Froese Notebook – December

Special To FC2018 Draft Center, From The Notebook, WHL

Photo by Marc Smith

Every season, scouts from Future Considerations spend countless hours in rinks across the world in an effort to gather information on the next wave of NHL talent coming down the pipe. Future Considerations’ Western head scout Justin Froese is no different.

Here is Froese’s notebook from the month of December.

Jett Woo, D, Moose Jaw, 6-0, 201, DOB 07-27-2000
Moose Jaw Warriors 7 at Brandon Wheat Kings 4 (WHL) — December 30, 2017

One of the best names and best players in the WHL class, Woo showed me more of a stable, no flash game in his first regular season visit to Brandon this year. Woo, playing on the second pair with stay at home Oleg Sosunov, was often allotted the freedom to be the driving force on the breakout and on offense, which he often did with maturity and savvy. Woo isn’t a highlight waiting to happen, as he has started to trend towards being a more balanced two-way force who is a full package of skill and smarts. Woo’s tremendous skating ability is a stand out feature as he almost looks as though he is floating on air with how smooth he moves and transitions. His edge work is outstanding and although he is strong suited for a straight-line style, his ability to corner and pivot quickly opens up ice on offense and allows him to switch gears quickly when off the puck. He has no issues handling the puck and both strong and skilled when in possession of play. He can toy with opponents if he must, but often you see more of an efficiency-based game with good balance of poise and execution. He passes very well and has a great touch when he distributes the puck. His awareness with the puck is a game changer in the offensive zone as he can control entries consistently and lay a blueprint for opportunity with his quick deception and finesse. He is a passive aggressive player who plays cat and mouse with opponents to coax them to let down their guard so he can strike. His stick is active and he can change the course of defense to offense in an instant, however he can also disrupt play with physicality as he was stepping up on opponents and laying some solid shoulder-to-shoulder checks. I think Woo is a little bit more reserved than Ty Smith and Calen Addison, but he has the defensive edge and poise to have the leg up on one and in the same breath as the other.

Brodi Stuart, LW, Kamloops, 5-10, 170, DOB 03-10-2000
Kamloops Blazers 2 at Brandon Wheat Kings 3 (WHL) — December 12, 2017

Held without a point in this game, it wasn’t a bad outing for Stuart as he showed a blue-collar skill game and was one of the more effective Blazers in the offensive zone. Stuart’s skillset doesn’t draw comparisons to the elite, but his overall package and smarts are what draws attention to him. What he lacks in straight line speed and acceleration he makes up with quickness and edge work and did a good job of being a magnet on the puck while shaking off bodies and stick checks. He did an exceptional job of angling his body and using both his stick and feet to keep pucks in his realm, at times doing so for incredible amounts of time. Stuart consistently showed great poise with the puck and had the vision you would hope for in a point-producing top-6 player. He was consistently addressing options when he had the puck and would remain patient to find an opening lane to move the puck instead of feeling forced. Stuart is a good net front presence who is resilient and likes to bang around for opportunities off shot rebounds and has the hands to make a living in the area around the crease. His passing ability trumped his ability to shoot the puck as he has a slower release and he struggled to get the puck up off quick passes, although he was never one to be shamed into giving up a shot chance. Stuart had some good tendencies in open ice to play defensive hockey but overall I thought that he was pretty adherent to use his stick or body in an aggressive manner. He showed confidence in his play but being ignorant to the big picture caused him to get burned as he took short cuts to defend a play instead of falling in line. I thought despite his shortcomings he was a hard worker and had good hunger in puck battles when he was in the offensive. Definitely a kid I would draft and watch develop. Could see him being a point-per-game player at the level before long and potentially be a call up guy in a few seasons of AHL time.

