The first thing you notice when you watch Alex Vlasic is his size. The defenceman eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft has the one thing you can’t teach, and his lanky 6’6” frame is one of his biggest assets.
But that size is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to projecting his future as an NHL prospect and player and it’s why he may be one of the more interesting prospects in the entire draft due to the differing opinions on his future.
Birthplace: Wilmette, Illinois, USA
Date of birth: June 5, 2001
Weight: 193 lbs.
With the US Development Team, players are often given defined roles and Vlasic is not given many offensive opportunities like, say, a Cam York. He was put in a more defensive role so he won’t have eye-popping offensive numbers. He had four goals and 23 assists in 61 games this season. He had one assist in seven games at the World Under-18 World Championships.
Vlasic is cousins with Marc-Edouard Vlasic of the San Jose Sharks and his sister Emma played at Yale University. He’s committed to Boston University for next season. His CHL rights are owned by the London Knights.
The reason why Vlasic is one of the more polarizing prospects in the draft is because he’s still quite raw which causes some inconsistencies both on the ice and how scouts see him developing. He can handle the puck well for a man his size, but he also makes mistakes in one-on-one situations and turns it over. He has good hockey sense and reads some plays very well, but other times struggles to pick up players.
He skates well, and is able to make outlet passes to exit his zone. He also is able to enter the zone on his own. He has a shot that can make him a weapon on the power play, but it’s not spectacular and may not be one to constantly beat goaltenders. He’s a very smart player in the offensive zone and is able to create chances for his teammates. He played forward up until age nine, so he had a chance to develop some puck skills.
Alex Vlasic wears #7 with the USNTDP
Vlasic also, despite not being in that role, is able to find open teammates in the offensive zone. He’s not simply a defenceman relied on to shut down the opposition, and his offensive potential could grow and it’s why some scouts feel highly about his game.
In the defensive end, his reach is something that helps him when he does get beat and it helps him to recover nicely without costing his team. He also is able to close gaps when he may be out of position. His stride is awkward, like it is for lots of players who are as lanky as Vlasic is but it doesn’t hurt his effectiveness. He’s able to close gaps and make the right reads more often that not but is prone to the odd mistake and can lose his man in space.
At this best, he’s a two-way defenceman who is able to provide a lot of good things on both ends of the ice. As with any player his size, he’s imposing physically. He measured in at the combine at 6’5.75” so the size is legitimate but at under 200 pounds, has some growth to do. But he uses his size effectively in the defensive zone.
The thing that keeps him from being a top prospect is the inconsistency. Scouts can see something they like from him, and then he does the opposite another game or shift later. There’s also doubts about his ability to play without the puck and sometimes he can be found out of position. He can use his awareness to beat a defender and find open space for a teammate, but then misread coverage in his own end.
As mentioned, sometimes he struggles while handling the puck in one-on-one situations and it’s why he performs well on big ice where he’s in those situations less than he is on North American ice. He has a tendency to turn the puck over when pressured despite having the ability to make some really smart plays when in space and makes him an effective power play weapon.
Perhaps most importantly, while his skating does not necessarily hold him back and he has good mechanics, he needs to improve and banking on a player to improve their skating can scare some teams off.
Rankings (not all rankings are final)
Dobber Prospects: #55
Future Considerations: #34
Hockey Prospect: #37
NHL Central Scouting: #38 (NA skaters)
Pronman/The Athletic: #24
Vlasic is seen as a bubble first rounder, but most scouts see him going into the second round. The problem is that he’s seen as a player who just doesn’t have the full package at this point, and that makes him a risk on the draft’s first night. There’s a lot of projection that goes into seeing Vlasic become a regular NHL player.
He will need to add muscle to his tall frame, and there’s concern as to how that will affect his mobility and other tools. As a left-handed shot with size on the blue line, he can become an intriguing target in the second round for most teams but if there’s one team that feels more confident in his ability to keep his strengths and shore up his weaknesses as he gets bigger and older, he’ll be taken in the first round.