This may not be the USNTDP’s best year for producing talent, but it’s important to not overlook the dynamic Adam Fox. He set the program's single-season record for points by a defenceman, with 59.
Fox was dominant at every level he played this year. He led all USHL defenders in primary points per game, points per game, and even-strength primary points per game. At the U18s, Fox led all blue-liners in scoring with nine points and was named the tournament's best defenceman.
Next season, he will head to Harvard, where he should instantly take on a large role. His OHL rights are held by the Kitchener, but that route appears to be a longshot at this point.
Birthplace: Jericho, NY
Weight: 185 lbs
Fox is as dynamic as defencemen come. Although a hair under 5’11", his height shouldn’t be used to dismiss his ability. On the puck, few defenders display his level of confidence and skill. His stickhandling is flashy and effective, his vision elite, and his shot quick and accurate. He’s not an explosive skater, but his edge work and four-way mobility are tremendous.
Fox spends entire shifts in the offensive zone, helping the Joey Anderson - Clayton Keller - Kieffer Bellows trio dominate possession along with his partner, J.D. Greenway. Fox loves to activate off the blue line and play deep. It’s not uncommon to see him involved in the cycle or dangling a poor defender behind the net. He does this so effectively, rarely getting caught, and always creating chances.
He is a wizard on the man advantage. Keller and Fox provide a dynamic distribution duo, which creates a two-pronged power-play attack. Fox can also play the triggerman with his powerful shot and even better accuracy. He's fabulous at getting into shooting lanes and firing shots on goal.
The puck skills and awareness aren't just limited to offensive-zone play. He makes controlled zone exits look easy, and his breakouts are highly diversified and creative. His breakout pass is among the best in the draft class, as is his ability to carry the puck out. He skates through forechecking pressure with ease, allowing him to quickly turn the play around. He's never one to blindly clear the puck out, and rarely makes a mistake while in possession.
There are concerns about his defensive game, stemming from his size and strength. However, few defenders in this draft class are better with their stick, and even fewer spend as little time in their own zone as Fox does. He excels at getting his stick on the puck, boxing out forwards, and disrupting the carrier. While he certainly could stand to improve little areas, his defensive game is legitimately good.
Adam Fox is an Ivy League recruit who showed top of the class hockey sense and offensive tricks to take 1st all time in NTDP D scoring with 59PTS. Enacting a flip-flop to adopt the #1D title ahead of Krys wasn’t easy, but the former Long Island Gull made it an obvious switch because of his reliability and star quotient to create. Fox is a proactive skater whose heady plays in his own zone are the catalyst for the fireworks that happen offensively. At 5’10.75’’ and 185 pounds, the Harvard recruit will never make it as a banger or check absorbing D, but that shouldn’t matter with his strengths.
Fox may be the smartest and most effective D in his own zone regarding preventive stickwork. He’s a rapid processor who plays angles perfectly to deflect, strip, or poke pucks out from ending up as quality chances. He might make the unnecessary risky pass once in awhile, but just like a receiver should catch everything that hits his hands, you would be hard pressed to find him botch pucks in possession. Fox is a strong puck rusher because of his wheels, and excels as a passer because of top surveillance and shiftiness to find his targets. Putting an exclamation point on his season with 9PTS in 7GP at the U18, Fox emits eerie parallels to a bigger and more coveted 2015 Vili Saarijarvi.
Fox is an average-size defenseman who is confident in joining the rush, and will get pucks on net from anywhere in the offensive zone. His point wrist shot is quick and accurate. He displays efficient puck control in transition, and often shows his impressive top-end speed while joining the rush. He was arguably the best defenseman on the U18 squad this year. Fox is very confident with the puck and displays great patience. He doesn’t panic at the offensive zone blue line when he is pressured by forwards and keeps his poise, making smart decisions. He was an important part of the power play this season with his calm play and good set-up ability.
Fox wants the puck on his stick and likes to start the rush through the middle, where he can dance through forecheckers while displaying a good combination of puckhandling skill, elusiveness and speed. He reads the ice very well while skating with the puck, which leads to strong, accurate puck distribution. His teammates need to be constantly aware when he has the puck because he can find players through lanes no one thought were open. Fox often joins the rush as a trailer player and looks for a pass to get a shot on net, using impressive top-end speed. Defensively, he can also look paralyzed and indecisive. He uses his active stick and tries to be in lanes in his own zone. He also needs to add strength and size as he can be bullied along the wall. This offensive-defenseman will not have any issues transitioning into the college level and the professional game.
A terrific playmaker from the back end with first-class vision and elite puck distributing abilities, Fox was Team USA’s most consistent defender. He is yet another Nassau County native to grace the NTDP’s blue line, using flair, creativity and astonishing puck control to wow onlookers and dizzy opponents all at the same time. He was beyond deserving of his nomination as top defenseman at the U18 worlds, which shows how far this kid has come since the start of the season when he was considered (and assessed) as merely a power play specialist. Nothing could be further from the truth, as Fox usurped fellow NTDP rearguard Chad Krys as Team USA’s best overall defenseman and most reliable at generating offense.
Fox is a good skater who looks far more graceful in confined spaces than he does in open ice. His lateral movement and edge work are excellent — his twirls and pirouettes are strikingly similar to the way Ottawa star defender Erik Karlsson controlled his puck movement while playing for Team Sweden in his pre-draft years. Fox has an accurate shot that does not require velocity to beat a goalie clean in any of the corners, and he can juke and fake his way into prime scoring areas with relative ease. He is far from physical, and falling below the six-foot mark could work against him as his development path takes him through the bigger, thicker forwards. That being said, he ran the gauntlet of NCAA competition with significant success, as even the most mature NCAA opponents could not find an answer to his puck wizardry.
Hockey Prospect: 67th
Future Considerations: 36th
Draftbuzz Hockey: 30th
Central Scouting, NA Skaters: 50th
Fox's aggressive offensive style causes chances against, and he lacks the ideal size and speed combination, but his offensive upside is sky-high. His ability to find and exploit shooting and passing lanes is incredible. It’s not hard to see him running a power-play unit in the NHL.
For perspective, his production this year is right on par with other USNTDP top talents:
Of course, players such as Noah Hanifin and Cam Fowler are excluded, as they are exceptional talents who posted 0.94 and 0.93 points-per-game (respectively) with the U18 USNTDP in their draft year-1 season.
There's a legitimate case to be made that Fox is one of, if not "the" most creative and lethal playmaking blue-liners in the entire draft class. He doesn't project to be a bruising defender by any means, but he doesn't have to be when his defensive stick-work is as great as it is.
While there is perceived risk with selecting an undersized defender, I'm unconvinced that's the case with Fox. I believe he's a top-30, if not top-20, talent in the draft class, with size being the only hindrance.