One thing I've learned this season is how to be more discerning when watching a prospect, especially one in their U18 season. They still have a long way to go before making the pros, and for most of them it will be around 3-5 years before they even get into their first NHL game – if they ever get that shot at all. They go through a lot of physical, mental, and skill-based growth in their games, to the point that watching a 17 year old play and guessing at whether they'll make the NHL requires looking for different things.

They aren't going to have NHL-level skills, focus, physical bodies, intelligence, or anything like that. What I learned to look for are things that give indications that they can develop in those areas. Do they already try to do the right things, even if they can't quite pull it off yet? Do they find themselves physically limited, but seem to have room to grow in those areas? Are they already at a good enough level in any (or all) particular skills that they require less growth to get to the NHL level?

That's all something I learned to apply to Matthew Knies, but he was an easier example. First, because another scout already outlined the specific ways he was pro-ready and I just had to look for it. Second, because he was already 20 years old which has a vast difference from 17 or 18. Third, because Knies very quickly had a physically mature body type, he just had to learn and refine how to use it in ways that would give him an advantage against other NHLers. All in all, he was someone already in a very obvious situation and very close to the NHL.

Applying the same kind of thing, on my own, without having others point them out to me is a lot harder. Even then, I still do read scouting reports from others that point out little hints, so I know who to start looking for. And that's how I came to add Gracyn Sawchyn to my final list of prospects to profile. He may not be as old, big, or developed as Knies, but he already shows some pro-like habits that could turn him into a solid prospect.

Let's talk about why.


  • Position: Center
  • League(s): WHL
  • Height: 5'11"
  • Weight: 155 lbs
  • Birthdate: January 19th, 2005

Here are his draft rankings, as of writing this:

  • Bob McKenzie: 80th
  • Scott Wheeler: 44th
  • Elite Prospects: 13th
  • Dobber Prospects: 38th
  • Smaht Scouting: 21st
  • Future Considerations: 69th
From Mitch Brown's tracking project:

Sawchyn has taken an interesting path in his junior career. A few years ago he was playing on the powerhouse high school program, Shattuck St. Mary's. Last year he earned a spot on the USA's national development U17 team where he was one of their best players but not among the cream of the crop.

Instead of returning to the national development team – like most would – Sawchyn instead made the jump to play for the Seattle Thunderbirds in the WHL. It's an unusual decision, but he may have felt that he wasn't going to get as much of a role behind some of the USA's top forwards: Will Smith, Gabe Perreault, Oliver Moore, and Ryan Leonard.

But it may have also been a needed change of scenery. While Sawchyn was definitely a prospect of note going into this season, there was an air of disappointment that he hadn't progressed as well as hoped last season. To the point that early season rankings did not have him as a consensus first rounder. I can generally remember that people liked his speed and tools, but felt he had yet to really put things together at a high and consistent level.

This year, things seemed to click. Sawchyn was a point per game on the eventual WHL champions, without even playing on their top line or the top powerplay after they loaded up at the deadline. He was a point per game with 18 goals and 58 points in 58 games, averaging 2.5 shots per game. His rates of point production and shots were definitely higher in the first half of the season, when he was playing a second line role. Around the deadline he got bumped down to the third line because of the arrival of Brad Lambert, Dylan Guenther and Colton Dach. He also had an injury later in the year, which may not have helped

So let's talk about what makes Sawchyn, Sawchyn.


The first things that stood out to me when watching Sawchyn was his skating and his puck handling. For me, it isn't just that Sawchyn is a good skater and has a lot of skill with the puck, it's that he uses those skills in ways that seem more translatable to the NHL.

First, the skating. Sawchyn may not be the very fastest skater in this draft, but he is plenty quick and also very agile. He plays at a high pace, and his skating helps him get where he needs to go – and he is pretty darn good at his positioning and knowing where to be. He uses the skating to be a hard forechecker, closing on defenders and hitting them with a surprising amount of physicality.

But Sawchyn also uses his skating as an offensive weapon, and weirdly it comes through most obviously when he doesn't have any room to skate. He is a wizard along the boards and in tight at being able to get loose pucks and escape with it into the middle of the ice – this is a skill that I've talked about Matthew Knies being adept at when previewing his NHL debut. Sawchyn achieves some of the best results in this specific area, but he does it with agile feet. Even though he isn't the biggest player on the ice, he has very good balance and strength in his legs and is slippery enough that he often stays on his feet fighting through defenders in close. That's another area that bodes well for him, especially since he has plenty of time and room to bulk up his legs to get even tougher to knock off his feet.

