So far this season I've tried to put out a prospect report whenever one of them hits the 10 game mark. It gives me time to see more of their games, since I can't always watch them all at once. It also gives more time for trends in their usage to develop, and I can usually see a mix of the good and bad in their games.
Noah Chadwick is a 6th round pick from this past summer who I wound up quite liking when I looked into him. I liked what I saw from him in the summer during the rookie camps and prospect tournaments as well. I liked his decision making and good all-around skills, while acknowledging the big red flag that is his skating.
But now I've had the chance to see a bunch of his games, day in and day out, while in the WHL – not just his highlights or meaningless exhibitions. Let's talk about how he's been doing!
STATS & CONTEXT
So let's get up to date with what's been going on for Chadwick since his WHL season began. He's been very consistently used as the 2LD for Lethbridge this year, with one game starting on the top pair and one game starting on the bottom. Otherwise, second pair all game very game. On special teams, he's also consistently been used as the second powerplay and penalty kill units. So pretty much across the board, he's being used a lot but in no situation has he been their top, go-to guy.
Production wise, it's been a nice season for him. Late last season, Elite Prospects wrote an article profiling him and three others who they thought would be primed for a point production breakout this year. The idea being they identified in all of them skills that produced opportunities, but for whatever reason it just didn't lead to actual points. With Chadwick, they noted that he had the brain to create opportunities but lacked the skating or the hands to capitalize on any openings or chances he could create.
Well, if this season is any indication his hands and feet may have started to catch up. That and, you know, good bounces. So far this season Chadwick has played in 11 games, and he has 11 points (3 goals, 8 assists). Two of those came on the powerplay, but the rest have come at even strength. On the other hand, six of his eight assists are secondary which does imply some good luck.
The thing is, I've been seeing the same thing that Elite Prospects mentioned above. Chadwick has some good habits and skills in the offensive zone that creates a good amount of scoring chances that his team also hasn't capitalized on. Or if they do, it's after a scramble or rebound or something that has led to so many assists becoming secondary.
My read is that Chadwick is having a nice but not spectacular season from a production point of view. He's at the point where I think that any big improvements in those two areas – skating especially – will lead to a much bigger jump in his production and overall quality of play. From an eye-test perspective, I'd say he's made some improvements to help him create and capitalize on offensive opportunities compared to last year. Not to a significant extent, I should clarify.
Here's an example – watch him move around in the zone, he puts himself in good position to receive a pass, moving around to be in a good passing lane for his teammates. In this sequence he makes a good pass for a decent scoring chance, and gets a good shot off of his own.
SO... THAT SKATING
The more I watch Chadwick, the more I am seeing that his skating is below average overall but just saying that is not telling the full story. The truth is, there are ways in which his skating is actually pretty good, but other ways where it is a big problem.
Offensively, Chadwick is capable of pulling off some slick moves with just his feet – fakes, feints, shimmies, and other tricks to convince defenders he's going one way before he goes in the opposite direction. Here's a good example of that:
Watch his legs and feet in that clip. They are quickly and constantly moving, leaning one way and then the other. He pivots and shifts on his edges a lot in that short sequence, and in the end he completely loses the defender and has tons of time and room to create a scoring chance.
I find that Chadwick just skates with a lot more confidence offensively than in any other scenario. It may be an instinctual thing, where he just has a better sense of what to do, when, and where to go and then his body just responds with quick, confident aggression.
But in other game scenarios, Chadwick does not show that same quickness in his limbs. Instead, I'd say he's a lot more passive or uncertain, and instead he kind of just coasts or flows and tries to let his size and reach do the work that's needed. I'd say its a combination of indecisiveness but also having to make more conscious decisions with how to move his body. It's clunky and awkward. Here's an example:
At first glance, this may look like a good defensive play – or at least, a good recovery. Chadwick simply gets beat wide by someone much faster than him, and he knows it's going to happen. He tries to force him wide and put his body in the way to slow the other player down, but that still isn't enough and eventually the other player gets in front of him. Chadwick has a good stick and good reach to knock the puck away to prevent a very dangerous scoring chance, but that all happens because Chadwick's feet cannot move quick enough to get there first and then they stop moving while trying to push him away – that's what allows the other player to still get around him.
Defensively, that's why Chadwick relies a lot on his size and reach. While defending transitions, he'll give puck carriers a lot of room... up to a point. He is relying on the knowledge that eventually they'll want to cross the blueline and then get to the net, and he uses those destination points with his size to squeeze them out and hopefully create a turnover.
But there are two problems with that. One, Chadwick can still get beaten by skaters who are going fast enough. Second, it tries to hide a more significant weakness than just raw speed – his turns and pivots can be very awkward. He loses whatever speed he has, it takes him too long to increase his speed after, and I've seen him slip or trip over himself trying to do it a few times. If a player or team catches him with speed or a change of direction (by pass or deke) he's just screwed.
That's why he gives puck carriers more space until they have to come to him, or why he uses his size to try and force them to get around him. At least then it's a somewhat controlled scenario to deal with for him.
I don't want to make these problems seem like a universal thing – they are more general trends I've noticed. There are times where Chadwick is on defense and makes quick, confident decisions and moves quick enough to make a stop. This mostly comes out defending transitions, where he makes some good reads to step up and break up a pass, force a dump in, or create a turnover with his stick. But his problematic skating that leaves him out of position is just something that happens too often right now. It is the most obvious area where he needs to improve, and the most obvious question mark around his future projection unless it can be solved or mitigated enough by improvements.