Mayes has the distinct honour of being one of only two prospects ever selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs as the last pick in the draft. But when it comes to the type of player he is, he is actually more common than rare – he is one of four defensemen taken by Toronto this year, and all of them are listed as 6'1" or taller. It goes beyond the superficial too.

Mayes very much shares the same archetype of player with the other defensemen the Leafs have taken the past two years. In fact, in the press conference after the draft, Clark said with a tone of humour: “I think we know what Tre likes, so we try to execute".

So, what kind of player is Mayes that Treliving likes?


Position: Left-shot defenseman
League: WHL
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 194 lbs
Birth date: Jun 10, 2006

Mayes was drafted into the WHL by Spokane in the 3rd round, 51st overall, back in 2021. Even at the time he was big, listed as 6'3" and 170 lbs. At the time, he was coming off of two straight seasons barely playing, mostly because of the pandemic. Elite Prospects shows him playing in only 7 total games from the 2019/20 season to the end of the 2020/21 season, and at the end is when he was drafted into the WHL.

At the time, the Spokane GM described Mayes as a "very smooth skater with very good agility, especially at his size" and lauded his leadership qualities and intelligence. In the 2021/22 season, he finished in the top 5 of scoring for defensemen in an U17 prep league, with 32 points in 33 games. He got his first taste of the WHL then, getting into two games at the end of the year.

The following season, Mayes had 14 points in 25 games in an U18 prep league, and then played in another 4 WHL games for Spokane. This time, his production for the league was well down, way down at 47th. This was during the 2022/23 season, so only last year.

That means that Mayes' first full season in the WHL, still as a rookie, was this year. He had only one goal and 16 total points while playing in all 68 games for Spokane, which was good for 14th among all U18 defensemen in the WHL. It was also good for 5th best on his team for defensemen, ahead of only one of their full time defensemen. It was well back of teammate Will McIsaac, who is the same age.

From Mitch Brown's CHL tracking project:

On the other hand, Mayes did not play at all on the powerplay. He only had 50 shots on goal, and had one powerplay point. But Mayes was on the second pair for most of the season, and on the top penalty kill unit. Spokane as a whole was an okay team – good enough to barely make the playoffs, and were eliminated in four straight games. They were outscored 20-9, though Mayes was only on for 3 goals against and 2 goals for. That was tied for the best among the team's defensemen as far as goal differential at even strength. He was also their best penalty killer.

Speaking of penalty killing...


There is no question about it, the strength of Mayes' game all comes back to his defense. He has a good combination of what you'd want a defensive defenseman to have. He is big, he has a long reach, he has good range with his skating, he is physical without necessarily chasing hits, and he has good instincts.

Let's break that all down.

Mayes' defensive impact draws a lot from his physical tools. Listed as 6'4" and 194 lbs on Elite Prospects, he has the size, reach and projectable strength that NHL teams typically like. The important element that he also has that distinguishes him from the Large Adult Sons era of defensemen Toronto drafted in years past, is that Mayes' skating is also quite good. It's not necessarily above average, not yet anyway, but it has potential. He is far ahead of where Chadwick was, for example. Having a defenseman who is big and also a good skater lets them cover a lot of ground, and is a very good foundation to build off of.

Then there is how he uses his physical tools. Mayes is not afraid to throw his weight around, but he is typically pretty controlled about it. I won't say he never chases hits, because he does. But I'd say he's not selling out to chase a hit come hell or high water as a typical thing, so I'm reasonably confident even that will get cut down as he gets older and wiser at picking his spots.

From the draft guide:

Defensively, Mayes is steady overall. When defending the rush, he retrieves inside the dots to keep the puck carrier on the outside. In the defensive zone, he shows good awareness overall. He’s not overly mean, as he doesn’t chase huge hits, but he is physical when needed and makes stops down low. When defending the net front, he’s aware of his check, looking to box out and tying his stick.

From Elite Prospects' draft guide:

Mayes is a hard-hitting, aggressive defender who makes the occasional play on the breakout. He brings a bit of rush defence value, off-puck threat elimination, retrieval skill, and a lot of violence... With the puck, Mayes showcases a desire to create at times. He finds quick, controlled options, and occasionally peels the puck off the wall and finds the high-value target.
While Mayes essentially did nothing offensively, his breakouts were strong. He was quick on retrievals, opting to tank the physicality and push for simple pressure release plays. On one retrieval, he came alive, jumping up into the play and filing through the middle of the ice off-puck.

Nathan Mayes = #5 in White/Red

Next are Mayes' defensive instincts. He has good habits as far as keeping aware of where each player is on the ice. He is frequently shoulder checking, scanning the ice around him, and adjusting his positioning as required based on what he sees. He prioritizes keeping the front of the net clear and blocking off passing lanes across the ice through the slot, which are more dangerous scoring chances.

