Dickinson draft bug

The 2024 NHL Draft kicks off next Friday, with the Blue Jackets holding the No. 4 overall pick in what could be one of the more interesting drafts in recent years.

Canadian center Macklin Celebrini is all but guaranteed to go No. 1 overall to San Jose, but things are wide open after that. There isn’t much of a consensus in the scouting community on who will go next, with a plethora of two-way centers (Cayden Lindstrom, Konsta Helenius, Berkly Catton, Tij Iginla), productive wingers (Ivan Demidov, Cole Eiserman, Beckett Sennecke) and dominant defensemen (Artyom Levshunov, Zeem Buium, Zayne Parekh, Anton Silayev, Sam Dickinson) all in the mix to go just about anywhere in the top 10.

MORE: Draft consensus poll | CBJ draft hub

Our annual consensus poll detailed what the options are, but as the draft nears, we’re taking a closer look at some of the top players available. Throughout the two weeks leading up to the draft, we’ll count down from No. 9 in our consensus poll ranking to No. 2. 

The profiles continue today with seventh-ranked Sam Dickinson, an all-around defenseman who had a memorable year with London of the Ontario Hockey League.

We’ll list Dickinson’s vitals, his accomplishments in his career to this point, share a couple quotes from the player himself at the NHL Scouting Combine and conclude with expert opinions on the standout. 

Sam Dickinson: The Vitals 

Position: Left-shot defenseman

Age: 18 (Born June 7, 2006) 

Height/Weight: 6-2¾, 203

Hometown: Toronto, Ontario

The Accomplishments 

  • Produced 18 goals and 52 assists for 70 points in 68 games this year with London while finishing plus-56.
  • Added a 4-9-13 line and plus-11 rating in 18 playoff games as London won the OHL postseason title (Ross Robertson Cup). 
  • Finished fourth among OHL defensemen in points during the regular season and second in the league overall in plus-minus.
  • Posted 20 multipoint games for the Knights this year, including a four-point game Dec. 29 vs. Sarnia.
  • Contributed a 2-2-4 line in four games at the CHL’s Memorial Cup.
  • Played on Team Canada at both the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in 2022-23 (1-1-2 in seven games) as well as the 2023 Hlinka Gretzky Cup (0-3-3 in five games).
  • Made his debut with the Knights in 2022-23, finishing with a 9-14-23 line in 62 games.
  • Is the No. 7-ranked North American skater by NHL Central Scouting.

What’s Next

NHL projection: With excellent size and the ability to use his speed in a variety of ways, Dickinson projects as a top-four defenseman, but his ceiling will come down to how his offensive game and consistency develop at the pro level.

Why CBJ should draft him: Dickinson excels in his defensive zone, which would be a good thing to add to a team with a number of key defensemen – Zach Werenski, David Jiricek and Denton Mateychuk – who are standouts in the offensive zone. 

Why they should not: There are concerns about Dickinson’s hockey sense and consistency when it comes to decision making, and the Blue Jackets are already well stocked on the left side of the defense with Werenski, Mateychuk and other players and prospects. 

In Dickinson’s Words

“For my game, it’s just the completeness of it. I think offense, defense, transitionally, you don’t really get (another) defenseman that does everything that I do. For me, it’s just the completeness in overall aspects of my game that make me the best.

“I think it was a good season. I think if you look from beginning to end, it was constant growth for me. I build up a lot of confidence throughout the year. For me, the best games of the year were being played at the end of the year in the biggest games of the year. I think that’s something about my game is when the big games roll around, those are the games I play my best in.

“I’d say (my best skill) is my skating. That along with how big I am and how well I can move around the ice at my size and use both of those to dominate the play is probably my biggest strength.”

The Experts Say

Looking around the Internet, prospect experts have given their take on Dickinson’s game. Here’s what a few of them have to say.

Chris Peters, FloHockey: One of the best pure athletes in the draft, Dickinson still has a bit of rawness to his game that should make him an intriguing player for teams’ player development staffs to get to work with. ... The athletic toolkit, the size, his competitive drive, the way he executed this year and the way his game grew year over year from his rookie season are major factors in his being part of the elite tier of defensemen in this class. He has a good chance to be a top-four defenseman with solid production and enough of a defensive acumen to be trusted in high leverage situations.

Tony Ferrari, The Hockey News: When Dickinson asserts himself, he is at his best. He is an excellent puck carrier who can be hard to stop when he gets going. He habitually tries to defer to teammates and play within his team’s system, which is great, except for when the opposing team forces him to make decisions that take him outside that system. ... In the few glimpses over the last couple of years when he is able to open his game up a bit more, he is a force. He very well could be the best defender in the class, or he could find it hard to keep a top-four role locked down.

Jordan Harris, Dobber Prospects: He combines excellent size with great speed, and when he’s at full speed, he’ll pass opposing players with ease. Dickinson put up a lot of points in the OHL this season due to a bomb of a shot, picking his spots to jump up in the play, and being an effective PP2 player. On top of the offensive output, Dickinson is an excellent rush defender who can shut down the opposition’s attempts to gain the offensive zone. He displays textbook stick and body layering to neutralize puck carriers and take the puck away. He might be the best defensive defenseman in the draft.

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