Lukas Dragicevic is a right shot defenceman the Leafs may select at 28th overall
Photo credit:© Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
3 months ago
Trying to predict how a player’s career will turn out before they even step foot onto NHL ice is no easy task because there are so many variables that affect how things will transpire. It could come down to poor play after getting drafted, failing to adjust their game, or straight-up bad luck on the injury front, so it’s nothing more than a game of chance guessing how things will transpire for a young prospect.
But if a player is putting up strong points for his position and is leading the team in scoring, it’s hard not to get excited about the possibilities.
This is the focus of today’s article as part of my ongoing series doing deep dives on prospects the Leafs may draft at 28th overall, with this player being one of the best offensive defencemen available to be had later this month.
Lukas Dragicevic is a right shot defenceman currently playing for the Tr-City Americans of the Western Hockey League. The 18-year-old offensive defenceman is fortunate to have good size and weight as he stands at 6’2″ and weighs 182 pounds.
What makes him stand out among other defencemen is just how effective he is offensively, especially on an American team that heavily relied on his production this season. His 75 points (15 goals, 60 assists) in 68 games were good enough to lead the team in scoring and fourth among WHL defenders this season. Dragicevic can beat defenders in many different ways and is comfortable being the initiator, set-up man, and finisher on offensive sequences. Once the puck is in the attacking end, he is great at manning the line and keeping up the pressure both at even strength and on the man advantage. He also does well in getting the opposition to bite on his move during the breakout to create separation that allows his teammates room to get the puck up the ice. This is a player who will certainly be the quarterback of a power play and be among the top producers for point totals.
Having offensive abilities this good already is definitely impressive for a defenceman, but it is not enough to cover up his two major shortcomings: speed and defensive ability. One common complaint that scouts have of his mobility is how he can be sluggish in his strides and acceleration, which leaves him susceptible to being a prime target for opponents to forecheck and bait him into forcing a turnover. It also plays a factor in his prowess in his own end currently being inconsistent as Dragicevic has a habit of reaching for the puck carrier and leaving himself susceptible to getting caught flat-footed on the shutdown attempt. Make no mistake, these two areas need to be cleaned up for the Canadian defenceman to get a shot at the NHL and it will likely cause him to have to wait a bit before he hears his name on draft day.
These issues likely stem from the fact that he has only been a defenceman for three years and is learning how to play the position on the fly. There is a president for this late position swap to result in a successful career as K’Andre Miller, so I would imagine Dragicevic is going to use Miller as inspiration to make further strides in his development. If he can work on his skating and become more reliable defensively, there is a quality player to be had as he already has strong offensive abilities.
What the scouts are saying
Ranked #31 by CONSOLIDATED RANKING
Ranked #38 by ELITEPROSPECTS.COM
Ranked #60 by FCHOCKEY
Ranked #27 by DAILY FACEOFF
Ranked #18 by THE HOCKEY NEWS
Ranked #27 by TSN/BOB McKENZIE
Ranked #20 by MCKEEN’S HOCKEY
Ranked #56 by TSN/CRAIG BUTTON
Ranked #36 by RECRUIT SCOUTING
Ranked #51 by DOBBERPROSPECTS
Ranked #44 by SMAHT SCOUTING
Steven Ellis, DailyFaceoff: “Dragicevic loves joining in on the attack and getting involved in the play any way he can. There aren’t many draft-eligible defenders that can set plays up like him, using as much available time as possible to make the correct play. He needs to work on his foot speed if he’s going to excel in the NHL.”
Ian Kennedy, Yahoo Sports: “Whether it’s joining the rush, sliding in from the blue line, or running a power play, Dragicevic has the tools. He finds shooting lanes, and can manage an offensive set up as well as anyone. His U-18 performance was concerning. The focus on his development will rest in two areas – defensive zone reliability and foot speed.”
Tony Ferrari, The Hockey News: “If you love all-out offensive attacking blueliners, you’ll love Dragicevic. The Tri-City defender is excellent with the puck on his stick in transition, looking to create off the rush and generate offense for a squad that struggled to compete and produce at times. Dragicevic plays like a rover, with the freedom to not only join the rush but lead it as well. His defensive habits are going to need some cleaning up, but there is a ton of upside in his game. Big-time boom-or-bust potential.”
Nick Richard, Dobber Prospects: “Aggressive offensive blueliner with great mobility and a heavy shot. Needs to continue to develop defensively but possesses top-four potential at the NHL level.”
Leafs fans seeing the team take a chance on a defenceman who wasn’t far removed from being a forward certainly will raise some concerns given how Jake Gardiner was of a similar mould and wasn’t exactly the most loved Leaf. But taking a chance on a player that has a high ceiling and a solid baseline on the offensive side of the game, Dragicevic is certainly an intriguing project for the Leafs to take on if they are willing to be patient.
His elite rover abilities combined with his high-scoring output make him one of the top offensive blueliners up for grabs at the draft. Dragicevic will have some detractors for his defensive game and skating being primary areas of concern, but the fact he fairly recently took up the position certainly plays a factor in why those two areas remain a work in progress.
As far as high-risk-high-reward prospects go, you can’t do much better than what Dragicevic brings to the table.
Stats from Elite Prospects.
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