When people talk about size being a red flag for a prospect, they almost always mean that the problem is with how small they are. They can point to how rare it is for players of certain heights to make the NHL, much less star in it. I am one such person! The thing is, it's far less often talked about how much of a hurdle being too big can be as well. I touched on it a bit in an earlier profile, but it is worth mentioning.

Where smaller players have an issue due to their size, it often has to do with how well they can physically survive against mostly bigger opponents. That doesn't just mean in terms of taking a check, but also has to do with their ability (or not) to play along the boards, in front of the net, or other in-close areas where lots of players usually go on the ice. It takes a certain set of skills and skating for smaller guys to compensate for their size.

On the other hand, really big and tall players have their own issues. They may have some inherent advantages (size, reach, vision) but that comes with their drawbacks. They have a much higher center of gravity, which can be exploited by smaller players. They also typically are worse skaters than smaller guys, because their limbs are just too damn long that it takes a lot more coordination and power to make up for it. Even if they can get up to a top speed, it is more likely for them to be less explosive for speeding up. They also tend to be less agile in terms of their abilities to make quick cuts and horizontal moves.

That's what makes NHLers like Tage Thompson so rare they may as well be unicorns. He isn't just big and that's how he survives in the NHL, he is highly skilled in terms of his movements and puck handling in spite of his size. Most players his height are defensemen or goalies, because they don't need to have those in-close skills and only really need their size and reach to be effective.

And that, in turn, is what makes Daniil But so exciting as a prospect, but also a risky bet.


  • Position: Left-wing
  • League(s): MHL (29 games) and KHL (15 games)
  • Height: 6'5"
  • Weight: 203 lbs
  • Birthdate: February 15, 2005

Here are his draft rankings, as of writing this:

  • Bob McKenzie: 25th
  • Scott Wheeler: 26th
  • Elite Prospects: 24th
  • Dobber Prospects: 52nd
  • Smaht Scouting: 29th
  • Future Considerations: 47th
From Lassi Alanen's European tracking project: https://www.patreon.com/user/posts?u=13951676

Daniil But is a beeeeeeeeg Russian winger, who has played his whole life in Russia's system. He played in the MHL this year and had 32 points in 32 games, making him one of only 6 players age 17 or younger to be at a point per game for the year. He also played in 7 playoff games, and had 9 points on their run. He averaged 18:01 of ice time on their top line in the regular season, and upped it slightly to 18:45 for the playoffs. He played in all situations as well, their top PP unit and one of their PK units. He even had a short handed goal in the playoffs.

Side note: I'm realizing it's going to be confusing for me to refer to him just by his last name, because I also like to start sentences with "but...". So to avoid confusion, I am going to refer to him from now on as Danny Boy.

Danny Boy also played in 15 games for their KHL team, and had 2 goals in that time. He was one of only a handful of U18 players to get into the KHL at all this year, even for a single game. He tied for the most points for U18 players in the KHL with those two, and also had the 2nd most games played with 15. He had the usual treatment for young prospects just getting their first taste of the KHL – he'd have some games playing around one minute of ice time, sometimes none, but sometimes getting 10-15 minutes. In total, he averaged 7:22 for those 15 games. He also got into one playoff game for Lokomotiv for a grand total of 1:50.

Suffice to say, there are statistical and contextual reasons that Danny Boy appears like an interesting prospect. Let's look at the visual reasons.


The allure of Danny Boy comes back to Tage Thompson being all the rage, and for good reason. Having a guy who is 6'5", 200+ pounds (one of the tallest forwards in this draft) who has puck handling, shooting and playmaking skill of a smaller guy is enticing. Especially when you can also include some big guy skills like puck protection and play around the boards where you can leverage that size and bulk.

However, you shouldn't envision Danny Boy as a power forward type, because he doesn't profile that way from what I've seen and read. He's more of a skilled forward who happens to be 6'5", and comes with the built in advantages (and disadvantages) of it. He has a good shot that he can put a lot of power behind, whether it's a wrist or slap shot. He also has a good sense of vision and playmaking – it helps that he can see over most everyone on the ice. One thing I saw him pull off on a few occasions is firing a tape to tape stretch pass to spring someone on a breakaway.

I would say that Danny Boy is a player who seems to have it all. He is a two-way threat with the puck, whether it's shooting or passing it. He also has some quick hands, especially for a big guy with such long limbs. He doesn't quite have the "stick handle in a phone booth" level, but it's close. He also has some puck handling ability that others don't, like being able to cross from handling it on his forehand to his backhand and crossing half the damn width of ice to do so because of his reach. In all of the clips below, Danny Boy is #50 in either red or white.

