THE BASICS: STATS AND CONTEXT
Weight: 181 lbs
Birth date: April 13th, 2004
- Elite Prospects — Unranked
- McKeens Hockey — 53
- Dobber Prospects — 84
- Scott Wheeler — 98
- Will Scouch — 74
- Smaht Scouting — 119
Lisowsky was taken in the 9th round in the 2019 WHL draft at basically the same height he is now. He has, however, added some weight and muscle since then which has very likely helped him a lot in junior. In his WHL draft year, he played in an U15 prep league as the captain of the team. He was 14th in points in that league, but 4th in goals. He also had 5 goals and 10 points in only 3 playoff games, which was 2nd in the league for the playoffs.
The next season he jumped to an U18 league, where he had 19 points in 13 games but missed most of the season with an injury. Last year, he joined the WHL full time as a rookie, but as we all know that season was greatly shortened by the pandemic, and though he played every game of the season for Saskatoon, that season was only 24 games long. His 8 goals and 17 points was behind the cream of the crop for his age group, but in that second tier with Minten — but ahead of guys like Firkus and Gustafson.
This season, he finished 11th in WHL for points by U18 players, and 5th in goals. By even strength primary points, he finished 4th — actually ahead of Minten. He mostly played on Saskatoon’s second line and second powerplay unit, so he didn’t have as many powerplay points as you’d think.
I would rate Lisowsky’s skating as fine. He’s fast and he can be somewhat maneuverable. It is not a weakness, but it isn’t really at an elite level. A part of that might just be the way he thinks and acts. When he gets the puck, he mostly tries to outspeed his opponents in a more or less straight line. He can pull off some clever changes of direction, cuts, changes of speed, etc. but it isn’t something I saw him do a lot.
So while it isn’t a weakness, the way he skates is something I would want him to work on. It’s fast but simple, and will be much easier to defend at higher levels. That’s with the puck, and especially on transitions where he rates out as average. Without the puck he fades and glides through other players on the ice, trying to find soft spots in coverage so he’d be open for a shot. That is typical for smaller players, and for shooters, but he doesn’t shy away from the front of the night either. Even if he’s on the short side, he’s pretty stocky and not that easy to push around — at least not in junior.
Lisowsky is good at handling the puck. He doesn’t have a lot of high end deception or dangling ability, but he’s skilled enough to do well in junior. I’m hoping it can be something he improves over time, or adds related tricks to help him beat layers of defense in front of him — things like give and go’s, cutbacks, and making better use of passing options than just trying to blow by defenders.
Right now, he can handle the puck well. It’s difficult to get it off of him, and he has absolutely zero quit in him. He’s an aggressive forechecker and tries to fight through every play, a bit of a bulldog in that regard. He doesn’t often fumble or lose the puck when a slight gust of wind hits him, but he lacks a dynamic quality that will really help him at higher levels.
As of now I project him as just average handling the puck, which wouldn’t be that big of a problem, except...
Lisowsky’s passing also seems good for his current level in junior, but I would say that it projects as average for the future. He is not a bad passer when he decides to pass it, but he definitely tends to be single minded when he has the puck. He wants to get closer to the net and let a shot rip, and that means not making a pass that’s available even if it may be the better play.
When he does decide to pass it, I saw him make some real nice slip passes, saucer passes, and the odd highlight reel play where he does a spin-o-rama out of nowhere and fires a hard, tape to tape pass for a tap in goal. So I’d say the issue with him as a passer or a playmaker is that he doesn’t do it often enough. This is a decision making thing that I think can be fixed with careful and consistent coaching, so it’s in his head to look for a pass first. Especially if it means cutting down on shots from a long distance and bad angles.
Here’s an example where he made a nice play instead of forcing a shot. You’ll notice he didn’t exactly hide he was going to pass, and the defense was very not great, but it was a good decision. He had his head up the whole time, and he made a pass that was open. If the defense was better and someone tied up the goal scorer, he had the option to turn back towards the net for a good shot.
