Jordan Spence was passed over at the QMJHL Draft in his first year of eligibility. He played in the Maritime Junior A Hockey League and finished the season second in scoring for defencemen with 52 points in 50 games. His performance led the Moncton Wildcats to select him in the 2018 draft, 20th overall, as a re-entry.
This season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League was then his debut in Junior hockey. The majority of CHL rookies need time to adjust to the league, but Spence seemingly didn’t need it.
Birthplace: Sydney, Australia
Date of birth: February 24, 2001
Weight: 165 lbs.
Team: Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)
He built on his previous accomplishments and continued his upward trajectory, putting up good numbers (49 points in 68 games) while being a top defenceman for the Wildcats. His strong play earned him a Rookie of the Year mention in the QMJHL, and extended him an invite to patrol the blue line for Team Canada at the World Under-18 Championship.
As he did in the previous two season, Spence continued to prove his value on the international stage. By the end of the tournament, he was used in all situations and even against some of the best Junior players the world has to offer. He turned himself from mostly a depth blue-liner to one of the staples of the Canadian corps.
There are a few knocks against the defenceman. He measures in at 5’10” and just 163 pounds. On top of needing time in the gym, he will also need time on the ice to become a better skater, adding both straight-line speed and explosiveness to translate his effectiveness to higher levels of hockey. But what makes Spence interesting is his ability to consistently meet and exceed expectations.
The defenceman always wants to make favourable plays to teammates. He facilitates defensive-zone exits and offensive-zone entries, and generally aims to keep the puck in control of his team as much as possible. Spence is the player who will skate the puck up on a line change, but instead of doing what everyone expects — try his luck at dangling through a formed opposing defence or dump the puck in — he will turn back, delay against the soft pressure of the opposition and set up his team for an organized counter-attack. He doesn’t forfeit plays, always looking for the best move.
He lacks the cutback abilities, the blazing fast hands, and the crazy processing speed — elements that would allow Spence to create more passing lanes and make the most out of his desire to control the game — of some of the best puck-movers in the draft, but better overall speed of execution will come with experience, and adding strength will open up more plays for him. The most important abilities, Spence already possesses. Poise under pressure and vision are the foundation of a transition play, and he displays those often.
Here’s a few sequences of the defenceman turning defence into offence with carries or short, accurate passes.
And another play showing some of the details in Spence’s game. It starts with a defensive sequence in which his gap could be better, but where he still manages to deny entry to the slot to an attacking forward. He then joins the rush, staying a tad late to remain open in the passing lane, receives the puck, and carries it in the offensive zone.
There, he slides it over to a teammate in the wide lane and interferes with the opposing defender to give his team space and a great scoring chance. Nothing flashy, but simple, effective decisions.
Spence’s qualities also serve him in his offensive game. He distributes the puck well at the offensive blue line and has a knack for jumping into seams for shots on net and backdoor plays. Adding more power to his slapshot would help him become the multi-threat option from the point he has the potential to be.
As expected, Spence ranks quite high in the transition categories (controlled exits and entries), and on the offence he comes up as more of a passer than a goal-scoring threat. He also remains quite a solid defender for a rookie, but he sometimes loses focus in the defensive zone and will need to tighten his neutral zone gap, something that is illustrated in the data by opponents choosing his side of the ice to enter the defensive zone the majority of the time.
Rankings (not all rankings are final)
Dobber Prospects: #61
Elite Prospects: #50
Future Considerations: #55
NHL Central Scouting: #59 (NA skaters)
Pronman/The Athletic: #82
At the draft, the defenceman will likely go at the end of the second or in the third round due to his stature and lack of a standout ability. Picking the defenceman is a bet that he can gain the necessary tools to adapt his smart game to the higher levels.