Flames Second Round Targets 2016: Cliff Pu

Cliff Pu is a riser. At the halfway point of the season, NHL Central Scouting had him ranked 83rd out of all North American skaters. Their final rankings have him at 75, but his stock seems to continue to grow, as being part of a stacked Memorial Cup-winning London Knights team has done nothing but benefit him.

Here’s the thing with Pu: he only had 31 points through 63 games. But here’s the other thing: he was on a team that featured a line consisting of Matthew Tkachuk, Mitch Marner, and Christian Dvorak – pretty much the best line in all of junior hockey this season. Points were a bit harder to come by.

But he only just turned 18, he’s 6’1 and 188 lbs. now, and in addition to his bullish playing style, a lot of scouts see underlying skill. With most, if not all, of that Knights top line graduated, he may get the chance to shine in 2016-17 – after a team has taken him, likely in either the second or third rounds.

The Flames have multiple second round picks and an early third rounder – so Calgary could be his landing spot.

Scouting reports

Ryan Kennedy, The Hockey News:

Pu entered his second OHL season with some uncertainty. The Knights had once again loaded up on talent, with Tkachuk, Max Jones, Kole Sherwood and J.J. Piccinich all new arrivals to the forward corps. Where did he fit in to coach Dale Hunter’s plans?

“I honestly couldn’t tell you,” Pu said. “My agent told me to trust Dale, he’ll play you if you play well and Dale has rewarded me. I’ve played on the second line almost all year, so it’s been real fun.”

A fast player with nice vision and good size, Pu looks to Jeff Carter as an NHL role model and the youngster has been a high-rising prospect thanks to his second half, which saw him tally eight points in his final eight regular season games.

“I like to use my speed and find my teammates,” he said. “But it’s all about the team and whatever I need to do, I’m down for it.”

Ben Kerr, Last Word on Sports:

Pu already has a decent defensive game. He uses his quickness to create pressure on the back check and take away the time and space of his opponents. He also uses his stick to cut down passing lanes. Willing to do anything to get ice time, Pu was effective at blocking shots and taking away passing lanes for the Knights. He also showed his willingness to get involved in battles in the defensive zone.  One area he can stand to improve is his face-off skills if he wants to play centre at the next level.

Brock Otten, OHL Prospects:

Pu is at his best off the rush where he’s a deceptively quick skater. He does a great job with puck control and possession in close to defenders, and uses quick turns and pivots to create space. He demonstrates a really good head for the game, and plays in all situations for the Knights, especially excelling as a penalty killer. As a center, he could definitely develop into an excellent two-way player who could anchor your 2nd/3rd line.

The numbers

Pu didn’t have particularly impressive totals for the Knights this season, but a very strong second half – not to mention playoff performance – is giving some the feeling that he could break out next season. (And regarding his playoffs: it’s worth noting that his 13 points through 18 games was fifth in Knights scoring, behind their top line and Olli Juolevi.)

We may as well mention that 23 of Pu’s 31 points either came on goals or primary assists, so he wasn’t a passenger. Twenty-one of them came at even strength – which, considering who his teammates were, makes sense; Pu wouldn’t have seen a ton of powerplay time with that firepower ahead of him in the lineup.

In the playoffs, 10 of Pu’s 13 points were primary; seven of them came at even strength. He was tied for the post-season lead in shorthanded points with three: two goals and one primary assist.

Via Prospect-Stats, we can see that Pu clearly has no reservations about getting in the slot and going to the net. Here are his shot and goal heat maps for the past season:

Shots
Goals

Fit with the Flames

Who doesn’t love a hard-nosed player who will do whatever it takes to win, including sacrificing his body and following his coach’s direction on all fronts? Hockey lives for players like Pu, regardless of scoring talent – which still might manifest itself in him just yet.

However, he currently projects more as a solid middle six kind of guy. That still fills a need, though: every team needs reliable depth, and Pu might just be one of those players who could provide it at the NHL level.

Conclusion

There are some mocks out there that have Pu going early in the second round. Depending on who’s still available, that might be a little high for him – though there’s always the chance he’ll prove everyone wrong, I suppose.

But it might be more prudent to wait and see if Pu falls to the late second round. And if he’s still there come the 66th pick, he’s absolutely worth a shot. It sounds like he has the character needed to succeed – and due to just how dominant the Knights’ top players were in his draft year, he might have even more to show as he progresses in his development.

Previous draft targets: Alexander Nylander | Pierre-Luc Dubois | Matthew Tkachuk | Jakob Chychrun | Olli Juolevi | Clayton Keller | Alex DeBrincat | Sam Steel | Vitalii Abramov | Jake Bean | Tyson Jost | Mikhail Sergachev | Tyler Benson | Griffin Luce | Logan Brown | Samuel Girard | Will Bitten

  • Parallex

    I’d be just fine with taking Pu at 35 (presuming that most of the folk who should go before 35 do). Yeah the 31 points aren’t that impressive but this guy got those 31 points with leftover everything… leftover minutes, leftover linemates, leftover special team play. This guy has all the ingredients for a player that has a massive draft +1 breakout.

    He’s got good size, plays a position of organizational weakness, younger then most (turned 18 just six days ago) and has a name that is highly punable. What’s not to like.

    • piscera.infada

      I completely agree. I feel like Pu would have produced better, and thus been ranked much higher if he played on a different team. It’s the odd situation where playing on a stacked team works against you.

      If you believe scouting reports, he’s also more mature defensively than most the draft eligibles. There’s a lot to like about Pu, and I think you could do a lot worse in the second round (including the early second round).

    • everton fc

      I think a team may take Pu prior to #65. I see him going early 2nd round. I’d take Mascherin over Pu, at #35. Debrincat, as well, if he falls that far. And Abramov, who I I think will be gone by then, to a team like Washington, who has no problem drafting a guy like him. I might take Katchouk over him, as well, though I think Katchouk gets taken late in the first…

      Pu could replace Backlund down the road in the pivot, or Frolik on RW, w/Backlund centring. Seems a similar player to Backlund. He’d be someone I’d look at. Pu can also play RW, which puts his stock a little higher, in my mind. The mature defensive ability… Gotta love that, if your picking early 2nd round.

  • CofRed4Life

    He’s one I’m hoping is there with our late second round picks. Don’t know if he’ll last until the third round, but if he does, I’d be okay picking him then too

  • Kevin R

    Im still hoping we can trade #35 & #58 & Colborne for the Minny #15 :-}

    Yeah yeah wishful thinking. But that would still leave us with #53 & if we can get him then, Nylander & Bean (with the Minny #15) & Pu in the 2nd, what an awesome draft that would be for the Flames.

  • freethe flames

    I think 35 is a bit high but with 3 picks in the 2nd he might be worth the chance then. All I can think of is how easily he blew by the Brandon defender at the Memorial cup.

  • KiLLKiND

    Please don’t take him at 35, at 35 someone ranked in the top 30 will have dropped to us whether it is Sam Steel, Samuel Girad, Debrincat, Abramov, or Benson as far as right handed shots go I also have Tage Thompson, Pascal Laberge, Carl Grundstrom, Joey Andersson and Jordan Kyrou above Pu. I am not against Pu, but at 35 he is a reach and a half, even if he isn’t available at 56 or 66 far better prospects will be available at 35. At 35 we should be targeting top 6 forwards or top 4 D men.