Unlike most of Toronto’s picks, I wouldn’t count “hockey IQ” as one of the big strengths in Lisowsky’s game. I touched on this above, but his offensive game is pretty simple. He often tries to set himself up for a shot to the exclusion of better plays, mainly passing it off and trying to get into a better position for a shot and scoring chance. Without the puck, he is not a very active defender. He does not show the same level of positioning or anticipating play that Minten and Moldenhauer excel at.
When I'm scouting smaller prospects I want to see high levels of intensity and focus. Those are often deciding factors between guys who make it to the NHL and ones who don't— Derek Neumeier (@Derek_N_NHL) March 2, 2022
Watch Saskatoon Blades winger Brandon Lisowsky (#8 blue) exemplify that here. He's everywhere@FCHockey pic.twitter.com/51ks0w3il2
But again, I would not say it is a weakness. He does well at handling the pressure, and is not a huge turnover machine. I would say his weakness on defense is as much to do with his size and lack of strength or reach than lack of effort or intelligence. However, because he doesn’t have the size or strength he can’t really afford to be just average in other areas of his defensive game. That said, we don’t need to worry about a winger’s defense nearly as much as other positions, as long as he can have a positive impact on the offense.
I saved the best for last. If there is one strength or skill that Lisowsky has that I would say has high end projection, it’s his shooting and goal scoring. I include those as separate items because he does well at both. Even outside of his shot, as I mentioned above he does a good job finding areas in front of the net to be useful. He’s ready for a rebound or a deflection, and I saw him have a few really nice deflection goals off of point shots. He’s also often in a good position to receive a pass, and he’ll alter his path or positioning so he is still open as often as possible.
Here’s an example of his one timer, and this also touches on his good ability to get to open spots on the ice. Right off a faceoff win, he bee-lines it to an open spot where he can get a cross ice pass and just blast it.
And then when Lisowsky does get the puck in a position to shoot it, he can rip it. He is very good at getting a dangerous shot off in all situations — when he’s off-balance, when the puck is in his or someone else’s feet, off the rush, standing still, and so on. Here’s a good example of him firing a perfectly placed and hard shot as he’s off balance, cutting inside and starting to fall. Still rips it.
Here’s another example of him catching a deflected pass on his backhand, getting it up to his forehand and flicking it top corner in a quick flash.
His shot is hard, accurate and quick. It could stand to add more power, but that could come if he adds more muscle. The accuracy and quickness of his shot is what makes it so effective. He often gets it off lightning quick, to the point that it’s in the net before the goalie realizes he already shot it, and on a few occasions I noticed the goalie with a “wtf?” expression and gesture after he scored. Here’s an example. He bumps an opponent to cause a turnover, and his teammate pushes the puck into Lisowsky’s skate. Lisowsky kicks it up a bit so he can get his stick on the puck and the shot is off FAST. You can see how it surprised the goalie by his reaction.
The two best things I like about Lisowsky’s game is how versatile he is as a goal scorer, and he has a tenacious quality to his game. My biggest concern with his future projection is that his skating, puck handling, and playmaking are good — maybe even very good — but for junior. I’m not so sure it projects well to the pro level, not without some improvements to how he plays, and some development of some of those skills.
The good thing is that I consider his two best qualities to be some of the most important you can have. Scoring goals is arguably the best thing you can be good at. For me though, being just average in those other areas while also being on the smaller side will potentially limit how well he can score at higher levels of competition. It’s the same problem guys like Miettinen has in college, or Robertson has had trying to break into the NHL so far. And Robertson plays a very similar style as Lisowsky, but better all around.
But for a 7th round pick? This is exactly the kind of player I like swinging on. He will very likely turn into an excellent junior player, maybe even its top goal scorers by the time of his final WHL season. But I’m hoping his coaches in Saskatoon and the Leafs’ development team help him develop the rest of his game, so he has at least a shot of becoming a 3rd line winger, second PP specialist who can pot 20 goals in a season at his peak.
What do you think of Toronto taking Lisowsky with their 7th round pick?
This poll is closed
It’s a 7th round pick you only get one option and that’s to shrug and say "sure"