The Montreal Canadiens are on the cusp of a huge boon of defensive prospects in the professional ranks. However, beyond those about to make the full-time jump, they lack some of the depth they had in the last few years. The benefit to the Canadiens having 13 draft picks this year, is that they can address a number of needs rapidly in the early stages of the draft.
A name like Seamus Casey should be right there when the Canadiens take the stage at 26th or 33rd overall and fits a big need for the team. Casey is one of the premier puck handlers in the draft, not just among defenders, but in the entire draft class as a whole. His ability to create space for himself out of nowhere makes him a unique and dangerous threat to opposing teams, but there is still work to be done on his overall game.
Birthplace: Miami, Florida
Date of Birth: January 8, 2004
Height: 5’ 10”
Weight: 172 lbs.
Casey enters the draft as a member of the powerhouse United States development program, and as one of a trio of highly regarded defencemen all expected to go inside the first two rounds. He is set to join the University of Michigan in the fall, where he’ll join a number of his current UNTDP teammates, and potential top three 2023 draft pick, Adam Fantilli. While it’s not unexpected to see USNTDP players head to the NCAA, Michigan in recent years has become the premier destination for players leaving the program, and for good reason.
When Casey arrives, even as a highly touted prospect for an NHL team, the competition for ice time is going to be fierce and the old adage of iron sharpens iron will fit quite well. Luckily for him, his creative style of approaching play with the puck on his stick should easily earn him plenty of chances not only on the power play but at even strength as well. As stated above, there are few players in the draft who are as creative as he is with the puck, and by surrounding him with other highly creative players the possibilities are endless for the Wolverines.
It’s very easy to look at Casey’s frame and become dismissive of what he can feasibly do at the NHL level. However, as the game of hockey trends more towards speed and creativity, players like Casey are becoming more and more prominent on teams across the sport. Casey thrives as someone who loves to have the puck on his stick, and that shows in his ability to operate through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone.
He blends his ability to receive passes into fooling opponents as he dangles around them to create space for himself and his teammates. Forehand or backhand doesn’t matter, Casey is able to dangle his way around opposing defences with relative ease, opening up looks that most defenders never get a chance to see. While he is aggressive with his attacks, he’s far from reckless in them. If the look he wants isn’t available, he will double back to reassess his options for attacking.
As you can see in the charts above from the games Mitch Brown has tracked, Casey’s success in exiting the zone with control, and then also entering the offensive zone with control, is top tier. Combining that with the space he creates and you have all the pieces for a high-end offensive producer.
However, Casey does enter the NHL Draft with his own share of flaws and drawbacks to his style of play. Scouts love his ability to charge into the offensive zone, putting opponents in a spin cycle and creating opportunities. However, for every successful pass or set-up, he has a number that doesn’t work out at all. He often throws what scouting services have referred to as “hope passes” in which he will blindly toss a puck into space and hope for his teammate to make a play on the pass.
The aggressiveness and willingness to try high-risk plays is an admirable trait, but when a player is charging headlong into the plays without fully planning out an attack, they’re tending to waste possession of the puck. The instincts and mindset are great and should be nurtured in a young player, but as Casey rises through the various levels of hockey up to the NHL, he has to learn to also play with a structure to his game.
Elite Prospects: #43
Hockey Prospect: #31
Bob McKenzie (TSN): #44
NHL Central Scouting: #29 (North American skaters)
Corey Pronman (The Athletic) #48
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): #27
While size doesn’t determine a player’s future in the sport of hockey, NHL scouts worry that it will hold him back from being a true top-four option in the NHL in the future. Admittedly, given the success of players like Quinn Hughes and Adam Fox in recent seasons, I find the concerns over Casey’s size to be overblown as his strength lies in his agile play with the puck.
Casey is a fascinating player in the 2022 NHL Draft. He has all the tools to be an electric offensive defenceman in his career, yet those same tools also cause some limitations to his overall effectiveness on the ice. With rankings ranging from the end of the first round to the mid- to late-second round, Casey is a divisive debate among prospect experts as well.
For the Canadiens, his talents are something lacking in the defensive part of the prospect pool right now and may be far too tantalizing to pass up with their 26th overall pick, or at 33rd to start the second round. His high ceiling as an offensive talent that thrives on making reads seems like a great fit for Martin St. Louis’ system. However, there are also other options that present less flash but safer overall styles that might also appeal to the rebuilding team.