NHL Draft: Clay Hanus

Clay Hanus (Photo: Keith Dwiggins/Portland Winterhawks)

Name: Clay Hanus

Team: Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

Position: Defense

Height/Weight: 5’10” 170lbs

Hand: Left

NHL Draft Ranking: N/A

Western Prospects Ranking: 48th

Estimated Draft Position: Sixth Round to Seventh Round


Areas of Strength:

  • Good First Pass
  • Heavy Shot
  • Agility and Edge Work

Areas of Weakness:

  • Getting Shot on Net
  • Top End Speed
  • Offensive Consistency

Report: A smooth-skating, left-shot defensemen that continues to trend in the right direction. After suffering an injury that kept him out for the majority of the 2016-2017 season, Hanus’ last two years have him back on track for being a top pair defenseman in the WHL. In 2017-2018, his rookie WHL season, Clay split time with fellow 2019 NHL Draft Prospect John Ludvig as the sixth defenseman on a stacked Portland Winterhawks blue line. All-time Winterhawks’ games played leader Keoni Texeira, NHL first round picks Henri Jokiharju and Dennis Cholowski, and seventh round selection Brendan De Jong all patrolled the defensive zone. The Excelsior, Minnesota native registered six points in his rookie campaign, but played in 56 regular season games. The 2018-2019 season was a breakout year for the five-foot-ten defenseman as he increased his point total to 27, scoring eight goals in the process. His season accomplishments included playing in all 68 games as well as winning the Portland Winterhawks Scholastic Award for top performer in the classroom.

Hanus started the season on the NHL Central Scouting Watch List, and many NHL scouts made the trip to Portland to watch the now 18-year-old play. Clay is at his best when he is skating north – south. While his top-end speed isn’t going to win any fastest skater competitions, he is a smooth skater; one who makes skating look effortless. His first three strides allow him to win many puck races and get to rebounds in front of the net. He transitions, and pivots, from forward to back skating flawlessly. Many forwards this season tested him after his rookie campaign, but after the first dozen games, they were searching to find a new way around Hanus. After not playing much on the power play in his rookie season, Hanus quarterbacked Portland’s second unit this season. His power-play statistics do not reflect his ability though. More often than not, the top power-play group played over 90 seconds of the two-minute advantage. His shot is heavy and can cause goaltenders fits. Getting his shot on net with consistency will be a top priority for Hanus in 2019-2020.

When Hanus was on the ice, more often than not, the puck was exited from the defensive zone on the first attempt. He has the ability to make a clean, good first pass to his center or supporting winger. Hanus’ agility also allows him to skate the puck out of the zone and jump into the rush. There were not many occasions this season where the Winterhawks were trapped in their own zone while Hanus was on the ice. Clay is not afraid to get involved in the physical play while also picking his spots. After the whistle, as well as in front of the net, he isn’t afraid to get in a forward’s face/move him away from the goalie. While Hanus continues to add size and strength, he plays the game bigger than his size chart shows. His upper body strength continues to improve as he fills out his frame. There were several situations throughout the 2018-2019 season where he was called for a penalty, when in reality, he was just physically stronger than the other player. Hanus projects to make an even bigger gain in 2019-2020 when he will be playing consistent top-four minutes on the blue line as well as quarterbacking the top power-play unit for Portland. I expect Hanus to be either a late round pick in 2019 or have a strong draft-plus-one season and be a mid-round selection in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. (Joshua Critzer/June 2019)