Without the puck, he may look like Bambi running on the ice for the first time, but he can still move around the ice well. Not very well or elite, but well enough. And he works hard. Here are two examples of something I've seen him do a few times – use his skills to create a scoring chance (for himself or a teammate), chase down the other team when they try to start a counter attack and steal it, then push it up the ice for another scoring chance. He's #50 in white in the first clip, and #10 in red in the second.

I wouldn't say that Danny Boy is a great defensive forward, but he's looked pretty good at it. He has some limitations because he's not quick, but that is balanced out by his sheer reach plus some smarts and sheer effort. He has a good stick for taking up space in passing lanes or stripping puck carriers – see above for examples of that again. His defense, effort and tools are why he was used on the penalty kill by his MHL team, and did it well.

Here's a good pre-made video set of clips of the kind of smart plays. I like it because I don't have to do the work to find, record and edit together a video of examples myself!

But for all of the above things about Dany Boy that look and sound great, it's time we talk about the elephant in the room that's been trumpeting "BUT HIS SKATIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING" for the entire time you've been reading this.


But... his skating. There's no way to ignore the fact that Danny Boy's skating is not great. I want to be clear, I don't think it's terrible. Like we have all seen really big players in the NHL who were as bad or worse. Once he gets up to speed, he can keep up with most opponents. But because it takes him longer to get up to his top speed he can't really pull away from anyone, or catch up to them if they already have a lead. He relies on his reach to "keep up" in that sense.

It can also be more difficult for Danny Boy in close quarters. On the one hand, he's big enough that he can be involved in a play without moving much, but if the play moves away it can leave him behind.

The big (heh) question with Danny Boy is how much can that be improved between now and whenever he'd theoretically be making the NHL? He's still only 18 years old, and only recently finished the growth spurt that turned him into a fully grown giraffe. He still has time to refine his physical coordination, which will smooth out some of the awkwardness of his movements. He also has a lot of time still to work with skating coaches to refine his mechanics, and strength coaches to add more power to each stride.

Tage Thompson didn't become Tage Thompson right away. He had his huge and surprising breakout in the NHL at age 24 years old. Before then, he had good but not necessarily spectacular seasons in junior with the US national development team, the NCAA, the AHL, and parts of four NHL seasons with St. Louis and Buffalo.

But I have to again stress that Thompson is a unicorn for a reason. If it was so easy to find a big, skilled guy with good enough skating and turn him into an NHL all-star, then we'd see more than one of him in the NHL right now. That's the risk that's inherent with Danny Boy and there is simply no getting around that. He will improve from where he is at right now, but can be improve in those important areas enough that he can still be effective in the NHL?


That question of the risk inherent in Danny Boy is why there is a pretty big (heh) spread in his rankings. Some have him around the top 10, some have him towards the end of the second round. If I were a betting man, I'd say he does wind up being taken in the first round but more at the back end of it. Most likely by an NHL team that has more than one first round pick, and doesn't mind being more risky with their second pick when they have a safer option already selected.

I do see the potential in Danny Boy. I've seen big prospects get hyped before, but it's usually for different reasons. The focus on his value doesn't really lie solely with him being big, or physical as a result of him being big. He mainly offers value because of his real offensive skills, which are real and gives him some exciting potential.

Take away the size question and all the related issues and I think Danny Boy arguably the biggest boom or bust pick in this draft. If he hits, you could have a very valuable player and a steal compared to where he's likely going to be drafted. But if he misses, you'll be the latest in a long line of suckers to think that they're the ones to find the next big star.

Personally, if I were in charge of the Maple Leafs draft, I don't think I could straight up use the 28th overall pick on Danny Boy. It could depend on who else has already been taken ahead of the pick, but I think I would rather trade down and see if I can get him a bit later plus get another pick after. Having multiple picks does help soothe some of the worry about the greater risk he has.

Because as risky as he may seem, man he is awful enticing.

Thanks for reading!

I put a lot of work into my prospect articles here, both for the draft and Toronto's prospects. I do it as a fun hobby for me, and I'd probably do it in some capacity even if PPP completely ceased to exist. But if you like reading my work, some support would go a long way! I pay for a few streaming services (CHL, some NCAA, some USHL, the occasional TSN options for international tournaments that are broadcast) to be able to reliably watch these prospects in good quality streams. I also pay for some prospect-specific resources, such as tracking data and scouting reports from outlets like Elite Prospects, Future Considerations, McKeen's Hockey, and The Athletic.

Being able to get paid for this helps me dedicate more time and resources to it, rather than to second/third jobs. And whatever money I make here, a lot of I reinvest back into my prospect work through in those streaming and scouting services. Like I said, I'd be doing whatever I can afford for this anyway, so any financial help I get through this is greatly appreciated!

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