Sawchyn's hands are worth talking about in more detail as well. He has some damn nifty mittens, and pull off some slick dekes as well as very creative playmaking. In a lot of his scouting reports he gets rave reviews for his close-area skills with his hands and puck handling. His hands can be lethal in open ice as well, especially on transitions where he can dangle his way past defenders for an easy zone entry. It's all about creating more dangerous scoring chances.

Here are some examples, Sawchyn is wearing #59 in every clip – either in white, or in dark blue.

There are two other areas that I really liked about Sawchyn that weren't as evident right away. To round out his offense, I'll add that he has a real good shot. It can be quick and hard and accurate, but he doesn't use it all that much – part of that may be because of the role he played, both where in the lineup and on whatever line he found himself on. Part of it might be because he typically looks to make a play rather than take a shot. But honestly, I think he should shoot more often because he can let it rip at times.

The other area where he shows some underrated ability is on defense. Sawchyn plays at center responsibly, and has good positioning. He uses some of the same skating and physical relentlessness to pursue puck carriers, and has a surprising ability to pin or check guys against the boards considering he isn't that big. In his own end he has good awareness of where he should be to influence a play with his stick, or step in at the last second to prevent a pass from getting into a dangerous area. Here are some examples:


To me, Sawchyn has two primary areas where he would need to improve in order to become an NHLer. One is more mental, the other is physical.

Let's start with Sawchyn's speed. He's already pretty speedy, and as I talked about above he is very agile and slippery. But he could really stand to add some explosiveness to his initial few strides, and to increase his top speed. Honestly this is something that's true for the vast majority of prospects when they're drafted. It's something that can likely be improved by working on his leg exercising to add more muscle and explosiveness. The benefits of adding some muscle will also be seen in his physicality, where he already has the willingness to engage, as well as the power behind his shot.

The other area for improvement is a bit more nebulous. There are times where Sawchyn's consistency really takes a hit. His level of engagement when it comes to things like backchecking or asserting himself through a shift can wane, and he can have stretches where he kind of disappears from play – at least relative to his usual level. I can speculate that it could have been due to things like a nagging injury or not getting as much time down the stretch, but he was doing it earlier in the season when he was on the second line and seemed perfectly healthy.

That's another thing that most prospects have to deal with – they won't have the same level of mental focus at 17 that they will as a 20-something NHLer. But it's enough of an issue that I noticed, and there's no guarantee he fixes that enough to make it to the NHL. I'd bet odds that he does, but that's a risk with him.


I like Sawchyn quite a bit. Not quite as much as others like Brindley or Oscar Fisker Mølgaard, and I haven't convinced myself to like him enough to take him outright with 28th overall. If he was the best option on the board, I think I would rather trade down and see if I can get him again with a slightly later pick plus another prospect after.

He does have a lot of skills that I really like in a prospect, especially his ability to get the puck through defenses and into the middle of the ice. I find him similar to Gavin Brindley, or even Nick Moldenhauer – probably not as good as Brindley, but a probably better than Moldenhauer.

That might be one reason why I don't feel that same level of excitement for Sawchyn as I did with Brindley. Brindley is everything Sawchyn is but better pretty much across the board with the exception of maybe the nifty mittens. But that might mean I'm downplaying how good of a prospect he is. I do think he very likely deserves to be a late first rounder, and he has some very exciting and projectable skills.

Sawchyn is not a consensus first rounder, but the current rankings as of writing this. However, some of the scouting outlets that I trust the most are the ones that rank him the highest. But that does mean that Sawchyn may be the best candidate for a trade down to try and still snag him. He was hurt down the stretch and didn't keep up the same production in the playoffs, so he won't necessarily have a big hype train behind him like others have. But on the midseason rankings, Bob McKenzie had him 80th and I have to think that will improve by a lot.

So while I may not like Sawchyn the very most among the other prospects I have written about so far, I would love for Toronto to draft him. He has a lot of exciting potential and some of the best hands in this draft.

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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