Though there is an air of unpredictability surrounding how the top picks of the 2014 NHL Draft might shake out, there are a few certainties, one of which is that the talent pool isn’t heavy on top defensive prospects.
Aaron Ekblad is very likely to be the first blue liner off the board, but fellow Canadian Haydn Fleury won’t be too far behind.
The NHL’s Central Scouting Service ranks Fleury, 17, ninth among North American skaters and second among defensemen.
“He probably epitomizes the so-called safe pick,” said Tony MacDonald, the Canes lead amateur scout. “He’s probably going to play for you for 10-12 years and give you great service. He’s a very reliable, solid guy.”
The 2013-14 season marked Fleury’s second full season with the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League. As an alternate captain, he paced team defensemen in scoring with 46 points (8g, 38a) in 70 games. That output was more than double the 19 points (4g, 15a) he recorded in 66 games as a rookie, which was still good for third-best among team defensemen.
|HOMETOWN: CARLYLE, SASKATOON |
|HEIGHT: 6'3" |
|WEIGHT: 203 |
|BIRTHDAY: JULY 8, 1996 (AGE 17) |
“He skates very, very well and moves the puck well,” MacDonald said.
Additionally, the 6-foot-3, 203-pound defenseman finished at a team-high plus-15 on a Red Deer squad that had a minus-10 goal differential and failed to qualify for the postseason.
Following his sophomore season in the WHL, Fleury skated for the Canadian national team in the 2014 IIHF U-18 World Championship and captured a bronze medal in a 3-1 victory over Sweden. He also earned high honors as the tournament’s best defenseman.
“He’s very intelligent,” MacDonald said. “He’s not an overly physical guy, but he’s able to defend well.”
When discussing Fleury and the upside he brings, Central Scouting will offer up a comparison to Jay Bouwmeester, someone who makes it look easy in his own end and can make the first quick pass out of the zone to jump-start a rush.
Fleury is poised to become the third player from Carlyle, Saskatoon, a town of just 1,252 in his 1996 birth year, to skate in the NHL after forward Brenden Morrow – who babysat Fleury when he was a toddler – and forward Jim McKenzie.
As a big, mobile defenseman who is still evolving offensively and rounding out the defensive dimension in his game, Fleury possesses the qualities that should lead to him being a top-ten pick on draft day.
“He knows how to play the game, and he’s a pretty safe pick when it comes to defensemen,” MacDonald said.