At the seventh round, I’m looking for any player that offers above average potential in any particular skill. I want something that you can pin your hopes on that they have a skill that can carry them to the pros, if they develop the rest of their game enough. What those strengths or skills could be will be a bit different than what I’d look for in a seventh round forward.
For defensemen, I would be content taking a defenseman who is just really good at defense but doesn’t show much in the way of offense. Defense is something a lot harder to assess and project than good offense. I am fine swinging on a good defensive defenseman in the 7th round and hope you can at least develop some basic offensive skills enough to not make them a complete liability. Just be good at passing the puck up the ice without turning it over, things like that.
On the other hand, I’m also fine taking a defenseman who seems to offer underrated offensive skill but is more lacking defensively. But in this case, I’m not just looking for a defenseman who puts up a lot of points — those are more easily noticed, but for a 7th rounder you’re looking for someone who maybe doesn’t have a lot of points but you can see the potential there.
There are other smaller things I’d look for as well. Being a very good skater is always an important skill to have, especially for a defenseman. Having a big shot from the point much less so. Being able to have an impact on transitions is more valuable to me.
All this said, let’s talk about some examples of defensemen I think might fall to the seventh round who I would be interested in.
Healey is a 6’1 right shot defenseman who played this year in the USHL. I’ve written about him before, in my last watch list of the season. He was not included in Bob McKenzie’s rankings, not even as an honourable mention. I still think it will be a bit of a long shot for him to fall all the way to the seventh round, but it is still a possibility. While he’s a decent-sized right shot defenseman, he had 3 goals and 21 points in 59 games. But there are the usual contextual factors to consider. First, he played around 18 minutes per game, which is decent but low for top defensemen in junior. Second, he was 4th in the league for draft eligible defensemen in even strength primary points. Healey was also on the lowest-scoring team in the league, and he got rave reviews from scouts for doing the right things offensively — something that is borne out by his microstats.
He has good hands when he has the puck and is a capable passer, which helps him both in the offensive zone and when driving transitions. He is also pretty aggressively joining the rush and activating in the offensive zone, which helps create more dangerous scoring chances. Defensively he is a mixed bag. He’s pretty good at defending transitions, but it can be inconsistent. He’s even more inconsistent in his own end. I think he should definitely be taken before the seventh round but I’m hoping he falls to Toronto and the Leafs get him.
Ryan Healey: point activation.— Mitchell Brown (@MitchLBrown) May 31, 2022
Every sequence in the clip follows the same pattern: move through the pass reception, head up to read the feet of the incoming defender, attack space in the opposite direction. Then, the skill shines.
Details enable skill.#2022NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/t0bd3eSsVC
Hudson Thornton is a 5’11” left-shot defenseman, and another microstat wunderkind. He played in the WHL for Prince George, which was also not a very good team. They finished 6th last in the league, with the second worst offense. But Thornton finished third on the team with 14 goals and 45 points in 65 games. He finished third in the WHL for draft eligible defensemen in primary points, behind only Mateychuk and Korchinski. He also had the most goals.
He’s a bit smaller and also an older prospect, with a November 4th, 2003 birthday. So on the one hand, you’d expect someone almost in their D+1 season to be producing well and being more dominant like this. But that to me reinforces he’d be worth a late round pick, if he’s available. For a top goal scoring defenseman, he doesn’t have that great a shot. He scores because he is very active in the offensive zone, starting give and go’s and activating off the blueline to get better scoring chances in close. He’s a bit of a poor man’s version of Mateychuk in that regard, but without the same level of skill and not nearly to the same extent.
Hudson Thornton (LD) is an exciting player for the 2022 NHL draft.— Daniel Gee (@DanielGScouting) October 16, 2021
Here is a SHG he scored in the @PGCougars opener. Starts the play with a guide to the outside, comes up with a huge block, and then makes himself an easy target on the 3-on-1 he started. Caught this play live. pic.twitter.com/K8Q4U9Hqvr
Dionicio is a 6’2” left-shot defenseman who played for Niagara in the OHL. He has a fascinating background. He was born in New Jersey to parents who immigrated to America from the Dominican Republic. But when he was still an infant, his parents moved to Switzerland to raise him. He played in Swiss junior up until this year, when he joined Niagara through the import draft. Dionicio had a good rookie season, putting up 31 points in 57 games on the last place team in the OHL. Internationally, he plays for Team Switzerland, and had 5 points in 7 games this year. He was used pretty heavily on a bad team, averaging over 20 minutes per game.
