NHL Draft: Jackson van de Leest

 (Photo by Candice Ward, Calgary Hitmen)

Name: Jackson van de Leest

Team: Calgary Hitmen (WHL)

Position: Defense

Height/Weight: 6’6 223lbs

Hand: Left

NHL Draft Ranking: N/A

Western Prospects Ranking: 40th

Estimated Draft Position: Seventh Round


 

Areas of Strength

  • Big ‘n Mobile
  • Active Stick Defensively
  • Sneaky Skilled

Areas of Weakness

  • Imposing Frame
  • Improve Offensively
  • Lateral Footwork

Report: Teams take chances on big defenseman and your not going to find many larger than Jackson van de Leest of the Calgary Hitmen. Van De Leest, currently ranked 138th by central scouting for North American players, produced 21 points in 67 regular season games during the 2018-2019 season. Only one of those 21 points were a puck in the back of the net off the stick of Van De Leest, as he’s not known as a shooter but instead as a simple stay at home defenseman.

Jackson Van De Leest is a two-way defenseman that plays a very engaged and calculated game in all three zones. Standing at 6’6, Van De Leest is one of the biggest prospects available in this draft and though his physique is large and bulky, his skating is naturally fluid as he moves around the ice like a 6’0 player would. Van De Leest is a skilled defenseman that hasn’t fully learned yet how to impose his gifted physical strengths, he plays a stick on puck sort of game that new-aged defenseman are beginning to play. Capable of delivering crisp first passes as he’s remarkably quick and  efficient in retrieving pucks defensively, and though his delivery is a bit awkward and unhurried, it hits its target on the tape and in stride. While he may not be the most assertive defenseman, Van De Leest’s high-pressure gap control, concentration, and attention to keeping the play along the outside makes him frustrating to attempt elude one on one. Given how long/lanky he is, it also allows him to cut off the ice and dismantle developing passing lanes.The downside of his range is that there’s a chance he gets burned with creative puck control through holes in his body positioning but that can be quickly fixed once he begins to close to distance and focus on the body rather than puck.

Van De Leest would amount to a project prospect if a team chooses to take him, a later round pick that someone should take a chance on. Van De Leest’s physical tools are coveted and it’s are to find a player of his stature with such fluidity. Start to work on being harder to play against and developing an edge would make Jackson such a havoc for forwards to deal with. Continuing to work on his puck abilities and improving his decision making on the blue line are other main things I would focus on. Van de Leest gets by on his physical assets right now but will need to be a bigger component offensively in order to really stand out at the higher levels. I never felt like Jackson was used to shutdown opposing teams top players, if he’s able to play more against top players as he gains a bigger role in Calgary then the team drafting him will be ecstatic. His ability to think the game isn’t an noticable issue at this level, certainly capable for being versatile and suited up on the penalty kill for the Hitmen regularly. Similar to Vincent Desharnais with his size and smoothness, if van de Leest were right handed his name would pop up more often. Projects to be a 5/6 defenseman at the NHL level.