When the Montreal Canadiens entered into round four of the 2021 NHL Draft they were clearly set on adding some more pieces on their blue line, which was a key need. They landed on a left-handed defender from the Charlottetown Islanders, William Trudeau.
Like every player there’s a lot to build on to his game, but he possesses many good blocks to build upon as he continues his Junior career.
Birthplace: Varennes, Quebec
Date of birth: October 11, 2002
Weight: 190 lbs.
Team: Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL)
Trudeau played on the dominant team in the QMJHL’s Atlantic bubble, Charlottetown. The team won 35 of its 40 games played, and never went beyond regulation in any of them. Four of the top five scorers in the league played for the Islanders, and Trudeau himself had a solid season, collecting 31 points in 40 games with a +34 rating.
Trudeau is an extremely interesting case as a player. He isn’t bad in any facet of his game, but on the flipside of that is he also isn’t outstanding in any one category either. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as Trudeau’s steadiness even under pressure gives him a great base as a reliable, versatile defender. He isn’t always going to be flashy, but he is going to give you a solid baseline in his play.
“The defenceman responds to the forecheck with confidence, making the difficult plays under pressure so that his teammates don’t have to. His effectiveness comes from frequent scanning before getting the puck and from a combination of physical skills and deception.” — Elite Prospects Draft Guide
That quote from the folks at EP is a huge vote of confidence. It shows that despite his potential physical limitations, Trudeau can counter that with good on-ice smarts. Continually reading the play to adjust potential breakout passes, zone exits, or to change a course to slow down an opposing rush is a crucial part of the game that many young defence prospects lack.
It’s clear that Trudeau is aware of what his bread and butter is at both ends of the ice. He always picks the safe or simple option to either get the puck to his teammates or put it toward the net when attacking. Defensively he does well anticipating what opponents are going to do with the puck, using his stick to break up passes and plays before they can become dangerous looks.
His offensive numbers do look good. Part of that comes from how good the team was around him, but to his credit, Trudeau was also a key part of that as well. Much like the rest of his play with the puck, he does what is needed, which is usually putting clean shots on net or dishing off to a better shooting option.
When he does activate as a shooting threat, he identifies the best lane for himself and will walk in from the point before firing off a strong wristshot or a slapshot if given the time. His ability to read opponents’ moves allows him to be a strong presence in the offensive zone, and he will happily engage opponents off of faceoffs to come out with the puck deep in the zone.
All of this sounds great, and that Trudeau maybe should have gone earlier in the draft. But there is a major drawback in Trudeau’s game, and one that could very easily prevent him from becoming a full-time NHL player.
That is the great prospect bogeyman: his skating. He isn’t slow or incapable of moving the puck; he has shown to be more than adept at that. The issue is that he lacks refinement in his skating ability, and that limits his agility and ability to keep up with shiftier opponents. Shaking pressure while he’s carrying the puck is hindered by this, as he lacks the form to create separation and relieve that pressure.
When given the space, he’s fine when carrying the puck, but the prominent point here is that unless his skating improves heavily he’s going to have a limited professional upside.
Corey Pronman/The Athletic: #98
Hockey Prospect: #75
Bob McKenzie/TSN: #93
NHL Central Scouting: #68 (NA skaters)
He is an interesting case. He does well with a lot of mental challenges on the ice. He reads situations well in all three zones, and puts himself in the right spots to make the safe play more often than not. He has some solid offensive skill in his back pocket, even if it isn’t his most projectable asset at the professional level.
His difficulty with rushing opponents, which causes his zone-entry defence to lag in a big way, is also a substantial hurdle to an NHL career. It is always possible to improve skating, but it has a long way to go to turn him into top prospect.
With his solid baseline of skill and hockey IQ, Trudeau represents a safe pick, one who isn’t going to crash and burn spectacularly. He might just be who he is, lacking a high ceiling. But he will have a couple of years to show some encouraging progress and earn a contract from his new team.