Folks, the difference between a good draft and a great draft is a team finding late round gems. During the run-up to the 2020 NHL Draft on October 6 & 7, we’ll be highlighting a few players that the Calgary Flames should keep an eye out late in the draft.
First up? Calgary Hitmen defender Luke Prokop.
A product of the Edmonton minor hockey system, Prokop was a first round selection of the Hitmen in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft. After two seasons in the Dub, you can kind of see why he was so coveted.
Prokop’s attributes are very much in the wheelhouse of what NHL scouts like. He’s big, listed as 6’4″ and 215 pounds. He’s a right shot blueliner. He’s one of the younger players available in this draft class, with a May birthday, and he’s managed to work himself into 135 WHL regular season games before his 18th birthday.
Here’s what Fred Mayer of the Dub Network had to say about Prokop’s game:
Luke Prokop is a strong player who utilizes his size to his advantage in corner puck battles. The 2017 seventh overall selection in the WHL bantam draft is definitely defensive-minded, however, it exhibits a further offensive upside. Prokop has shown terrific gap control and making outlet passes to be a strength, while in the offensive zone, Prokop is terrific when it comes to sending hard low shots to the net which are often redirected, the young defender showing all this while playing minimal power play.
Really liking Luke Prokop's reads and anticipation away from the puck. Good poke-checks, good work disrupting passing lanes. #2020NHLDraft
— Ryan Pike (@RyanNPike) February 1, 2020
Prokop’s not an offensive difference-maker yet, but he’s been one of Calgary’s most reliable defensive defenders for two seasons. He’s a big kid that knows he’s big and he uses his skating and positioning really well to box offensive players out of the high-danger areas. (And he does this without taking a slew of penalties). Can he keep up with faster pro players? That’s the big question, but he’s been very effective in the Dub against some very fast, talented offensive opponents.
And the lack of offensive pop may merely be from a lack of opportunity. The Hitmen have used guys like Egor Zamula, Jett Woo and others in offensive roles during Prokop’s tenure, leaving him as a defensive and penalty killing specialist. With so many veterans graduating to the pros when the 2020-21 campaign begins, Prokop is going to get a ton of opportunities in offensive situations that he never received before.
In his second full season in the WHL, Prokop had four goals and 23 points in 58 games. This more than doubled his production from his rookie campaign, when he had 10 points.
His 23 points was 50th among WHL defenders, but that production was almost entirely at even strength.
Here’s a snapshot of situational scoring from the 10 first-year draft eligible defenders with the most points:
|Aidan de la Gorgendiere||SSK||28||19||9||0|
Prokop stacks up really well against his peers, and it makes you wonder what he could do with more special teams time going forward.
Availability and fit
For availability, the Flames have the 96th, 143rd, 174th and 205th selections in the draft once you get past the first three rounds. Prokop is ranked 127th by FC Hockey and 130th among North American skaters by Central Scouting. I had him ranked 83rd and my cohort Derek Neumeier over at Defending Big D had him 98th (and that’s after listening to me swooning over his defensive zone play for months). Unless Derek and I are onto something, the Flames can probably risk Prokop sliding to 143rd and try grabbing him with their fifth round pick.
The reason why Prokop won’t be a high pick is primarily because he doesn’t have sexy offensive numbers. But he’s done well at all the things that he’s been asked to do at the major junior level, and he’s the type of toolsy defenseman that seems due for a breakout. He seems like a prudent late round, “buy low” kind of investment.