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Last summer, after Brandon Lisowsky was drafted in the seventh round by the Leafs, I said that the Saskatoon Blades were building a good team and my hope was that Lisowsky would build with them and not get shuffled down the lineup by more talented players.
Following a season where he finished second in goals and third in points on the Blades, I'd say he did just that. The recently-turned 19-year-old had an excellent season, finishing 16th in league goal scoring and comparably to Leafs top WHL pick Fraser Minten, who is the same age.
Did I mention he was drafted in the seventh round?
|Age as of July 1||19.22|
Saskatoon's top-three scorers can all be described as "Short Kings" with Yegor Sidorov, Trevor Wong, and Lisowsky averaging 5'10", 170 lbs strong. Sidorov was a third round pick for Anaheim, Lisowsky a seventh here in Toronto, and Wong is a recently-turned 20-year-old centre on a good WHL playoff team.
While researching Lisowsky, Wong definitely stood out as a player worth drafting, or at the very least signing to an ELC on a flier. Now that he's gone two years undrafted, the team that watches his left winger could possibly make a call.
Lisowsky's biggest selling points are his versatility and finishing ability. He was playing the bumper on the power play and was able to give the Blades a ton of different looks based on his mobility, anticipation, and his ability to work in tight areas quickly and cleverly. His release is quick, his footwork is decent, and he has a good eye for the net and where to be. All things the Leafs have valued in their prospects.
The points speak for themselves, as well do his highlights compiled by Brian, which show him scoring in a bunch of different ways. Watching his play, he carried a strong resemblance to complimentary wingers like Michael Bunting for their ability to be in the right place at the right time, and find ways to put the puck in more often than the regular old plugs.
That's the ceiling I see for Lisowsky. If he can put together enough of the rest of his game, gain some footspeed with growth, and provide enough additional capabilities to be a good support player. Barring that, I think a lot of his scoring will fade in pro hockey as his footspeed isn't great, and his trademark skills are still only just above average in the league he's in currently. The path of success often taken by good, not great, scorers in junior is to work hard and be useful long enough to catch a break somewhere. I've definitely seen players like Lisowsky succeed on the Toronto Marlies.
What will hold Lisowsky back is the stuff not seen in the highlight videos. Brian describes it well, but Lisowsky lacks the passing and skating to help push the play up in transition, which is a key part of not being hated by your coach in pro. He'll also need to work harder in the defensive zone, and gain some muscle in his lower body to work the puck better and win battles more often. These raw skills create the biggest gap between Lisowsky in the seventh round and Minten in the second round, and why Minten is a centre and on the path to make Team Canada at the Men's WJC.
The big hope for Lisowsky is he will get stronger so he can handle himself in tough spots and improve his skating. There's always hope for a prospect like him, but he's starting at a ceiling of being a complimentary player. No shame in that, but he'll want to find more areas where he can be an asset outside his points if he's going to succeed in pro. Everybody's gotta play defense and 5v5.
I do think the reputation of Lisowsky getting drafted in the seventh round has resulted in him not getting as much love as other prospects higher up the list. He had a heck of a season and is on his way to becoming a potential pro player. That's, unfortunately, the next step for Lisowsky; continuing his scoring pace and then translating it in the AHL in a couple years. He'll have a big learning curve in the ECHL/AHL, but that's what that league is for. What's up to him is whether he'll commit to making improvements or if he'll Bracco it.
Cathy: My method going into this year’s voting was to not rank anyone taken in the fifth round or later without a very good reason. I knew that would be impossible, and Lisowsky likely could have been an exception. He gets a lot of points on a good WHL team that makes the playoffs, and I’m assuming he was drafted low because he’s short.
Brian: Lisowsky seems like a guy who will have a nice junior career for his numbers, and may be a fun (but not elite) producer in the AHL, but I’m not sure of even that let alone an NHL future. He has a great shot and some offensive skill to support it, to the point he can produce well in the WHL. But he isn’t great outside of that. He’s a capable but not great skater. He is just an okay passer and playmaker, not very dynamic in deking around defenses or passing it off to teammates to set them up for scoring chances. He’s also not a dynamic transition guy carrying the puck, nor does he play a strong two-way game. Barring some significant improvements in some of those areas, I think he’ll find even the AHL a bit of a struggle.
dhammm: A zippy little winger pick, where in this case the zippy refers to his shot. In the later rounds, take as many bets as you like on this player profile, which isn't to say they'll always work out. To warrant true hype, Lisowsky needs to score more, to assert himself on all facets of the game, to be an even zippier little winger. He's trending positively but still only adequately.
Catch-67: I am generally a fan of late-round, short, offensively-minded wingers, and Lisowsky seemed to have quite a strong year last year. I hope he beats the odds! That was enough for me to give him a relatively high ranking on my list, in spite of his weaknesses (as Brigstew has outlined above).
Your turn to weigh in on the Short King from Port Coquitlam. Did you rank him and where do you see his pro potential?
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