The Moose Jaw Warriors should be a familiar team to Habs’ fans as it’s the organization that Josh Brook, one of Montreal's second-round choices of last year, plays for. The Warriors didn't lack talent this year, even if they did fall short in the playoffs after being a dominant presence in the Western Hockey League for a good part of the season.
Defenceman Jett Woo was closely watched in regards to the 2018 draft. He came out of the gate strong, making a solid impression, and was an early bet for a first rounder.
Birthplace: Winnipeg, MB, Canada
Date of birth: July 27, 2000
Weight: 205 lbs.
Team: Moose Jaw Warriors
He recorded nine points in his first eight games, following it up with 17 points in 18 games, before suffering an upper-body injury that forced him to miss approximately a month of activity. This rest period cut short Woo's dominant production. After his return, he put up just eight points in the remaining 26 games and had a discreet playoffs presence with three points in 14 games.
Woo came back to a different team at the end of December. Josh Brook, who was out with a wrist injury and missed the start of the season, returned and was on fire playing in all facets of the game. He pushed Woo down the lineup for some time and was featured on the powerplay instead of the draft-eligible defenceman. Then the Warriors added one of the best defenceman in the WHL, Kale Clague, to make their run for participation in the Memorial Cup.
Playing for a team that’s aspiring to win has its advantages for prospects, thanks to being surrounded by a great supporting cast that help put up numbers. Their qualities can better shine when teammates are a great help in finishing the plays they start. But, sometimes usage can be an issue, as the less experienced draft-eligible don't get the same ice time as the talented veterans.
After the pairing of Brook and Clague was proven to not work so well for Moose Jaw, Woo got his chance to play with Clague on the top pairing and continued in this spot during their playoff run.
So, to say that Woo's play was limited because of the circumstances he faced would not be entirely true. He got his chance, but didn't manage to prove that he could be a dominant presence on the ice consistently.
Even though he has the tools to be just that.
Woo is strong, both physically and on his skates, which helps him win battles. He’s a very smooth skater who accelerates to top speed quickly and can fluidly move in all four directions. These skills help him join the attack, get back on defence and go for poke checks against fast opposing puck carriers.
His defensive game in-zone is solid overall, as is his ability to break up plays off the rush. However, he could tighten his gap sooner when facing approaching puck carriers through the neutral zone.
Woo has good vision of the ice and makes sure to gain as much information as possible on his surroundings by consistently checking opponents around him on defensive coverage, or forechecking pressure on the breakout. His plays may not necessarily be flashy, but they’re efficient.
He plays the same way on the offensive blue line, being an overall good puck-handler and has the ability to find teammates quickly in the zone with precise passes. He knows to get his shots off before the firing lanes are blocked by defenders and will often release very fast upon receiving to get the puck on net. He can score this way with some precise wristers or short-winded slap shots. And when the lanes are closed off, he can use a few moves - abrupt stops and starts - on opponents to get the puck past them in hopes of creating a goal from a partially screened shot.
But despite his almost full skill set, Woo is not really a playmaker and tends to resort to conservative choices. He will mostly try those quick shots on net when receiving the puck at the blue line, or attempt to bounce it off the backboards in hopes that a teammate can put the rebound in the net.
There are moments where he shows potential to do much more, like creating space for himself and teammates with his smooth skating ability.
Displays of creativity and flair when in possession of the puck were somewhat rare for Woo this season, and the question remains as to his capabilities to carry his part of a team's offence.
A CHL advanced stats tracking project by Mitch Brown of The Athletic has recently been made available. It allows for interesting comparisons between prospects on a variety of metrics.
Calen Addison, another top WHL defence prospect, is touted as a talented offensive defenceman, and his numbers reflect that. He blows away Woo in most offensive categories, even if Woo seems to be a good passer in his own right in the offensive zone.
Woo still has relatively close Corsi numbers, due to his better defensive game. The opposition attempts to enter the zone on his side of the ice more often, maybe due to a looser gap in the neutral zone, but the Moose Jaw defenceman looks to be exceptional at stopping them at the blue line and forcing dump-ins.
Future Considerations: #26
The Hockey News: #21
NHL Central Scouting: #28 (NA Skaters)
Woo is one of the players that likely has widely different rankings on NHL teams' lists. It comes down to whether they believe in his ability to use the tools he has to further his offensive potential and become a top-four defenceman who’s able to generate good scoring chances when on the ice.
He remains an attractive option thanks to his great skating, decent size, physicality, and defensive reliability. He also showed that he could be leaned on and performed well at the start of the season when the Warriors didn't have their number-one defenceman.
I wouldn't look to him in the first round, or early second round, but there are still arguments to be made for him in that range. It’s very possible to see him take the strides he didn't in the second half of the season and make a lot of teams regret passing on him.