College-bound Cade Littler has an enticing combination of size and skill
Photo credit:Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports
By Ryan Pike1 month ago
Every year, National Hockey League clubs roll the dice on players in the later rounds of the NHL Draft that, for various reasons, have fallen through the cracks a bit. Over the past decade or so, the Calgary Flames have done a pretty savvy job of finding value in the later rounds and, at the very least, finding players that enter their developmental system and find ways to help our their American Hockey League farm team.
2022 seventh-rounder Cade Littler has spent the past two seasons in the junior A British Columbia Hockey League, and his absence from major junior or college hockey has probably kept him outside of our top 20 writers’ rankings of Flames prospects. But you can see why the Flames would like Littler as a long-term project.
The son of long-time junior coach Bliss Littler, who’s spent time coaching high-end junior hockey in the United States pretty much continuously since 2001, Littler is a right shot centre listed at 6’3″ and 195 pounds.
If you’re a young player in Canada or the United States and your preferred path is to play major junior hockey, you tend to go right into the Canadian junior system as a 16-year-old (and play in the WHL, OHL or QMJHL, even if you’re American). If you’re college-bound, your path is often a bit more circuitous, and you might bounce around a little bit.
Littler spent his 15-year-old season (2019-20) split between the Phoenix Jr. Coyotes U15 team, where he was teammates with Jaden Lipinski, and the Wenatchee Wilderness U16 team. (He was named his U16 league’s top forward and helped them win their championship.) He spent his 16-year-old season (2020-21) with the Jr. Coyotes U16 team, again with Lipinski, and made three appearances for the U.S. National Development Program’s U17 team.
Moving onto the BCHL as a 17-year-old, Littler had 20 goals and 45 points in 50 games for the Wenatchee Wild and was named to the BCHL’s all-rookie team. While teams were likely impressed by his size and production, he was a pretty raw prospect who had a really limited sample size in high-end hockey – especially compared to a lot of the other players available in his draft class.
The Flames selected him in the seventh round, 219th overall, in the 2022 NHL Draft. Here’s what Flames director of scouting Tod Button said about Littler on draft day:
And then we took the coach’s son. Bliss Littler’s son, Cade, in the seventh round. He’s another kid. He’s a big, strong, positional centre. He’s going to go to Mankato State in two years, we believe he’s going to Wenatchee again next year. And again, two-way, positional. He’s a long runway guy, but we have time on him.
(Littler was one of the youngest players eligible for the 2022 draft class, as a July birthday.)
Littler returned to the Wild in the BCHL for his 18-year-old season. In a league where he was one of five NHL-drafted prospects, Littler was one of the most productive offensive players. He finished sixth in the BCHL in scoring with 29 goals and 68 points. He wasn’t his team’s leading scorer – that was Ean Somoza – but he was just a hair behind them.
Originally committed to attend Minnesota State University (Mankato) in 2023-24, Littler was released from his letter of intent at the end of March when head coach Mike Hastings moved to the University of Wisconsin. When Wenatchee was eliminated from the BCHL playoffs, Littler opted to keep playing and headed to the USHL, where he played a handful of playoff games with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders.
In June, Littler committed to play college hockey at the University of North Dakota in 2024-25, so he’ll spend his 19-year-old season (2023-24) in the USHL with Cedar Rapids. All due respect to the BCHL, but a lot of good players have gone from the USHL to the pro ranks in recent years, so from a player projection standpoint we may could have a much better handle on where Littler’s development sits after this season.
Littler’s done just about everything he can at the BCHL level. The USHL will be a fascinating challenge for him this coming season.
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