Brayden Yager’s shot and smarts could be a huge pickup for the Calgary Flames at 16th overall
Photo credit:Steve Dunsmoor/Kelowna Rockets
3 months ago
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Another top-ranked Western Hockey League product is ranking right around 16th overall, where the Calgary Flames are going to look to make a selection that can impact their prospect pool in a positive way. Brayden Yager isn’t the flashiest player around, but he could very well be a player that develops into a 30-goal scorer if things go well in his development. So, let’s take a look at what he has to offer.
One could describe Yager’s game with two words, “simple” and “active.” Although he’s not the flashiest player around, it always feels like he’s contributing to the play in some way. His skating ability is solid, as he understands how to gain speed and momentum through crossovers and long strides, and he’s not afraid to use that stride on offense and when backchecking or taking advantage of a loose puck. He’s also good off the puck, being able to find space in and around the offensive zone as well as through the neutral zone.
Yager being able to find and create that space for himself gives him the ability to use the best piece of his arsenal: his shot. Whether it’s off the rush or set up from the circle on special teams, he’s able to manipulate his release and keep the speed and power of the shot consistent. He’s another player in this draft whose shot allows him to have high-scoring potential if/when he reaches the highest level.
Scott Wheeler of The Athletic touched on his defensive game, which I think is an important yet underrated part of Yager’s skillset:
“I like the way he supports the puck defensively as a centreman, too, though he’ll need to get stronger to be reliable defensively at the NHL level. He is very intentional with his routes, offensively and defensively, which should help him stick at the centre position long term.”
Wheeler also mentions his strength, which is probably the pitfall that most scouts have mentioned and what the video shows. Yager isn’t the most physical player, although he’s not necessarily *afraid* to use his body to separate players from the puck along the wall. However, it’s something that he could work on while working toward the next level because his current 6-foot, 165-pound frame won’t cut it.
Yager has played a total of 154 games with the Moose Jaw Warriors organization in the WHL, and he has consistently been a top scorer for the team. After playing only 8 games in U18 Triple-A in 2020-21, he moved to the WHL and played his first 24 games, in which he scored 18 points. From then on, it was more of the same. In 2021-22, he hit the 30-goal mark, scoring a total of 34 goals and 59 points, which was just below a point per game (63 games). And this season, he finally hit that plateau, scoring 28 goals and registering 50, yes, 50 assists for 78 points in 67 games.
Availability and fit
There’s a good chance that Yager is available at 16th overall, and there are plenty of scouts and fans that would love to see general manager Craig Conroy select him depending on who is left on the board. The kid has a good skating foundation to build from, an excellent shot, and even though he’s not the most flashy playmaker, he’s able to find his teammates and get on the scoresheet in that way too. And the good news is, he’s clearly a hard worker on both ends of the ice and through the neutral zone as well, so there will be no shortage of energy within the prospect pool. The relentless work ethic and strong decision-making aren’t qualities that make themselves overly noticeable on a game-by-game basis, but over long spans of time, it’s evident, and he would fit the mold very well in Calgary.
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