If Mayes sees an opposing player trying to creep in from behind the net or the other side of the ice from where the puck is, he will position himself in the way to block them out. If they skate around or in front of him, he has the strength to clear them from the front of the net and he will be mean about it as a deterrence. These instincts are most noticeable when he's on the penalty kill, and it definitely makes his goalie's job easier.

From Elite Prospects' draft guide:

Aggression defined much of Mayes’ game while facing PG’s transitional attack. I don’t think his habits are all that translatable, however. He reaches and probes – it leaves himself open to be exploited. That said, he made a few nice reads, one leading to him coming across and disrupting a release of a shot in the slot. His other big stop came in the second; Mayes saved a goal, quickly dropping down on one knee to prevent a shot/pass into the crease – quick read and execution. He was at his best under sustained pressure. Mayes is huge, mean (so much subtle dirtiness), and constantly scanning. He clogged a lane on a first-period penalty kill, killing a cross-crease pass. Just a massive desire to protect the inside. His standout play was a physical effort in the second. He bulldozed a Cougar on the boards – a monstrous hit that led to a turnover.


The big issues with Mayes' game is that of how far you can project each element of his game. His defense is definitely his best standout skill, but even that is not without his flaws. I mentioned his instincts a lot, but one thing that some scouts have pointed out is how he basically only relies on instinct and reactions rather than proactively acting to impact the play on his own terms. This is something that the truly elite defensive defenseman manage to do at the NHL level. Remember those great interviews from Tory Pitner and how he talked about dictating how opponents would try to attack him, using things like false gaps and how he gripped/angled his stick to lure them to handle the puck where he wants? These are not things that Mayes currently does.

The same, to a lesser extent, can be said about Mayes' skating. He looks to me to be an average skater. Not average for his size, but legitimately average. He can move around pretty well, especially in a north-south straight line. But his agility and explosiveness is not at the same level, and is something he will absolutely need to work on. This kind of thing does tend to come as guys get older and improve their muscular strength, but it should be a top priority for him given how vital his physical tools are to the quality of his play.

And if you've noticed that I have yet to mention Mayes' offense at all, you get a cookie! There's no way around it, his offense is something that would be considered to be a major weakness. If there's one good thing about it, he rates out pretty well when it comes to retrieving dump ins and loose pucks in his own end, and driving zone exits with control. This is something that scouts call out, and you can see it reflected in his tracking data shown above – zone exits are really the one entirely positive metric that he has. Even then, he achieves it through simple but effective techniques rather than any dynamic, game breaking ability.

Otherwise, his offensive play is something that any scout I've read describes as "he tries things that look good, but he doesn't have the ability to pull them off most of the time". He doesn't really have a great shot, he is not a great playmaker, he's arguably best at carrying the puck but not to a high level. The best things he does is jumping into the play off the rush and in the offensive zone. His presence does add an additional element of offensive threat that can create breakdowns and chaos, but he doesn't really have the ability to capitalize on whatever opportunities he finds himself involved with.


All of those issues add together to make Mayes a real long shot. On the one hand... duh, he's the very last pick in the draft. All the picks started being long shots well before it got to the seventh round. On the other hand, he may legitimately have a longer way to go than anyone else taken in the draft. Not that I can really say that with any certainty, since I haven't put in the same level of research into others taken in the later rounds outside of Toronto's prospects.

I do question the purpose of using a pick on a player who profiles to have Simon Benoit as his realistic best possible outcome, if everything with his development goes right. If you can get that kind of guy for dirt cheap in free agency, I don't get the point of using a draft pick to maybe develop that player instead. All that said, I've had similar thoughts about other prospects Toronto has drafted, and it turned out that I was wrong in what kind of potential the player had. So while I express that slight perplexment, I'm fully prepared to once again be wrong. Chadwick went from a 6th round guy to on Team Canada's radar for the World Juniors, and invited to the Summer Showcase tournament, after all.

If you want to take good news from this profile, a glimmer of hope if you want, I'd call out and reinforce two things. First, Mayes is on the younger side for a prospect in this year's draft. A June birthday doesn't put him among the very youngest, but he is in the youngest third if I'm doing my math right. In theory, he has more runway for his development than most others in the draft. Also keep in mind that this year was his rookie season in the WHL, and Toronto's scouting team likes to identify prospects they think have later development curves as a means to find better value.

The second thing is that, as I mentioned above, Mayes has the right foundation of skills and abilities for his position. A big, physical, strong, and potentially above-average skating defenseman who defends well are always valuable. His issues will likely impose limits on how high he can reach, even considering how much of a long shot he already is, but he has a good floor to work with.

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, NCAA, 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, The Athletic, and more.

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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