Dennis Cholowski is another prospect this year gaining some first-round interest out of the BCHL. Playing with the Chilliwack Chiefs, he showed great improvement in his sophomore year with the team, putting him on the scouting radar.
Committed to St. Cloud State in the NCAA next season - the same school from which the Canadiens signed Charlie Lindgren - he is obviously a few years away from the NHL. But as he is a good sized puck-moving defenceman, he should be gone before the midway point of the second round this year.
Birthplace: Langley, British Columbia
Height: 6’1" Weight: 176lbs
As mentioned, he showed real improvement from his rookie year during this past season. He jumped from 27 points to 40 points, while playing in five fewer games.
He’s a puck mover, and the biggest asset that scouts tend to bring up is his skating. He has a smooth stride, good top-end speed, and often shows an ability to exit his own zone with control.
He is also a solid passer. Once the play gets into the offensive zone he can really dish, and finds his teammates in prime scoring areas with great precision. Hockey IQ comes into play here, as he is great at reading the play and making smart decisions with the puck at both ends of the ice.
His shot could use some improvement, because as it stands it is not a major threat from the blueline. He tends to use his passing a lot, and if he can work on his shot it will only serve to make him a better power play presence.
In general, he is a pretty raw prospect. Most scouts note top-four NHL potential in the future, but he needs work before he can get there. The NCAA is probably thus the best route for him, as there will be much less pressure to get to the show right away.
Two-way defenceman with good offensive instincts. Quarterbacks PP. Was outstanding during BCHL playoffs. He plays a steady game but not dimensional in any area. Retrieves pucks well and has a very good transition game with quick decisions and a crisp hard first pass to get his team started up ice. Mobility on the offensive point gives him the advantage in finding open lanes. Good gap control and good stick positioning defending the rush. Makes a good first pass. Intelligent player who keeps the game simple on the defensive and offensive sides of the game. Needs to bulk up and add strength. Will be a very good college player and Pro potential.
Cholowski is an extremely raw young defenseman. He is very thin and undeveloped physically. He is an elegant skater who moves around the ice with great footwork and fluidity. While clearly lacking in strength, he still is able to zig-zag around the ice powerfully. His edge work is great, and once he builds more power he will be a dominant skater. He maintains good angles off the rush and has a great stick. He consistently breaks up plays with great stick positioning and makes it difficult for players to generate offense by constantly pestering puck carriers.
His anticipation is seen at both ends of the rink as he quickly steps in front of lanes to thwart attacks, and also quickly identified transitional opportunities to jump start his team’s offensive attack. Cholowski shows great vision through the middle of the ice and is a constant threat to expose mistakes with his quick identification of developing opportunities. He handles the puck deftly and uses his long reach to change passing angles. Cholowski has a very weak shot from the point, but that is something that can improve with time. He has everything that is very difficult to teach—anticipation, instincts and a long, athletic stride with great edges. On the other hand, everything that he lacks—such as strength and defensive positioning—can be taught. He has great upside as an all-situations puck mover with the smarts to create offense.
Dennis Cholowski possesses almost all the qualities you look for in a defensive prospect, including size, skating ability, skill with the puck and high end hockey IQ. He's very mobile in all directions and can make you pay on the breakout with either his passing game or his skating skills. Fairly good at defending in his own end and moving pucks out with control, this is a player with a lot of raw skill and no glaring weaknesses. Cholowski received assignments in all situations this season, looking particularly talented and dangerous when patrolling the point on the powerplay. A really good passer, he shows a penchant for sliding the puck into the prime scoring area when least expected. His shot isn't bad either, but doesn’t really stand out as a big strength of his.
He has the intelligence to make smart reads and pinches that hem the opposition in their own end and can be an offensive factor when he plays an active game. On the defensive side of the puck, good upper-body reflexes and a wide reach allows him to close gaps quickly and to excel with the pokecheck when defending on his own blueline. He’s got good mobility and an active defensive stick which is a real factor in preventing forwards from cutting towards the middle and defending against speed. He can throw his body around a bit too if necessary, but could definitely be meaner on a more consistent basis. He defends better with his stick and positioning, filling out his frame, adding strength and using his body more to engage deeper in his own end is something that he has to improve on.
Future Considerations: 51st
Hockey Prospect: 26th
NHL Central Scouting Service: 23rd (North American skaters)
DraftBuzz Hockey: 42nd
As a second-round pick I wouldn’t have a problem with the Canadiens taking Cholowski. One area I think they need to add in terms of prospects is left-shooting defence, and I think they can afford to wait for someone who is going the NCAA route.
I still would personally prefer to see them get Samuel Girard, but Cholowski is an interesting option as well. He’s also a mobile defender who passes well, so he fits that role of future power play quarterback that you want to see. Yes he's raw, but four years in the NCAA can work wonders, that much has been proven in recent years.
One issue is that there are a number of pundits predicting him to go in the first round. Were I the Canadiens, I wouldn’t want to trade up out of the second to get a player who is at least an NCAA career away from joining the team. It’s just not worth it to give up other assets for that.
If however they get into the second round, and there are no preferable options, Dennis Cholowski would make a fine pick at 39th, or 45th overall.