Toolsy blueliner Sam Dickinson could be selected early in the 2024 NHL Draft

Photo credit:Natalie Shaver/OHL Images
Raz Devraj
1 month ago
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The new age of defencemen in the NHL tends to be offensively driven. The big names on the blueline in today’s game are guys like Cale Makar, Quinn Hughes, Adam Fox,  all known for their offensive capabilities.
The No.4 ranked North American blueliner Sam Dickinson is a player who takes pride in his game on both sides of the puck. His skill without the puck is what helps him stand out and he’s the type of defenceman that is crucial for every team to have in its roster. This London Knights defenceman has made a name for himself through his physicality, mobility, and ability to shut down plays and he is one of the top prospects heading into the 2024 NHL Draft.

Scouting report

Dickinson is an 18-year-old defenceman listed at 6’3”, 194 pounds and was born and raised in what people like to call the Mecca of hockey, Toronto, Ontario. 
Spending his entire minor hockey career in Ontario, Dickinson went through the Toronto Marlboros in the GTHL and the Aurora Tigers of the OJHL before being selected fourth overall in the 2022 OHL Draft by the Niagara IceDogs. Dickinson never played a game for the IceDogs as he was traded a few months after the draft to the London Knights. 
Dickinson made his OHL debut in 2022 and has spent two seasons with the Knights.
The Elite Prospects 2024 NHL Draft Guide has this analysis of the Canadian blueliner:
Dickinson can mirror footwork in close, take away space, and step into opponents to get stops. His defensive range can almost make it impossible to get past him. With the puck, he’s decisive and explosive, drawing in forechecking pressure only to leave it in his dust as he carries the puck from zone to zone unimpeded.
In April, here’s how Dobber Prospects’ Jordan Harris evaluated Dickinson:
Every team needs a defenseman like London’s Sam Dickinson, a player with impressive physical gifts who can defend at a high level. He has an explosive first few strides and can reach a top speed that’s rivalled by few in this draft class. Dickinson defends well and can eliminate rush opportunities completely using his unfair combination of length, skating, and gap control. Because of his physical tools, Dickinson can maintain wider gaps as he knows he’ll be able to close in on the puck carrier with ease. Dickinson is physical and competes really well, something that bodes well for him when defending in his own zone. He’s not the highly cerebral playmaker like others in this class, but he generates offense in other ways thanks to a booming shot. Dickinson gets pucks through and on net and can shoot to score or generate rebounds. Dickinson also jumps up in the play as a trailer and can finish at a high rate. The biggest weakness in Dickinson’s game is his hockey sense. He can misread plays in both ends and make questionable decisions. Still, Dickinson’s physical tools, skating, and competitiveness will allow him to succeed even if the hockey sense is lacking. Expect Dickinson to go in the top 10 and be a heavy minutes eater who can also chip in about 30-40 points while he’s at it.
McKeens Hockey’s Brock Otten had this to say about Dickinson’s skill set:
The foundation of Dickinson’s game is his mobility. It’s rare to find a defender who moves as well as Dickinson does at 6’3. It was no surprise to see him dominate the on-ice testing at the CHL Top Prospect’s Game; he’s a spectacular athlete. Thanks to his effortless skating stride, Dickinson is an impactful player at both ends of the ice and is able to play aggressively, with and without the puck. What is sure to impress scouts is his composure with the puck under pressure. Dickinson is a breakout machine who rarely gets hemmed in the defensive end at the OHL level. His scanning habits are terrific and because of his skating ability, he’s able to evade pressure consistently, quickly moving the puck up ice, either with an accurate outlet pass or with his feet. His booming shot also makes him a strong powerplay triggerman, while his excellent gap control and strong stick play make him an asset in the defensive end.
Mobility and size are two very important features in a solid defenseman and Dickinson possesses both. Not only that, but he uses that to his advantage with his physical play and he has the strength to breakout of the defensive zone with no trouble. With so many of these newer defensemen being purely offensive it’s rare to see a player like Dickinson ranked this high. Every team would be looking to add a defenseman that takes pride in his ability to shutdown plays but also contribute offensively at times. 

The numbers

Dickinson had 18 goals and 70 points through 68 games played this year in the OHL with the London Knights. His 70 points were good for the fourth most points out of any other OHL defenceman this season. 
This season Dickinson and the Knights went on to win the OHL Championship as well as make it to the Memorial Cup Finals before being eliminated by the Saginaw Spirit. Dickinson collected 13 points through 19 games played in the playoffs which was the fifth-most out of any other defenseman. 

Availability and Fit 

For a team that lost a lot of their key defenseman this past season, Dickinson would be a perfect option to have come in and fill one of those roles right away. The toughness and physicality the Calgary Flames lost in Nikita Zadorov and Chris Tanev have left a gaping hole in this team’s blueline. Dickinson could provide some help in that department. Noah Hanifin was known for his ability to break the puck out and be that mobile defenseman who could quarterback a powerplay. Dickinson also has the ability to add those skills to the mix as well. With a defensive core primarily filled with bottom-pairing depth defensemen, Dickinson could help improve the strength of it right off the bat. 
Dickinson isnt ranked lower than tenth by any of the major scouts or scouting platforms and a majority of them have him around the 4-7 mark. Because of how dynamic Dickinson is and the many areas he thrives in, as well as the success he and his team had this season, many clubs are going to have him on their radar and it may be a bit of a stretch to think that there is a strong possibility that he could fall to ninth for the Flames to have a chance at selecting him. 
The Flames will have to decide which direction they want to go with the ninth overall pick and whether they want a defenseman or forward. They could use the help in any capacity so it will be interesting to see what general manager Craig Conroy feels the Flames need the most.

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