The 2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft will be held June 28-29 at Sphere in Las Vegas. The first round will be June 28 (7 p.m. ET; ESPN, ESPN+, SN, TVAS) and Rounds 2-7 are June 29 (11:30 a.m. ET; ESPN+, NHLN, SN, SN1). NHL.com is counting down to the draft with in-depth profiles on top prospects, podcasts and other features. Today, a profile on defenseman Sam Dickinson of London of the Ontario Hockey League. NHL.com's full draft coverage can be found here.

Sam Dickinson took an unusual route on the way to discovering his true calling as a top defenseman prospect for the 2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft.

After being cut from his minor hockey team three straight years, Dickinson realized the only way he would earn a roster spot was as a goalie because "they needed a backup goalie," he told NHL.com.

"I played backup for a year and then I swore I'd never put on a pair of pads ever again," Dickinson said. "After that year, I played defense and forward, and have remained on defense the past four years."

The 18-year-old has been a big part of the defenseman corps for London of the Ontario Hockey League the past two seasons, but took a major step in building quite the resume this season.

Dickinson (6-foot-3, 203 pounds), No. 7 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters eligible for the 2024 draft, was fourth among OHL defensemen with 70 points (18 goals, 52 assists), was second among all OHL skaters in plus/minus (plus-56), had 28 power-play points (11 goals, 17 assists) and had three short-handed assists in 68 regular-season games.

"I think his puck decisions and puck transporting has taken another step," London associate general manager Rob Simpson said, "where he's really able to read when the time is right to make a simple, quick outlet or when he needs to use his feet to get himself out of trouble. He doesn't spend a lot of time in his own end and because of his breakouts, and understanding of the forechecks around the league, he's had success.

"Sam has received regular time on special teams, is a key contributor on the penalty kill and one of the go-to guys on the power play. That obviously gives you a lot of confidence when you're put in those situations, so I think those things have really helped him take a step this year."

Dickinson showed considerable improvement from his OHL rookie season in 2022-23, when he had 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists) and three power-play goals in 62 games.

"I think it's just building from last year," he said. "I think this year I was focusing on my offensive game because I think the defensive foundation was put in place in years prior. The next step for me was adding this offensive side and I think I've found a little bit more of it this year and that comes from trust with the coaches to be able to make those plays offensively and trusting myself to be able to make those plays."

Dickinson had 13 points (four goals, nine assists) and was plus-11 in 18 OHL playoff games for the league champion.


Nick Smith of NHL Central Scouting was impressed with the amount of ice time Dickinson received all season with London despite so much depth, especially on a power play that includes defenseman Oliver Bonk (No. 22, 2023 Draft, Philadelphia Flyers), and forwards Denver Barkey (No. 95, 2023, Flyers), Easton Cowan (No. 28, 2023, Toronto Maple Leafs), Jacob Julien (No. 146, 2023, Winnipeg Jets) and Kasper Halttunen (No. 36, 2023, San Jose Sharks).

"For me what makes him special is his skating, especially for a guy his size," Smith said. "His agility, edges, stride and first three steps with and without the puck puts him among the top tier of players in this draft.

"The knock early in the year was some poor decisions under pressure, but he's figured that out and gaining more confidence and poise. He's making smart, heads-up plays, moves the puck with precision and finds his options all over the ice."

Dickinson finished second in the on-ice testing at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on Jan. 23, placing first in 30-meter forward skate with puck and 30-meter backwards skate with puck, and second in transition ability.

The left-handed shot also was second in the OHL Western Conference coaches' poll for best defensive-defenseman.

"A big thing with NHL defensemen today is the mobility of defenders," Dickinson said. "They're flying up and down the ice, taking care of the puck everywhere. I think that's kind of a big thing that I've tried to adapt and add to my game this year ... being a little more mobile around the ice and taking on any challenges."

He said he has always been a big fan of Dallas Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen.

"I think I play a similar game to him; similar size and with the way he can move around the ice," Dickinson said. "It's like he's everywhere at all times, and in the perfect spot to make plays."

Simpson said he appreciates Dickinson's lead-by-example qualities.

"He's going to let his play on the ice and preparation for practice do the talking," Simpson said. "He leads by example but has a nice quiet blend of being serious when it needs to be and fitting in and being one of the guys.

"You see the on-ice product and how good of a defenseman he is, but he'll do anything for the team. He also knows when to relax and have fun with the guys, as well."

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