Calen Addison’s approach to the defensive game is to use his stick to strip the puck from attacking forwards, either using his mobility to keep up with them in one-one-one situations or darting in and out of board battles to create a change in possession.
When this doesn’t work, he’s turned into a spectator on the ice as opponents head unabated on their path to his net. A situation that had been under control quickly becomes a prime chance against, likely leaving many observers questioning whether the 5’10” defenceman is playing the right position.
When it does work, and Addison is now in control of the puck, there are few who can match his abilities in the 2018 draft class.
Birthplace: Brandon, Manitoba
Date of birth: April 11, 2000
Weight: 179 lbs.
Team: Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)
Keeping his head up while he has possession, he can scan the ice surface looking for the best way to advance the newly won puck. A crisp, accurate pass can get it to a forward with space to skate, or he can put his quick acceleration to good use and skate the puck out himself. An ability to effortlessly change his speed lets him dictate the pace, keeping defenders guessing about his plan of attack while he and his teammates make their way toward the blue line.
Once in the offensive zone, that head-up style serves his team’s offensive game very well. He distributes the puck to teammates in scoring positions, either by finding someone left open or by zipping a pass through traffic to find a teammate’s stick. He monitors the bodies in front of the net to know when to fire a powerful wrist shot into traffic hoping for a screen or deflection, or to unleash a slapshot that can beat a goaltender on its own.
Unsurprisingly, that offensive game is rather effective on the power play. He led all first-year-draft-eligible WHL defencemen in points on the man advantage. He was just two off the team lead with 35 power-play points, with all 30 of his five-on-four points being assists. He contributed on over half of the 65 power-play goals his team scored.
He put 193 shots on goal in 68 regular-season games. scoring 11 goals, nine of them at five-on-five. Many of them came from seeing the chance to advance up in the offensive zone to present himself as a shooting option, putting his wrist shot to use around the faceoff dot when his teammates were able to find him.
He nearly matched that goal total in the post-season, with seven goals in 16 games, two more than the next-closest blue-liner despite being eliminated in the third round. However, to serve as a reminder of the state of his defensive game, he was also a team-worst -11 in the playoffs (the next-lowest mark was -7), after being a team-worst -18 in the regular season.
Rankings (not all rankings are final)
Future Considerations: #50
The Hockey News: #45
NHL Central Scouting: #30 (North American skaters)
Addison is an exceptional offensive talent, but at times he can be too eager to get involved, and it oftens ends up hurting his team. Despite the vision and awareness that serve as some of his top attributes, he does make poor decisions to go all-in on offence when the situation calls for more patience.
He has some tools at his disposal that can help him become less of a liability defensively. In addition to the active stick and fluid mobility that help him engage attacking players, he has the lower-body strength to engage physically both in front of his net and in board battles, but his desire to turn every play into an offensive opportunity prevents him from incorporating those elements into his play with enough regularity.
He is trusted with short-handed time, and is more positionally sound in a situation that dictates it, patrolling his area of the ice effectively. It seems most of his issues on the defensive side of the puck are a matter of maturity rather than an inability to play that style.
The aggressive approach allowed Calen Addison to post some great offensive numbers in his draft season. Ranked anywhere from a late-first- to early-second-round selection, it worked to get the attention of scouts, and will ensure he’s taken by an NHL team in June. If he is to have a career with that team, he will need to develop more balance in his game.
Stats via Prospect-Stats