ColoradoAvalanche.com is profiling draft-eligible prospects leading up to the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver on June 21-22. Defenseman Thomas Harley is the No. 11-ranked North American skater in NHL Central Scouting's final rankings. The Avalanche has the fourth and 16th overall selections in the first round of the draft.
Defenseman Thomas Harley has the smarts and the skill to be a top pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.
The Ontario Hockey League's Scholastic Player of the Year for 2018-19, Harley is coming off a strong second season with the Mississauga Steelheads. In 68 games, he led all team defensemen in scoring with 58 points (11 goals and 47 assists) and led all players on his squad with 31 power-play points (five goals and 26 assists).
Harley, 17, finished third overall on the club in points while his 47 assists ended up as the third most in team history by a D-man. Only Scott Lehman's 50 (2005-06) and former Colorado Avalanche blueliner Ryan Wilson's 49 (2005-06) were more in a single season for the Mississauga franchise.
He also skated in four OHL Playoff games with the Steelheads and tied for the team lead in scoring with four points (all assists).
"I think I'm a two-way defenseman." Harley said to CHL TV. "I like to take away time and space, try and be shutdown guy defensively and get up on the rush. Pass the puck to the forwards and create some offense."
Named the best offensive defenseman in this season's OHL Eastern Conference Coaches' Poll, Harley has the stature to be a dominant force at both ends of the ice as he is listed at 6-foot-3 and 192 pounds.
The same poll also named him the most improved player in the Eastern Conference, and his growth from his first year of major junior was evident after he recorded only a goal and 14 assists in 62 games in 2017-18 as a 16-year-old.
"Going to the rink is the highlight of my day," Harley said. "Working out or staying out late on the ice, it's never work, it's always fun. When other guys want to stay home or are feeling sick, I just go to the rink. It's what I like to do."
Born in Syracuse, New York, Harley represents Canada internationally. He suited up for Canada Black at the 2017 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge (five games) and played for Team Canada at this past year's IIHF U18 World Championship.
Harley recorded a goal and three assists for the Canadians at the April tournament before they lost to the United States in the Bronze Medal Game.
Ranked 11th on NHL Central Scouting's final North American skater list heading into the draft, Harley also proved his dedication to his studies this past year.
He was named the recipient of the Bobby Smith Trophy as the league's scholastic player of the year based on his achievements in the classroom and on the ice. He was enrolled in six university level courses and "carried an overall average of over 88 [percent] studying Advanced Functions, Interdisciplinary Studies, Biology, English, Geography and Chemistry," according to a Steelheads release.
"It's a huge [honor] to win this award," said Harley in the release. "A lot of great players have won it, and I consider myself lucky to be among them. A huge thank you goes out to my parents, teachers, billets and coaches who have gotten me to this point."
He'll likely give thanks to several more people for his on-ice play when he is picked in the first round of the NHL Draft, as Central Scouting ranks him as the second-best defenseman among North American players.
His skill, hockey sense and drive to be the best are big reasons why.
"You can always be better, for sure," Harley told reporters at the 2019 Scouting Combine. "I'm never happy with where I am, so I'm going to take that as motivation this summer and work on being better next year."