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2020 NHL Draft prospect profile: Lukas Cormier’s offence is his calling card

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There’s no denying the defender can score, but is the rest of his game good enough?

2020 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Lukas Cormier is a defender on the small side, and scouts vary massively in how they project the New Brunswick native. Coming off a great rookie season, expectations were high for the defenceman, but he had an up and down year.

Birthplace: Ste-Marie-De-Kent, New Brunswick
Date of birth: March 27, 2002
Shoots: Left
Position: Defence
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 176 lbs.
Team: Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL)

Cormier was the 4th overall pick in the 2018 QMJHL Draft out of midget and burst onto the scene in his first season in the league with 15 goals and 21 assists in 63 games. His 36 points as a 16 year old was the most in the QMJHL since Samuel Girard.

Elite Prospects

In his second season, he saw his goal total drop to only six on the season, while adding nine assists to finish with the same point total in 19 fewer games as he dealt with an ankle injury at the worst possible time for his draft stock. He represented Canada at the 2020 Hlinka-Gretzky Cup but was pointless in five games.

He struggled to rebound immediately after returning from the injury, but did manage to turn things around. In his last 12 games, he had 13 points when the season was cancelled.

Strengths

Obviously with his point totals, Cormier’s profile is that of an offensive defenceman. He can move the puck quickly, and he is able to put teammates in good positions in the offensive zone. He is more than capable of running a power play and that’s part of the role he plays for the Islanders in the QMJHL.

His biggest asset is his shot. He wouldn’t score as much as he does without it. He uses a quick release to get it off even when most teams know it’s coming, and it’s accurate so he doesn’t waste his chances. Last season, he averaged just under four shots per game putting him second in the league behind Jeremie Poirier.

The major difference between his first and second seasons is that his shooting percentage dropped to under 4% on the year. There’s no technical reason for that to be that low, so he could be a bounce back candidate in 2020-21.

Cormier also has some good hockey sense. He puts effort in the defensive zone, and he’s able to make plays that help his team.

Weaknesses

As good as Cormier is running a power play, he needs to improve his offence at even strength. Over half of his points came with the man advantage, and he will need to show more when teams are even if he wants to make an impact at the NHL level.

He’s also prone to making bad decisions with the puck and bad passes. He’s inconsistent, and he would benefit from using his shot to open up more passing lanes for his teammates. One way he could improve at even strength is to make better passes more consistently. He’s able to skate the puck up and avoid forechecks but he could be even better in this regard.

Cormier is a small player, and some scouts point out that he looks even smaller than he’s listed on the ice. That alone is not a disqualifying trait as many small defenders have made an impact at the NHL level in recent years. The problem for Cormier is that he’s not an elite skater, and it’s incredibly hard for a small player to play defence in the NHL without an elite skating tool.

Mechanical issues with his skating limit his speed and his acceleration, and it affects him when he carries the puck as well as when defending.

His size also affects him on his one on one defence. He’s not good at reading complex defensive situations, and he’s not a good enough skater nor is he strong enough to catch up.

Opponents also tend to overwhelmingly carry it in on his side of the ice. In Mitch Brown’s tracking project, he’s only in the 28th percentile when it comes to players carrying it in on his side rather to his partner’s side. To make matters worse, despite his mobility, he has shown that he can be beat out wide.

Mitch Brown’s Tracking Project

Rankings

Elite Prospects: #65
Future Considerations: #26
Hockey Prospect: N/R
McKeen’s Hockey: #58
McKenzie/TSN: #49
NHL Central Scouting: #32 (North American skaters)

With Cormier, you need to be able to look at the positive aspects of his game. On the same chart that shows he’s being attacked by opposing forwards on the rush, you’ll see that a lot of his offensive numbers are very good, and his shooting numbers are much better than the shooting percentage he had made him last season.

He’s definitely a project and teams that take a chance on him will look at his tools and look at a player they think will improve. There’s little doubt, even in scouts who don’t believe in him as much, that he could be one of the top defenders in the QMJHL as soon as this season. The issue becomes in how he translates that to the professional level.

As it stands, Cormier’s future largely hinges on whether you think his skating can improve. It should be noted that the scouts that have him highest on their lists think his skating ranges on the elite level, so there is potential that teams disagree with the assessment that his skating is not good enough.

In a draft short on difference makers on defence, it’s possible a team will reach for him late in the draft’s first round, but most likely he should see himself in a large group of defenders whose names will be called in the second round.