Toronto doesn't have many defense prospects of significance. In fact, when they drafted Noah Chadwick this past summer they had not taken any defensemen since the 2020 draft when they took Topi Niemelä, William Villeneuve, Axel Rindell and John Fusco.
And since that draft, you could argue the only defense prospect in Toronto's system that seems noteworthy at all is Niemelä, with maybe Villeneuve pushing at the border of "noteworthy".
So let's check in on Toronto's youngest defense prospect and how he's developed this season. If you want a warmup, you can read the last prospect report I wrote about him earlier this season:
STATS & CONTEXT
Statistically, Chadwick has continued at much the same pace he has all year – right around of a point per game. As of writing this, he's just shy of the mark but at 34 points in 39 games. That's tied for 2nd best in the WHL for U19 defensemen, or tied for 8th for all defensemen regardless of age. And he is not just juicing his points on the powerplay. Only one of the defensemen tied or ahead of him in points have fewer PP points than Chadwick does (13).
Another mark in his favour is that he doesn't take very many penalties. He has 16 PIMs on the season, and if you rate his PIMs per game he sits at 0.41 which is tied for 34th lowest in the league. And unfortunately I can't find or make a stat on a per minute basis, because eyeballing the list there are a lot of guys who are not top defensemen on their teams.
Which brings me to Chadwick's growing role. There hasn't been a lot that's changed since my last report on him regarding his usage. He's still on the "second pair" every night, though I put that in quotes because that seems to just be where the pair is listed on the starting lineups each night.
By actual usage, I don't have total ice time (let alone by game state) to know if Chadwick gets the most time at even strength but I would guess that his pair is at least equal to the "top" pair. The two seem to alternate shifts, and if you told me they just never bothered playing the third pair I'd believe you.
What I can say is that Chadwick has solidified his place on the top powerplay AND the top penalty kill unit. So he gets used quite a lot when you combine the time he plays in all situations. Frankly, he's earned it.
First, let's talk about the golden issue that will always exist for Chadwick – his skating. Has it improved? In short, yes. I think it has. I mentioned as much in my last prospect report on him, and it's something I've seen other scouts note as well:
The 6-foot-4 defenseman has taken some positive strides in his skating, giving him a more complete skillset to go along with his 6-foot-4, 201-pound frame. There’s still room to improve his footwork, but you can see the effort and it’s one of the reasons why he has seen his offense jump to 32 points in 37 games.
I like reading reports from actual scouts that match what I think I've seen. I do agree his skating has improved, but I've also noted that he still can get himself tripped up or look clumsy when he has to rely on quick footwork – pivoting from skating forward to backward, having to stop on a dime and change directions all of a sudden. He can do them, but the transitions he has to make in these cases are still slow and clunky.
Otherwise, there isn't much new that I've seen from Chadwick that I didn't talk about in the last prospect report. I think maybe he looks generally better in small increments across the board, which is likely a large reason why he's solidified his top role on the team.
Offensively, Chadwick still looks like a small, offensive, puck moving defenseman in a giraffe's body. He is not necessarily dynamic, but he is an effective puck mover and quarterback at the point. He's adding a slapshot/one-timer to his arsenal, but he still mostly prefers to pass the puck. He doesn't have a very high shots per game rate, and when he does it's usually after he had room to creep deeper into the offensive zone and firing a good wrist shot from a more dangerous area than the blueline.
Defensively, he's pretty solid in his own zone and when defending transitions. His issues stem from the skating problems he still has with his feet and legs getting tangled whenever he has to change directions quickly.
The one thing I noticed a lot more of is how other teams deal with him – specifically, how they try to avoid attacking his side of the ice. I noticed this most in his most recent game, where the opposition seemed to attack his partner's side of the ice the vast majority of the time. His tracking data partially backs this up, noting his very high success rate at denying zone entries. What's interesting to me is that his retrieval success is low, which also tracks for me.
I think teams avoid Chadwick on zone entries not because he's so good at getting the puck back out, but because his reach and size help him avoid having to retrieve dump ins. He just knocks it away in the neutral zone or picks it off/steals it. He makes good reads on cross ice passes, has long reach to intercept/deflect away passes. Probably explains the above.
Maybe there's a bit of his size being an intimidating factor as well. Honestly, the best strategy for junior teams dealing with Chadwick would arguably be to flip it over/around him where he can't reach it and force him to skate back to retrieve it. Make him pivot between skating forward and backward where he is more prone to tripping himself up.
There are a lot of comparisons between Villeneuve and Chadwick. They were taken in a similar range – at least to me there isn't a huge difference between the fourth and sixth rounds. They both are at least above average defensemen, though Chadwick is obviously bigger. They also both had some promise as junior defensemen but big question marks around their skating.
Villeneuve wound up having a very good junior career, and has made himself at least an every day AHL defenseman. If you want to use him as a point of comparison for Chadwick, there are some things going in his favour. First, Villeneuve never had his manual tracking data from Mitch Brown look nearly that good – not even in his final year in the QMJHL. Second, Villeneuve didn't have the physical advantages a defenseman has with Chadwick's greater size and reach. Third, while Villeneuve always had some good physical skill (aside from his skating) his decision making or "hockey sense" took some time to develop, where Chadwick I think started further ahead.
So where does Chadwick go from here? He's already signed an ELC with Toronto, which is a pretty big signal given he's a later round pick not even through a full D+1 season. He's not going to be able to leave the WHL until the 2025/26 season, so he's going to continue working with Lethbridge on his improvements with feedback from Toronto's staff from afar. Lethbridge seems more like an up and coming team, so unless they fall off next season he's not likely to get traded elsewhere.