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2024 NHL Draft prospect profile: Berkly Catton is a dynamic forward

Credit: Scott Matla

Nearly every single year, there are players entering the NHL Draft who lack some size, but are otherwise elite talents that warrant top-three consideration. More often than not, these players have a tendency to slide a little farther down the big board than they perhaps should, leading to selections like that of Cole Caufield at 15th overall back in 2019.

Berkly Catton will be one such player in the 2024 selection, a diminutive forward who lit the WHL on fire in his draft year.

Birthplace: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Date of birth: January 14, 2006
Shoots: Left
Position: Centre/LW
Height: 5′11″
Weight: 163 lbs.
Team: Spokane Chiefs (WHL)

In 2022-23, Catton showed some promise with the Spokane Chiefs, scoring 55 points in 63 games. He more than doubled that mark this past season, scoring 54 goals, 116 total points, finding himself in the top-five for scoring in the WHL, and outscoring some of his peers who are projected to be drafted higher than him. No matter what happens on June 28, he will be able to say he did everything in his power to improve his draft position.

The Montreal Canadiens asked Catton their infamous animal question at the draft combine, and whatever your opinion may be on the absurdity of that question, his answer was about as perfect as it gets. He told them he was a dolphin – highly intelligent, and also very slippery out there – a very apt description of how he plays the game.

He might be the absolute best skater in this draft, depending on who you ask. Few will compare to his straight-line speed, and even fewer have the edgework and quickness that allow him to manoeuvre up ice with ease. Defenders have to be very intelligent about how they approach him coming into the zone, because he makes it incredibly easy to find yourself in the penalty box with how quickly he gets around you.

He also boasts some of the best hands in this draft, and an ability to execute high-level dekes even at top speed. He doesn’t have the best shot in this draft in terms of velocity, but those hands helped him put up over 50 goals in the WHL anyways. He has a variety of releases to choose from, and an extremely deceptive release that makes it hard to see where shots are going.

Of course, transitional play is the cornerstone of Catton’s game. He mixes sharp cross-overs into his strides to pick up speed, using his aforementioned edgework and slick hands to carve up opposing defensive schemes. That dolphin-like slipperiness is on display every game as he uses misdirection and elite quickness to embarrass checkers who try to challenge him in transition.

And then you have perhaps his favourite thing to do – passing the puck. It is a bit of a double-edged sword, as his pass-first mentality can lead to some rushed decisions, but more often than not, he finds his mark. Like his process when it comes to shooting, he sets up his feeds with his footwork and his handles to make grade-A chances out of seemingly nothing.

The main purported downside with Catton is that story we’ve heard many times before – size, or lack thereof. It isn’t really a height issue – he does stand 5’11” – but a slight frame that concerns scouts. At 168 pounds, he will want to add some muscle before he makes the jump, because the rigours of the NHL will certainly wear on him if he doesn’t. Cole Caufield, for instance, is four inches shorter and yet outweighs Catton by nearly 10 pounds.

Mitch Brown & Lassi Alanen’s tracking project

His quickness affords him a certain margin for error, but when he does get caught in a board battle, he lacks the strength to win more often than not. Even if you do believe that size matters less than some would suggest, you can see why the questions about whether or not he can play centre in the NHL come up. His ceiling is incredibly high, but if he can’t gain some size and strength, he may find himself as more of an exploitation winger and power play specialist.

Preliminary Rankings

Dobber Prospects: #3
Elite Prospects: #8
FCHockey: #4
Hockey Prospect: #8
Hadi Kalakeche: #5
McKeen’s: #7
Bob McKenzie (TSN): #10
NHL Central Scouting: #8 (North American skaters)
Corey Pronman (The Athletic): #6
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): #8

The consensus exists that he’s a top-10 talent in this draft, with some even giving him a top-five grade. That said, we’ve seen players of his ilk fall out of the top-10 and into the teens plenty of times before, so it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see it happen with Catton. That could very well end up being something a handful of teams regret, while one that was already relatively close to the playoffs last season will rejoice in adding a dynamic offensive talent.

I would argue very strongly that he should be in the mix for Montreal’s fifth-overall selection, but insider reports have suggested they’re not looking in his direction. The Kent Hughes administration has clearly put some emphasis on size, and perhaps that is dissuading them, but if some of their other forward targets are unavailable, I would hope someone in that scouting room is banging the table for Catton.

There is certainly risk in drafting a player like Catton high in the first round, but with dynamic ability like his, there is plenty of potential reward there as well.

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