has had similar things to say. In one report I read, Woo was described as an “agitator”, but taking it with the rest of the material, it primarily sounds like he sometimes hits guys pretty hard. He’s regularly praised as a calm, poised player.
Our own Kevin Papetti offered his thoughts on Woo:
Woo was a favourite of mine at the Hlinka, and he looks like a candidate to breakout next year. He’s certainly more impressive than the average player with his stat line. He took a backseat to teammate Kale Clague in the WHL playoffs, but he’s a slightly above average puck mover rather than a defensive defenceman with minimal skill.
Woo is not as tall as a prototypical shutdown defender, but he’s strong for his size, and wins more than his fair share of battles. He’s also an above average skater, which helps him to be a strong man-on-man defender in the transition game. He was a regular on Canada’s penalty kill at the Hlinka, and he uses his strength to regularly win battles for positioning.
I don’t see him developing into an elite offensive defenceman, but he’s quick and skilled enough as a carrier to be an asset in the transition game. Ultimately, he might be a little bit of a reach around #25, but I’d be interested in taking him if the Leafs trade down, or if he’s still available with their second-round pick. I’d love to see the organization stacked with right-shooting defencemen.
Please enjoy this video, and forgive the regrettable punny use of “Song 2” by Blur.
A highlight pack, of course, should always be taken with massive grains of salt; everyone looks good in their highlights. Even more than that, highlights are naturally offensive, and while Woo has enough of those, it’s his defence that’s his calling card. He puts some nice shots through traffic for goals in this video, which I like, but nobody seems to make highlights about gap control. Otherwise, Martin Marincin would be a Sportsnet superstar.
So Should We Be Interested?
Projecting defencemen is hard, and evaluating how defensive skills will pan out at the higher levels is a crapshoot. Some of the worst draft misses in recent years (e.g. Griffin Reinhart) have come on trying to pick defensive defencemen.
Jett Woo, as a potential late first/early second, is not in that category. He’s going later, but further to that, he’s not a pylon and no one’s going to fall in love because of his height. His mobility is praised. Woo isn’t approaching the NHL soon, but Leaf fans are naturally going to note that a grown-up version of Jett Woo would be exactly what the team is missing.
That can get dangerous. You don’t want to pass on a better player and get caught drafting for need. And you might wonder whether a player like Woo, who has respectable rather than outstanding point totals, is a bit of a reach over players who produce in the most tangible capacity. Woo might be slightly reaching where we are, though not by much, but usually someone falls. On the other hand, he seems unlikely to make it to our second rounder. That said, a few people are quite low on him—Scott Wheeler, now of the Athletic and formerly of PPP, has Woo 68th (!) on his board. Still, the consensus seems to have Woo in that 25-40 range.
So I come to the same conclusion Kevin does: he’s an ideal candidate if the Leafs trade down out of their first, and I would snap him up in an instant if he’s somehow there in the second round. He’s probably not quite the match for 25th overall, but to tell you the truth—I’ll be a little happy if we pick him anyway.
You just can’t beat that name.