Name: John Ludvig
Team: Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Height/Weight: 6’0” 196lbs
NHL Draft Ranking: N/A
Western Prospects Ranking: Unranked
Estimated Draft Position: Camp Invite
Areas of Strength:
- Shot Blocking
- Defensive Zone Coverage
- Penalty Killing
Areas of Weakness:
- Offensive Zone Improvement
- Physicality Leading to Penalties
- Foot Speed
Report: In 2016 John Ludvig was playing in Junior B in Kamloops, Brittish Columbia after being passed over in the WHL Bantam Draft. Fast forward two years and the 2000-born defenseman is a likeable prospect for the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. The final NHL Central Scouting rankings listed him as the 126th ranked North American skater. Ludvig is a player who, unfortunately for him, is playing in the wrong era for his style to be fully appreciated. John is the prototypical stay-at-home, big, physical, bruising, shot-blocking, hard hitting, ‘take care of your own zone first’ type of defenseman. If Ludvig was playing in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, he no doubt would be a top three rounds NHL prospect. However, with the shift in the style of game being played, his stock drops to no fault of his own.
Ludvig was relied upon heavily this season as a member of the Portland Winterhawks defensive group. Joachim Blichfeld, the WHL’s leading scorer and San Jose Sharks signed draft pick, called Ludvig “a steel door, because nothing gets by him.” Blocked shots is not a statistic made public by the WHL; however, he no doubt is one of the league leaders should the category be made available. There were several shifts this season where Ludvig blocked at least three shots. He not only blocks shots five-on-five, but also while killing penalties. John brings a level of physicality to the blue line and also dominates when the gloves are dropped. Ludvig’s background includes boxing when he was younger. As a result, fighting is an area where he feels comfortable and in another way he sticks up for his teammates. He fought more often in his rookie WHL season a year ago and not as often last season as he was needed on the ice for his defensive prowess.
Ludvig was Portland’s top penalty killer. His positioning in the defensive zone is already pro-level, and Winterhawks head coach Mike Johnston used him against the other team’s top players night in and night out. While plus/minus is a flawed statistic in many ways, Ludvig’s number stands out. He finished a +38 despite only scoring 18 points. His numbers were not inflated by point production, but rather his ability to keep the other team in check. Also, for perspective, the next highest player on Portland’s roster finished +22 (Nick Cicek). The game film of how John defends odd-man rushes is probably being used in clinics this summer as a “how to” instructional video. He knows the right time to press, defend/block the pass, or eliminate an option on a three-on-two. Most defenders at this level struggle with this skill. Ludvig’s physical maturity and strength make him a prime candidate for an NHL team as he is already one of the stronger players in the league. Prior to the start of the Portland Winterhawks’ training camp he won the award for the physical fitness tests. That said, sometimes Ludvig’s physicality got him into trouble with penalties. He is not afraid to play the body whenever possible, but can occasionally get his elbows or arms up high when making contact. John received supplemental discipline twice during the season, so this will be an area of focus as he continues to develop. John’s skating isn’t the fastest or smoothest of the draft eligibles; however, his skating is efficient and has no wasted strides. He is not the quickest player on the ice, but nor is he the slowest either. His edge work is above average and his first three strides fall right in line. Depending on the opponent or the forecheck, Ludvig can make clean exits from the zone on his own, but is not dynamic enough to execute against top competition. He instead uses his vision to make breakout passes when the skating option is not available.
Overall, I expect Ludvig to be a late round selection. If he is not drafted, look for an NHL team to circle him as a player to keep an eye on in the future. He attended the Boston Bruins Development Camp last year. Ludvig may be the perfect case of a late bloomer who can bolster a team’s blueline as a fifth or sixth defenseman. (Josh Critzer/June 2019)