His microstats look very strong across the board, and only improved over the year as he got better. He’s someone who clearly has the brain and the skill to do very well against junior competition. There are some concerns that his mechanics as they are now seem very raw, leading to consistency issues. Most of those mechanics may be down to refining his coordination with a larger body, as he had a little growth spurt this year. So he’s also a bit of a raw, long term project. But the execution for him is already at a pretty high level, and he shows a mind that is willing to try more advanced skills and maneuvers to help him all over the ice.
Hunter Mayo is a 6’1” right shot defenseman from the Red Deer Rebels meets that criteria, with some potential for being good enough offensively and on transitions to give some hope he could be an NHLer. Defensively, he rates out well by his microstats and by scouting reports. He is active, smart, and physical without just chasing hits. He can shut down transitions in the neutral zone and cycles in the defensive zone. He has very strong microstats driving transitions, but mainly achieves this in junior by making very basic passes. It works well in junior, but won’t be nearly as effective against pros.
Offensively, he had 17 points in 65 games, which isn’t a lot. But all of them are at even strength as he got zero power play time, and 11 of them are primary points. He averaged around 15 to 16 minutes of ice time, playing entirely at even strength with some PK time. His issue seems to be mechanical refinement — he is effective right now, and I read he improved a lot over the year already. Working with development coaches to refine his mechanics and gaining more confidence handling the puck could turn him into an excellent defensive defenseman with enough transition and offensive ability to not make him a liability in that regard.
Fenenko is a 6’1” left shot defenseman from Latvia, who played as an import this year in the QMJHL. He played for Baie-Comeau, who finished tied for the second worst record in the league. He was used in all situations, and averaged around 21 minutes per game. He had 40 points in 62 games, which is good production on a poor team. He finished third in the league among draft eligible defensemen in primary points, and was one of only two defensemen on the team to finish with a positive on-ice goal differential.
Despite that, it does not sound like he has been showing much in the way of dynamic, high-end offensive skill. That’s not to say he’s hopeless with the puck. He is effective at making the simple, safe plays — but in a manner that seemed to work well for his team in junior. He does have a decent amount of deception and skill with the puck.
However, it does seem like his defense projects much better. It starts his skating, maybe the best skater among any of the defensemen on this list. But he also makes good reads and will step up aggressively and physically to shut down a possession by the other team. If he adds more dynamic offense to his game, he could turn into a nice depth piece in the future. He’s also pretty lanky, and has a later August 18th birthday, so has more room to develop than most of his peers.
Oskar Asplund is a 5’11” Swedish defenseman who spent most of the season in Sweden’s second tier pro league, the Allsvenskan. In fact, even last season he played 21 games for his Allsvenskan team when he was 16/17 years old. He started his season back in the U20 junior league, which he obliterated to the tune of 14 points in 8 games. He was quickly shuffled up to the Allsvenskan team where he had 14 points in 48 games, and at the end of the season he was sent back down to the U20 team for their playoffs where he had another 14 points in 12 playoff games. He was also loaned to the SHL for one game.
Petite carte cachée du repêchage 2022 de la LNH : Oskar Asplund #33. Un profil s'en vient demain pour vous le décrire. Voici un petit avant goût. #2022NHLDraft #NHLDraft @Toutsurlehockey #TSLHEspoirs pic.twitter.com/HjOCgoD0dL— Pascal Lapointe (@SousleradarLNH) May 17, 2022
Scott Wheeler likes Asplund enough to rank him 73rd overall, but notes that he never hears him mentioned by other scouts and believes he may even go undrafted. That would make him very possible as a 7th rounder. Here’s why Scott says he likes Asplund:
Asplund is an offensively-inclined distributor who loves to skate and pass the puck, and uses light edges to elude pressure, walk the line, and pivot into outlets. He identifies passing options early and does a fabulous job playing pucks quickly through seams or delaying until one opens up. Defensively, though he’s not particularly physical, he does a good enough job gapping up and/or breaking up plays with his stick to hold his own against pros and has clearly demonstrated an ability to control play against his peers.
