Named to the OHL First All-Rookie Team, Guelph Storm forward Cameron Hillis has been a bit of riser in draft rankings this season.
Hillis dominated offensively at St Andrews College prep school during the 2016-17 season and then made the leap to the CHL this past year, where he picked up right he left off.
He is a smart player who can dish the puck quite well and presents some intriguing value in the second round. He will take some time round out his game but there is a lot to like about the centre and those traits are why he checks in at 61st among our CanucksArmy draft rankings.
- Age/Birthdate: 17.23/ June 24, 2000
- Birthplace: Enniskillen, ON, CAN
- Frame:5-foot-11/ 163 lbs
- Position: Centre
- Handedness: Right
- Draft Year Team: Guelph Storm(OHL)
- OHL Cup Champion
- CISAA Champion
- OHL First All-Rookie Team
- OHL Most Assists by Rookie (39)
- OHL First All-Rookie Team
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Hillis didn’t make a huge impact offensively when looking at the totality of the OHL and the draft-eligible class but he posted good GFREL% and INV% numbers when compared to his teammates. His shooting percentage is very lofty and likely unsustainable but can curbed by getting more pucks to the net.
Adjusted Scoring (SEAL)
Hillis was among the team leaders in points per 60 with his most common linemates of Isaac Ratcliffe and Alexey Toropchenko following within similar production and GF areas. The Enniskillen native was consistent in his production throughout the regular season but did see a dip in his effectiveness during the latter parts of the season and into the playoffs. The Storm met the Kitchener Rangers in the first round, in a series that saw a lot of goals scored and the Rangers eventually advancing all the conference finals.
Hillis stands out in terms of XLS%, as 30.1% of statistically comparable cohorts went onto becoming NHL regulars. There is a fairly large sample size of matches to deduct that it’s not just a flash in the pan type of percentage. Some intriguing names stand out in the grouping with Nazem Kadri being a close comparable in terms of points per game despite being younger at that time and Vincent Trocheck producing similar results in his draft year. Trocheck did explode offensively the following year in the OHL and that’s likely what the team that selects Hillis is hoping for.
The Storm were not exactly an offensive powerhouse in the OHL, ranking 12th in the league in goals for, but Hillis was a large part of the offence, finishing 3rd in team scoring behind Ryan Merkley and his line-mate Isaac Ratcliffe. The struggled on the defensive side of the game as witnessed by the fact that his GF% of 46.5% produced a GFREL% of +4.1%.
Hillis is a quick forward who looks to move the puck first and how he generates most of the offence while on the ice. He is good at getting a pass through traffic to his teammates and then go with them towards the net. One stand-out part of his game was his ability to gain the zone along the boards and then get the pass to his teammate in the centre of the ice, whether that is the trailer on the play or the player who attacked with him on the rush. This trait in his attack forced the defender to leave a gap and thus the Storm player generally had time and space to generate a shot.
The right-handed centre is smart and elusive when he has possession with the puck – there is some concern that he tries to do too much with the puck and dekes himself out of space. It appears that he thinks he has less time than he does and will do an extra move or two that puts himself in trouble. A little more patience and awareness will go a long way to him controlling possession more and the ability to generate more offence off his stick.
Hillis will need to gain strength to better equip himself in the defensive zone and on the attack but does work hard in the defensive zone to get the puck back. There will be some natural growth as he develops in the OHL for the next seasons, so it likely won’t be a concern when he does eventually graduate to the AHL but it has been something that limits him at this moment.
The OHL rookie has a good ethic, hustle and compete that allows him to pressure opponents – he is quick on his feet but does lack strength in his stride, which will come with the natural development into an adult.
Hillis was invited to Team Canada for the U18 World Junior Championships where he was leaned on in a depth role, he picked up two assists during the event. He showcased all those underrated skills he possesses.
The term ‘possession’ gets thrown around quite a bit but Hillis is a smart player who is very good at holding onto the puck and making smart high percentage players and that is a talent in of its self. Given he was a rookie in the OHL, with no other major junior experience, his season should be viewed as impressive and likely a sign of things to come for the young pivot.
He presents good underlying numbers despite Guelph having its struggles and his SEAL and pGPS are good based on where he is ranked. Hillis is a player that impressed me in the OHL and although didn’t jump off the page, he was solid at the U18’s.
It’s easy to envision Hillis as a middle six centre who does everything for the team. If he can work out the flaws to his game, then he could be pushing the upper parts of that ceiling too.
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Smaller dynamic skilled player – first year in OHL and plays like a veteran – very quick and powerful stride with skater – good quickness and acceleration – uses his speed as an asset on the forecheck or when reacting to a loose puck – smart player with good vision and passing skills – plays in important situations including the power play and penalty kill – good compete and battle in all areas of the ice.
There was a lot of hype surrounding Hillis heading into his rookie OHL season and he didn’t disappoint, posting extremely close to a point per game. He’s a well rounded player who plays with a lot of fire and energy. Undersized at 5’11 (and 165lbs), he’s never met a one on one battle he would back down from and that tenaciousness makes him fun to watch. Hillis also is an extremely slick puck handler who creates time and space for himself in the offensive zone. Prolonging possession with his hands, he exploits gaps in the defense with good vision. He’s definitely a great playmaker. From what I understand, his skating has already improved a ton, but as an undersized center, it will need to continue to improve. Because of how skilled he is, having that extra gear would really help to give him more separation. This is especially true considering he currently lacks strength down low. The effort is always there, but he can be too easily separated from the puck in close quarters. At this point, he’s definitely better on the powerplay than he is 5 on 5 because of this. As he gets stronger, and quicker, he profiles as a very complete center who’s hustle and hockey IQ make him a potential 2nd/3rd line forward at the next level. Hopefully scouts don’t hold his poor performance at the U18’s against him. Seemed like he was just trying to do too much there and ended up being very penalty prone. His lack of elite skating ability also was evident. His performance in Russia wasn’t indicative of the player he’s capable of becoming.