It took a while, but 53 picks in the Pittsburgh Penguins finally had their turn to make their first selection at the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. They elected to pick defenseman Calen Addison from the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
Here’s what Habs Eye on the Prize (our SBN Montreal blog) had in their scouting report on Addison:
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.
The NHL Network had Addison as their 39th overall prospect, so that would be a good value on draft day at least. Addison is also a junior teammate of Pens prospect Jordy Bellerive, so this is likely a player the Pens have seen a lot of as they monitored Bellerive’s breakout season in the WHL last year.
The Athletic’s Corey Pronman was also a big fan of Addison’s, lauding his skating, puck skills and hockey sense - though pointing out a low physicality level.
Addison was one of the top scoring defensemen in the WHL and one of the most dangerous U18s in the entire CHL. Addison is one of the better skaters in the draft class. He’s able to lead a rush due to how quickly he can transition the puck from his own end into the offensive zone. On top of the speed, he brings impressive skill and vision from the back end, able to show off his hands at full speed and looking to stretch the ice with his passes. He’s an offensive-minded guy who can activate into the play, although I found him a little too passive at even strength to try and push the pace. Addison likes to make plays, but he has a decent point shot, too. His main drawback is that Addison is a tiny defender who, despite being reasonably smart, can struggle to win defensive battles and is just adequate defending at the WHL level. He does compete hard though, which is what you like to see at his stature.
The Penguins don’t have too many smooth skating right handed defensemen who are offensive minded and Addison is a nice addition to a thin prospect pool.