The Sudbury Wolves had a very rough 2021-22 season. In the OHL, only two teams per conference miss the playoffs each year, and the Wolves joined the Niagara IceDogs as the basement-dwellers of the East. In terms of points percentage, Sudbury was the third-worst team in the entire league.
But there was a bright spot in the form of 2022 draft-eligible prospect David Goyette, their rookie number-one centre.
Birthplace: Saint-Jérôme, Québec
Date of birth: March 27, 2004
Weight: 174 lbs.
Team: Sudbury Wolves (OHL)
Goyette was born in Québec, but moved to Eastern Ontario at a young age and caught the attention of OHL scouts while playing hockey at the South Kent Academy in Connecticut. His 153 points in 65 games caught the attention of the Wolves, who selected him 11th overall in the OHL priority selection.
His rookie season was cancelled by the pandemic, and he appeared in only four games in the NCDC back in the United States during 2020-21. Returning to Canada for this season, he was thrust as a rookie into a major role on a rebuilding Wolves team, and fared better than expected with 73 points in 66 games.
That was good for 23 more points than his closest teammate, an impressive performance that earned him an invite to the CHL Top Prospects Game, and a place on plenty of draft boards.
Skating stands out when you watch any of his games, and he wowed everyone in attendance at the prospect showcase, coming third overall in the on-ice testing combine. He has solid mechanics, an effortless stride, and uses quick crossovers to pick up speed.
He isn’t the fastest player in the draft class, but he looks very fast on the ice because his acceleration gets him up to top speed generally in about two strides. As a result of that acceleration, he is a big threat in transition and on the rush, catching defenders flat-footed with regularity.
Even when he doesn’t catch them flat-footed, he has the puck skills to undress them. He can put opponents in a blender with his puck handling, which he executes at top speed like it’s child’s play. This, combined with his skating allows him to create high-danger chances out of seemingly nothing.
He also loves to shoot, and while he has no issue going to the front of the net, he is at his best when he has the space to let it fly. He can beat goaltenders in Junior from all over the place, and has excellent vision, so he’ll dish to a teammate if the right shooting lane doesn’t open up. Offensively speaking, he is a very gifted player.
If you’re looking for the next Phillip Danault or Patrice Bergeron, he won’t be that. He lacks the physicality to knock opponents off the puck in the defensive zone, and will often try some lower-percentage stick-checks instead of engaging physically. He isn’t small, but he could stand to bulk up a little in order to add the ability to separate opponents from the puck more in his own zone.
It is worth mentioning here that a better home for him at the NHL level may be found on the wing. He played the position for Team Canada at the U18s this spring, and didn’t look out of place in that small sample. His versatility will come in handy if he can’t make the defensive improvements required to play centre at the top level of hockey.
The defensive-zone exit numbers above are also a concern. While his puck skills are excellent, it can be a double-edged sword when he tries to do a little too much and forgoes easier plays while trying to carry the puck out. The margin for error only gets smaller at the next level, so he needs to make sure he’s picking his spots to explode as he can.
Dobber Prospects: #30
Elite Prospects: #53
Hockey Prospect: #44
Bob McKenzie (TSN): #19
NHL Central Scouting: #13 (North American skaters)
Corey Pronman (The Athletic): #61
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): #22
There is a chance that his performance this season vaults him into late-first territory, but in all likelihood he’ll go somewhere in the first 10-15 picks of the second round.
I am a very big fan of this kid, and while I wouldn’t want the Montreal Canadiens to reach with the 26th overall pick, I would absolutely use a second-rounder on him. If they took him at 33rd-overall, I would be perfectly fine with that, as I think his skating and puck skills make him one of the more interesting players to get in this draft.
There is a chance that he slides later into the second round where the Habs will probably hold another pick, but depending on how things shake out on day one, they may not want to risk it.
I think Goyette has a strong chance of being a top-nine player in the NHL, and I hope the Tricolore gets to be the team that gives him that chance.