Dorrington is a 6’2” left-shot defenseman who played on the worst team in the USHL this year. On the one hand, he had only 11 points in 41 games and just 4 of them were primary points. His microstats also do not rate out very well. He played around 17 to 18 minutes per game, which is roughly 4th or 5th most on the team. On the other hand, it’s difficult to separate his on ice impacts from the environment he played in. He was part of Team USA’s roster at the most recent Hlinka Gretzky tournament last summer, so he does have something there that he may not have been able to show in the USHL.
What makes Dorrington interesting is that he shows an interesting set of skills in all areas of the game. He’s a good skater, shows good defensive ability, and smart offensive plays. The issue with him is consistently being able to use his tools in an effective manner on a regular basis. That would make him a bit of a risk and a longer term project to work with him on harnessing those skills, but if you see the potential there and think you can turn his flashes of higher level play into the norm for him, he could turn into a third pairing guy in the future.
Elmeri Laakso is a left shot defenseman from Finland that played in four different levels this year. I’ve seen his height listed anywhere between 5’9” and 6’1”, which is annoying. He played three games at the U18 junior level and had two points. Then he had 25 games in the U20 level, with 7 goals and 11 assists. He had five games at the Mestis level, which is the second-tier pro level, and had three points. And he also had 17 games in the Liiga, with 5 points. On top of all of that, he also played in 34 total international games for Finland’s U18 team, where he had 15 points.
Laakso seems to be in the mold of a two-way defensemen, with a slight edge on his offense vs his defense. He’s a decent passer with good transitions, and you can see him hit some nice long-bomb stretch passes. His biggest issues are with the consistency of his decision making, which can be spotty, and with his skating mechanics. He has a decent amount of agility, but his top speed is lacking. Some refinement of his stride and adding strength to his legs will help with that.
Pantzare is a 6’1” left-shot defenseman from Sweden. He’s very likely someone you will not have heard anything about, and is probably one of the most likely names on this list to go undrafted. That’s because he spent almost all of this year playing in Sweden’s U18 junior level — not even the U20 league where most draft-worthy Swedish prospects should be. But in the U18 level, he got solid reviews for his defense and skating. His offense has been said to be more shaky except for having a good shot, which shows in his statline: 14 goals and 15 assists in total 43 games. His puck handling and passing is more inconsistent, but there’s enough there that he could make sense as a later round project.
Here’s a scouting report on him from FC Hockey:
Pantzare likes to be an active defenseman that has good energy on the ice and likes to play tough and aggressive. He moves rather smooth on the ice, both back and forth without the puck and is mobile when the play changes directions. Pantzare shows great stick on puck activity and tries his best to give opponents as little time as he could to be creative when they enters the offensive zone. The vision Pantzare has without the puck is okay and he shows courage and takes a step forward when he sees the chance to interrupt and steal the puck. When he is in control of the puck, he showed decent puck handling and helps his teammates by being a playable option. He also can start a breakout fast and easy without any major difficulties.
Brown is a 6’2” right-shot defenseman who played a more limited role with Sioux City in the USHL, who finished as the third best team in the league. He has a similar profile as Ryan Healey, where he may not have had the actual points (16 in 62 games) but the skill and the process is there. He’s very active all over the ice, both with and without the puck. That helps him drive good results for his team. He tries high-level plays and executes them fairly well.
The defensive side is more shaky. His execution there is not as good, but not for lack of trying. He is as active without the puck and defending as he is offensively. While his skating works well for him on the offensive side, he’s not as good when skating backwards or shifting between forward and back. So he can more easily get caught by faster opponents if he doesn’t read the play well. He will try to be aggressive with gaps, but if he guesses wrong he can’t recover very quickly. I like that the effort is there, and his offensive approach is advanced enough that I’d be interested in having him refine his skating mechanics and defensive approach with Toronto’s development team. Elite Prospects actually has him ranked at 105, but he did not make Bob’s top 90 or honourary mentions and he was only ranked as the 102nd best skater in North America by NHL Central Scouting. That would make him a very late round pick, which could be perfect for a team like Toronto.
Garrett Brown was just selected to the BioSteel All-American game and now he has a goal in tonight’s game! 3-0 Musketeers! pic.twitter.com/aGCZv4GniH— Sioux City Musketeers (@Musketeerhockey) December 29, 2021
Which of these defensemen would you be most interested in as a 7th round pick?