Calen Addison, D, Lethbridge, 5-11, 178, DOB 04-11-2000
Lethbridge Hurricanes 0 at Brandon Wheat Kings 3 (WHL) — December 15, 2017

Selected behind only top-ranked WHL defender Ty Smith in 2015’s WHL Bantam Draft, Addison has done his fair share to make himself a draft worthy option this season. Addison is a dynamic puck moving defender who has had tremendous success as the Hurricanes’ top threat from the backend. Addison played on the second pairing in this game but was tossed out there a tonne at even strength and on the power play where he did his best to break the goose egg his team put up, generating eight shots and setting up several opportunities for other skaters. Addison’s ability to find ice is correlated directly with his ability to sense play and his high-end skating ability. Addison has electric footwork and balance to his skating stride, using a quick bound in his first stride to lead into a powerful separating sequence. His ability to play straight line hockey and drop the mic by using his edge work to pivot off route or spin on a dime allowed him to often to remain elusive to opponents checks and he exhibited excellent awareness in not limiting himself in any play. On the point he is a very active presence who allows his lateral footwork to open up space and draw attention, which opens up shot and pass lanes for him to exploit. If given the opportunity he is a guy who will also push play deep and take an aggressive approach below the faceoff circle. He’s a guy who has a tonne of skill with the puck and has a great feel, exemplified by his ability to gauge and land pucks feathered or seared onto his teammates sticks. Addison had a hard shot that he liked to use consistently and would never back down from an attempt. He takes the shortest route to the puck possible, taking several off balance shots using a combination of a half slap/snap shot to time and convert off passes when lanes presented themselves. As impressive as he was offensively, I didn’t have a lot of love for his passive defensive game. At this stage, Addison reminds me a lot of Kale Clague and Jake Bean, a player who prides themselves on offense, but struggles to do much more than play positional hockey on the back end. Addison’s skating ability is his saving grace in the defensive zone as he is able to play air tight gaps and quickly close on opponents, but there was not near enough push back from a player with his type of mental acumen. Seldom did Addison utilize his body or stick to block away attempts or snuff out chances, letting possession go on a lot longer than it needed to be. For me, Addison is a likely late second rounder, with the potential to move up if he shows more of an edge moving forward. He is on pace to finish well over a point per game, impressive no-doubt, but not the full story for a kid who will need to use more than finesse to defend against some mammoth sized forwards at the next level.

Kyle Topping, C, Kelowna Rockets, 5-11, 185, DOB 11-18-1999
Kelowna Rockets 4 at Brandon Wheat Kings 7 (WHL) — December 9, 2017

Putting together a pretty good stepping stone season as the number 2 center, Topping looks a lot like former Rockets #24 Tyson Baillie at this stage and although mostly a solid prospect, has some buyer beware aspects to his game. Topping is a headstrong skater who is dangerous off the rush thanks to his puck skill and ability to see play develop. While he has the ability to be ahead of the play mentally, his skating speed is average at best, and he often defers to his speedier, high skilled wingers to carry the puck a lot. Topping is an effective short-range player who is combative on the wall and although not huge, uses a wide stance and his hands to fight in battles or keep the cycle alive and well. He is often a pass first skater and is usually on par processing the game speed and finding his teammates with an opening to utilize. As expected, he’s fairly quick to react with the puck but did show some tendencies to lower the bar and instead of getting bolder, taking the easy way out if available. Topping’s play on and off the puck went through some gullies and up some foothills with his energy level and consistency will need to be his biggest issue to sort out. He was the stability factor on the Lind an Foote line, as he complimented the speed and finishing skill of both players quite well. Despite being critiqued as a poor defensive player and sporting a -3 night, I didn’t despise a lot of his choices on the defensive side of the puck and his ability to get open or take the body if needed. In order to improve this aspect of his game, I think it’s more about setting the bar higher and consistently bringing a level of compete and awareness that makes him hard to play against. He has a tonne of room to grow and needs to mature but as one of the higher scoring forwards in the WHL draft class I do have issues seeing him continue that trend in pro hockey.