Calen Addison, Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)
Position: Right Defense
Age on Draft Day: 18.21 Years Old
Height/Weight: 5’10, 178 pounds
2017-2018 Stats (Including Playoffs): 84 GP, 18 G, 66 A, 73 PIM, -29
NHL Central Scouting: 30th (North American Skaters)
Scott Wheeler: 21st
Canucks Army: 23rd
Corey Pronman (The Athletic): 28th
Craig Button (TSN): 44th
Future Considerations: 50th
HockeyProspect.com: (Not Top-31)
ISS Hockey: (Not top-31)
Calen Addison is a true offensive defenseman, which is not something we have seen since Ryan Merkley at 13th on our board. I have very mixed feelings on him because it’s difficult for me to reconcile the numbers with what I’ve seen in my viewings.
Let’’s dive into some numbers first. Addison put up one of the more productive seasons from a U18 defenseman in WHL history.
Go further down the list and you’ll see other notable names, including Matt Dumba, Tyson Barrie, and Shea Theodore. Addison put up great numbers on a pretty average Lethbridge team that did not possess many particularly gifted offensive players.
I do have statistical and scouting-induced reservations about his offensive production, though. First, his goal production is very low. That coincides with a pretty significant number of assists, which is great. But in my viewings, his assists were so often an accumulation of a number of subtle actions on the ice as opposed to stepping up and making big plays. That has benefits, for sure. It shows that Addison can work within a system. There are certain defensemen in this draft who have some highlight reel moments but struggle to make the right decisions with the puck in run-of-the-mill neutral zone breakouts or offensive zone passing sequences. He also has a pretty good shot, and loves to move to above the circles and let loose.
But it always seems like Addison is passive. He’s very good at moving the puck along the perimeter in the offensive zone and always seems to make a smart pass. But rarely do you seem him take the initiative to be the main catalyst and personally unlock the opposition defense. On breakouts, he sees his options well and has a pretty solid success rate with moving the puck to the right forwards to continue the rush through the neutral zone, but he doesn’t usually put forecheckers on their heels and motor up the ice with the puck himself.
Another concern is about how much his production is dependent on power plays. Just 28 of Addison’s 65 regular season points came at five-on-five. For further context, Addison ranked ninth among WHL defensemen in points-per-game, but dropped way down to 19th when isolating for five-on-five production. Producing on the power play is of course a good thing, but the lack of even strength scoring would limit his utility at higher levels.
Small, offensive defensemen often get stereotyped as poor defensively. In Addison’s case, though, he definitely struggles on the defensive side. He does put forth an effort, and moves the puck well within the defensive zone to evade forecheckers, but he loses battles due to lack of size. Smaller defensemen need to compensate for that lack of physical leverage with positioning. He loses isolated matchups with forwards in front of the net, and concedes too many zone entries. Mitch Brown of The Athletic tracked eight of Addison’s games and found that he ranks poorly among CHLers when it comes to defending zone entries.
Lethbridge did not use Addison on the penalty kill except when left with no other choice. A player like Addison would never have played meaningful PK minutes at the NHL level, so on the surface that’s not a big deal. However, in the OHL the top players usually play all situations. If Addison is not sufficient enough defensively to get trusted in PK minutes at the OHL level - and it’s not as if Lethbridge was loaded with quality defensemen - then what does that say about his coach’s trust in his defensive ability right now?
There are essentially two major questions concerning Addison. How much can he improve defensively, and how much offense can he provide to offset those deficiencies? Not everyone has to be a two-way maestro, as there are plenty of defensemen in the NHL who provide value to their teams through offensive output.
But if a player’s inabilities limits his utility to a coaching staff, then he better be really good at in concentrated areas. Addison’s numbers in the WHL are very good, but I question if it is a mirage. It’s worth noting that he did well at the Ivan Hlinka tournament last August. I think he can become a Michael del Zotto type of player; a second-pairing offensive defenseman who can hit 40+ points in the right situations.
On numbers alone, Addison looks like a top-20 pick. On viewings alone, I’m not sure I’d have him in the first-round. So, placing Addison in the mid-20s seems like a fair compromise of acknowledging the concerns while putting trust in his output. I think Addison’s upside and underlying numbers justify giving him the benefit of the doubt, with hope that he grows as a player in his late teens and early 20s.
What Others Have Said
Scott Wheeler, The Athletic:
“If he can learn to play more actively in man-on-man situations, he’s got real upside. He’s already got the tools of a dynamic handler and power play quarterback.”