Photo credit:Brian Liesse/Seattle Thunderbirds
2023 NHL Draft prospect Lukas Dragicevic has high-flying offensive talent for a defenceman
8 months ago
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If there’s a clear hole in the Calgary Fames organization – in terms of prospects – it lies in their defensive prospect pool. With plenty of up-front talent ready to graduate to the big club in Jakob Pelletier, Matt Coronato, and possibly even Connor Zary, the lack of discussion around defensive prospects ready for a jump stands out.
In a draft this deep, normally I would advocate taking the best forward available, but after watching him play I would not be upset to see the Flames call Lukas Dragicevic name on Wednesday.
Number one thing you notice when you watch Dragicevic play is how smooth his skating ability is. He can effortlessly come from behind the net to start a high-speed rush and has the offensive awareness to join it too. It does not just have to be at high speed either – walking the line or creating space in the offensive zone is also in his repertoire.
His shot is also more advanced than his common peers. He’s no Connor Bedard with the toe drag release, but there’s a lot of weight behind Dragicevic’s accurate wrist/snap shots. Throw in that he always has his head up and actively looking and he has all the tools to be a top end offensive threat in the NHL.
The league is evolving into one where a high-flying offensive defenceman can change your fortunes. Labelling Dragicevic as a future Makar is unfair – like comparing a forward to McDavid. However, comparing aspects of his game to players is alright to paint a picture of his methods.
The only player I can accurately compare his skating to is Jeff Skinner – the great command of his edgework is why. He can open the face of his feet to gain speed laterally or down the wall with limited space. It’s extremely high end and on a Flames team that’s been slow for so long anyone with that speed is a positive.
With good offensive skills highlighted by an accurate, quick shot, Dragicevic has a chance to go in the first round. He has the size and is a right-shot, which are attractive qualities, but so is the fact that he had 75 points in 68 games for Tri-City. The big concern is a valid one in that Dragicevic is below average defensively and lacks awareness at times in his own zone. The offensive toolkit is immense and alluring, but I don’t know if he’s well-rounded enough to warrant the inherent value afforded first round picks. That said, it’s not so much of a concern that I’d drop him any further than here. Those offensive traits are pretty excellent.
The offensive totals speak for themselves – 15 goals, 60 assists, and 75 points in just 68 games. As a draft eligible defenceman playing against older competition in the WHL that is tremendous production. I expect Dragicevic to push hard for a spot at the World Junior Championship for Canada – he could be an extremely valuable player both this season and next.
NHLe isn’t 100% accurate, but at least it connects one common aspect amongst different leagues that isn’t reliant on shot locations or tracking data. I like to use Byron Bader’s model down at HockeyProspecting.com – local man and it’s great quality work
Here’s a very good comparable for Dragicevic’s production.
Availability and fit
I really think based on the consensus rankings Dragicevic will still be there at 16. I personally believe a higher skilled top end forward will still be available (folks, I’m not kidding), but if the Flames want to instantly add oodles of skill to a rather underwhelming defensive prospect grouping, they can claim their guy.
As for fit – the Flames have two right shot defenceman signed for a long time – but we aren’t talking about someone that needs to be ready right away. If we go any further into analysis on position, then we aren’t picking for best player available – and I’m a loud advocator for always taking the best possible player available to you.
If they do not take him at 16 I do not believe the 6’1” right shot defenceman with that level of skating ability will still be available later when the Flames pick at 48th.
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