Luca Cagnoni is a left shot defenceman the Leafs may select at 28th overall
Photo credit:© Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
3 months ago
No matter what prospect a team selects in the first round, there is a good chance that pick will result in an NHL player. Knowing who is the guy to take is no easy feat given how many players are available and having to make a quick decision on the future direction of the franchise.
That’s why we have articles like this one to speculate on which way a team could lean when they are on the clock. In today’s post, we look at a defenceman out west that might catch the eyes of the Leafs.
Luca Cagnoni is a Canadian left shot defenceman who spent the previous season with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League. He is on the smaller side for a defender as he clocks in at 5’10” and weighs 172 pounds, which is why he is ranked a bit lower than some of the other blueliners.
What he lacks in height and size, he makes up for it with mobility and strong offensive awareness. Cagnoni quickly rose up to become the top defender on a Winterhawks team that had two NHL draft picks defenceman and finished with the fifth best record in the WHL. The 18-year-old recording 64 points (17 goals and 47 assists) in 64 games is a testament to his impressive edgework that allows him to seamlessly shift past defenders on the forecheck to create space for his teammates, leading the rush with his great speed, and can beat his opponents with either his crisp passing or divine shot. While the Winterhawks were quickly dispatched by the Kamloops Blazers in the second round, Cagnoni’s seven points in nine games had him first among defenders and fifth on the team in scoring.
Cagnoni certainly will turn some heads for his skillset, but what holds him back from being taken much earlier in the draft is the fact that he is a small blueliner. There’s no sugar-coating the reality that a number of teams are going to be scared to take a chance on him due to that fact alone, but he also needs to work on his defensive play as his smaller stature will sometimes lead to struggles in his own end. Scouts have acknowledged that Cagnoni has made strides in this department throughout the season and his skating should allow him to make up some of the difference, but bulking up and improving his down low is required for the offensive defenceman to increase his chances of getting to the next level.
His incredible footwork, playmaking abilities, and elusiveness in transition should no doubt make him a worthy bet for any team that is willing to take a chance on him, especially with the direction the game is heading. Cagnoni plays with a chip on his shoulder because of his smaller stature and the fact that he went undrafted in the WHL Bantam Draft, so he will be plenty motivated with a lot to prove once he gets drafted.
What the scouts are saying
Ranked #34 by ELITEPROSPECTS.COM
Ranked #54 by FCHOCKEY
Ranked #39 by DAILY FACEOFF
Ranked #74 by TSN/BOB McKENZIE
Ranked #110 by MCKEEN’S HOCKEY
Ranked #95 by TSN/CRAIG BUTTON
Ranked #50 by RECRUIT SCOUTING
Ranked #20 by DOBBERPROSPECTS
Ranked #43 by SMAHT SCOUTING
Tony Ferrari, The Hockey News: “A puck-moving defender who has overcome plenty of adversity going from undrafted into the WHL to his team’s top defender as an 18-year-old. Cagnoni is undersized for a defender which leads to some struggles in his own end at times but his mobility could give him a path to becoming a decent transition defender. In the offensive zone, Cagnoni will creep in from the blueline to create mismatches and attack on the backside. In transition, Cagnoni has the ability to lead the rush as the primary puck carrier or join the rush as an off-puck threat. The intrigue of Cagnoni comes from his ability to be involved with generating chances and attacking up ice. The Portland defender is a boom-or-bust prospect.”
Steven Ellis, DailyFaceoff: “Another quick-moving, modern-day two-way blueliner. He’s not the quickest skater, and he’s definitely not a physical defenseman, but he has a wicked release and can dominate the power play.”
Hadi Kalakeche, Dobber Prospects: “Highly intelligent two-way defenseman with advanced processing, awareness and manipulation habits. Puck skills are only above-average in isolation, but blend very well. Needs to add some strength and improve his skating, but could turn out to be a top-four defenseman at the NHL level.”
Cagnoni told Scott Wheeler of The Athletic that he hopes to model his game after Charlie McAvoy:
“You’ve got guys in the NHL like (Connor) McDavid and those guys and you’ve got to be able to skate with them. It works for me because I’m an elite skater and I can bring that to the NHL. My strengths are definitely my skating, and my playmaking ability, and just the way I think the game. I think I think it like nobody else. I’m always thinking ahead and planning my next plays before I get the puck.”
While there are many people that would be hesitant to take a chance on a small defenceman, Cagnoni brings a lot of positive traits to the table that will make him an intriguing target for teams at the draft. He is an evasive skater who is confident in leading the rush, making plays for himself and his teammates, and has the footspeed to keep up with the opposition.
There’s no denying that his smaller stature will hold him back and his defensive play is a work in progress, which is why he is likely going to wait a bit before his name is called. If the Leafs are willing to give him a chance, they are getting a motivated player with a chip on his shoulder looking to prove his doubters wrong.
Should Cagnoni bulk up a bit and improve his play defensively, he could become one of the hidden gems of the draft. Toronto may be taking a risk by selecting him but he’s certainly worth rooting for.
Stats from Elite Prospects.
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