Aside from Quinn Hughes and Tyler Myers, the construction of the Vancouver Canucks’ future blue line has few certainties. The need for an army of NHL quality defencemen is apparent in Vancouver and one way that the Canucks can fill some holes is through the draft.
Leading up to the 2020 NHL draft on October 6th and 7th, I’ll be previewing defenders who should be available in the third round or later that I think can contribute to Vancouver’s future. Currently, the Canucks own their 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and a 7th round pick from Anaheim.
This time the focus shifts to the US National Team Development Program which has produced a slew of top-tier defencemen in recent drafts. This year appears to be no different with Jake Sanderson looking like a clear cut top 15 pick and Brock Faber potentially going in the 2nd round. Tyler Kleven is another defender garnering high round interest but the player that has caught my eye is 5’11”, right shot rear guard, Eamon Powell.
- His edgework is exceptional when going from his inside to outside edge, allows him to shift directions effortlessly and receive pucks in awkward positions and fluidly maintain balance and control of the puck
- Can process the game quickly and anticipate passing and shooting lanes in both ends of the ice. A huge plus on defence where he has an active stick and good habits that allow him to aggressively protect the home plate area and intercept dangerous passes
- Attention to the small details be it lifting a stick so that his teammate has more time with the puck, making sure the puck is cleared high and hard off the boards when necessary, or correctly angling his stick to deter passing options on the rush
- Boston College will be good for him as currently, he needs to gain some extra strength to be stronger on his feet and protect the puck in battles in order to fully take advantage of his edges and mobility
- Hunched over skating stride impairs his ability to stickhandle the puck which gives him the potential to round out his offensive game should he improve his posture
- His edges have the potential to make him very effective in all three zones but currently does not have the elusiveness and space creation skills with the puck that many other fleet-footed defencemen have and his hands may need to catch up to his feet
Eamon Powell played top-four minutes with the U18’s and was relied upon in every situation. He started the year with Tyler Kleven on the second pair, but by the end of the season, he averaged the second-most minutes on the team and was on the top pairing with Jake Sanderson. He was also entrusted with first-unit penalty-killing time and was one of the distributors on their second-unit powerplay.
The Boston College commit isn’t overly flashy but with his ability to think and breakdown the game at a lightning-fast level and impressive inside and outside edges, Powell will constantly make the right play shift after shift amounting to a net positive impact for his team. The quality that will stand out right away is his skating ability and it is the foundation that allows his anticipation to jump up and join the rush or be in a position to intercept a pass in the slot. His ability to transfer weight from his inside to outside edges is impressive and allows him to receive pucks in awkward positions while maintaining balance and an ability to make a play with the puck quickly under pressure. These edges also allow him to quickly shift in all four directions which aids his ability to keep up in the rush. He understands how to cut off passing lanes and skating routes with a well-placed stick and can use his edges and anticipation to quickly step in to neutralize outlet passes. His tight turns are also quality, especially on his forehand. Many players will cross their hand over so that their stick can lead the turn but the really good skaters drop their top hand down to their knee rather than cross over their hands and Powell has shown the ability to do this under pressure.
Where his skating could see improvement is in his posture when carrying the puck. He hunches his shoulders far past his knees and rounds his back putting his weight at the toes of his feet. It’s a flaw that impacts his skating stride as he isn’t able to fully load his recovery leg nor fully extend his back leg. This flaw also impairs his puck handling ability as it does not allow him to have a full range of motion. However, it has not held him back from being a strong puck carrier at the USHL level as he is counted upon to lead break-ins on the powerplay.
Defensively, he is fantastic at handling pucks in his feet and bringing them to his stick to initiate transition sequences. His quick processing aids him in anticipating developing plays and correctly taking away passing and shooting options. He has an active stick and intelligently times it to take opponents out of the play and buy time for his teammates to regain control of the puck or negate scoring chances in front of the net. His gap control is inconsistent, sometimes I saw him play tight and closeout rushes, and other times he would rely on his stick too much by reaching out and overextending himself.
His hockey IQ also means that he can envision his teammates skating routes and fire quick and accurate stretch passes from blueline to blueline. He is also capable of making smart backdoor passing plays from the blueline however he could learn to better mask his intentions. While he does jump up in the rush, his shot is not very effective, especially in stride which I believe has to do in part to his hunched over posture. If he can clean up his posture to improve his release and stickhandling, his IQ should aid him to make greater offensive plays as he will have a larger skillset to draw from.
Powell does not back down from a forechecker but would be wise to gain some lower body strength at Boston College as he did show a tendency to get bounced around in the corners.
Powell is #2 in blue in this video.
This play may not look like much but it blew me away when I watched this and is what turned me into a believer. As he spins to face the puck, his left outside edge digs into the ice while the puck comes towards the same foot. He is able to slow the puck down just enough with that skate to deny the passing play and then maintains his balance and hand-eye coordination to clear the slot and prevent what would have been a dangerous chance on his goal. The edgework and balance on this play is borderline elite.
Prospect Thesis & Outlook
Like any mid-to-late-round prospect, Eamon Powell is a project. Questions about his offensive ability, skating posture, and strength all weigh into his impact as he moves forward. However, these issues are not impossible to fix and Powell is gifted with two crucial traits that give him a chance to reach his potential. Teams will love his edgework that will be the basis for the way he plays the game as well as his fast processing power. Transitioning the puck, off puck defence, and hockey IQ are qualities that any NHL team is looking for on their blueline and Powell projects to be able to do them at the NHL level.