Cameron Hillis had played for St. Andrew's College prior to this season. This year was therefore only his first in the CHL as he settled in with the Guelph Storm.
He was older than some upon his entry into the league, but after spending seasons dominating on the ice with his prep school, he didn't have the time to get adjusted to the competitive environment and the fast-paced game that characterizes the Ontario Hockey League before his draft year.
Birthplace: Oshawa, Ontario
Date of birth: June 24, 2000
Weight: 168 lbs.
Team: Guelph Storm (OHL)
With this in mind, his point-per-game production with a team that was not a powerhouse in the league is quite interesting, and points to the possibility to see the player, as he matures and with the experience of this first season under his belt, come up with impressive numbers as he returns for the seasons to come. Hillis only record six points in his first 13 games, but he followed it up with 53 points in the last 47.
The fact that he is a relative late birthday, only turning 18 the day following the end of the draft, also plays a part in envisioning a significant uptick in production in 2018-19 for the prospect.
While there’s more to look forward to next season, Hillis still has some good elements in his game right now. He looks a bit smaller than the 5'11'' height he is listed at, but he remains a natural center who always has his defensive responsibilities in mind when moving on the ice.
He has his stick consistently in passing lanes, is relentless in challenging the opposition in his zone, and is no fun to deal with on the forecheck. With his speed, he can easily steal pucks from unsuspecting opponents when tracking them down in the neutral zone.
With his vision of the ice, Hillis can create quick breakouts for his team, circling down low to get the puck from his defenders and carrying or passing it out of the zone.
Cam Hillis wears #8 with the Guelph Storm.
The centreman's passing ability is how he creates the majority of his offence. He is very accurate and can thread the needle to teammates through traffic. For this reason, he is often used on the half-wall on the power play to try to surprise opposing defences with feeds that cross the middle of the ice, creating the possibility of one-timers and great scoring chances.
Hillis uses some deception to open passing lanes, but usually manages to reach his targets by having a great awareness of his teammates' sticks and positioning, and executes quickly, sending the puck before defenders have time to put themselves in lanes.
On offensive-zone entries, he can challenge defenders to then drop a pass to a teammate behind him for shots, or delay by decelerating to wait for trailing forwards or defencemen to give the puck to in an open shooting lane.
Hillis isn't a shooter himself. He recorded just 1.75 shots per game this season, which is very low for a forward. That being said, he still put up 20 goals this year shooting at around 19 %, scoring by finding space right near the goal crease. On the power play, he slides over to the posts on the right of the goalie to one-time pucks in from his off-side.
Watching Hillis, it sometimes feels like the prospect thinks he has less space than what is truly available to him. He has great agility and can separate himself from defenders with quick steps, but sometimes plays like he still has someone on his back when he is free to turn around to look for teammates or attack the net.
Learning to better recognize the space he can create for himself with his skating would lead him to do even more on the playmaking side, and would also help him get more shots on net.
Rankings (not all rankings are final)
Future Considerations: #48
The Hockey News: #66
NHL Central Scouting: #67 (North American skaters)
Hillis represents an interesting choice for a second-rounder, especially because of how solid his game already is as a centre. There is a multitude of factors that points to him having more to give (e.g. this being his first year in Major Junior, his low shot numbers), and that should very likely result in improvement next season as he gains more confidence. The fact that he seems to be playing somewhat conservatively compared to his abilities is something that can be corrected in a hurry.
If I were Montreal Canadiens management, I would have already circled his name on the OHL draft list. If they are lucky, they could get him with their latter second-round picks or third round pick with the size and production concerns some may have.
He doesn't have the skill of some other prospects that could fall, but at the very least he is a safe option to make the show eventually due to a defensive game that should translate across levels.