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2018 NHL Draft prospect profile: Aidan Dudas packs a lot of offensive skill onto a small frame

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One of the smallest players in the draft, Dudas makes up for it with a complete game.

Owen Sound Attack v Windsor Spitfires Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images

Aidan Dudas was the 10th overall pick in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection, playing the 2016-17 season with the Owen Sound Attack. He didn’t have much of an impact in his rookie season, with just eight goals and 13 assists in 56 games.

The 5’7” centreman fared much better offensively in his draft season, breaking out in a bigger role with 31 goals and 34 assists to finish just shy of a point-per-game pace. The performance helped to raise his draft stock significantly, moving him from a mid-round player to one projected go near the end of the second round.

Birthplace: Parry Sound, Ontario
Date of birth: June 15, 2000
Shoots: Right
Position: Centre
Height: 5’7”
Weight: 165 lbs.
Team: Owen Sound Attack (OHL)

Image credit: EliteProspects

His rankings were no doubt helped by an incredible performance in the CHL Top Prospects Game, in which he had a two-goal, three-point outing versus the top draft-eligible players in the country. It would have helped to alleviate some fears that his stature would prevent him from competing at higher levels after holding his own against his peers.

What scouts at that showcase were treated to was a display of Dudas’ goal-scoring prowess. He has a tendency to move in close to the net, unfazed by the fact that he will be smaller than every player who will oppose him there. He doesn’t need to get right to the doorstep to be effective, however. His compact size allows him to pull off stickhandling moves in quick succession, preferring a quick inside toe drag to get by defenders protecting against a shot, and using a surprisingly powerful release to beat goaltenders.

That shot serves him very well on the power play, where he posts up in the Ovechkin/Stamkos office at the left circle and blasts one-timers on goal.

With a late birthday, he was one of the top under-18 players in the OHL this season, ranking fourth in primary points behind Andrei Svechnikov, Akil Thomas, and Allan McShane, all of whom are projected to be taken in the top 40 selections or thereabouts. At five-on-five, he ranked second in points among U18s behind only Svechnikov, His 166 shots on target at even strength ranked him 25th in the league in 2017-18.

He’s also a good passer, as indicated by his 34 assists on the year. While he is an effective setup man by getting a lot on his passes, he isn’t exactly a playmaker. He tends to take what is given to him rather than attempting to open up lanes or look for creative options in the offensive zone. But the fact that he is just as willing to pass off the puck as he is to unleash his rocket of a wrist shot makes him a tough player to defend.

Dudas is a mobile forward, quick to accelerate, with good speed, and nimble thanks to his low centre of gravity. It helps him to create the small amount of separation he needs to pull the puck into a better shooting position.

Despite the speed and stickhandling ability, his smaller stature does hurt his ability to carry the puck. He doesn’t have the reach to be able to keep the puck away from defenders in one-on-one situations, nor the strength to outmuscle them on his way to the net.

You’d expect that lack of size to limit what he can do in the defensive zone, but he’s smart with his play in his own end, relying on good positioning and stickwork to perform the tasks of a centreman. He doesn’t shy away from using what little mass he has to his advantage in board battles, making himself enough of an obstacle to separate the puck from his man and turn things in the other direction. His defensive play is also helped by the fact that he is a decent faceoff man, winning 48.7% of the 943 draws he took this season.

Rankings (not all rankings are final)

Future Considerations: #41
NHL Central Scouting: #68 (North American skaters)

Thoughts

Were Dudas even 5’10” he’d likely be projected as one of the top players in the draft class, playing a solid game at one end and showing off an elite shot at the other. The smaller stature does negatively impact a few areas of his game, however, and there will be some concerns about how his style translates to higher levels where even the bigger defencemen can skate well enough to limit his options.

The shot he possesses is definitely good enough to translate to the pro ranks, and he has the skill and tenacity to become an effective top-six player at the NHL level. Even should he be converted into a winger to place more emphasis on using that shot, he would be a top prospect in any organization.

The NHL is no longer as prohibitive to smaller players as it once was. His Twitter timeline is filled with stories of stars like Brad Marchand, Johnny Gaudreau, and Alex DeBrincat overcoming their stature to find their place in the world’s best league. Dudas has enough ability to potentially join them on that list.

With four second-round picks, the Montreal Canadiens can afford to take a chance on a player like Aidan Dudas. Should he reach his potential, he could become one of the most prolific offensive players from the 2018 class.

Stats via Prospect-Stats