Welcome to our first installment of 'Names To Know', a look-ahead at prospects who the Columbus Blue Jackets could select in the upcoming NHL Draft.
As a result of the NHL Draft Lottery, the Blue Jackets are slated to pick #6 and #12 overall in the first round. And in a wide-open draft, there are plenty of names to be considered ahead of the main event, which begins July 7th.
Matthew Savoie has been a player I've kept my eye on all season. He's the leading scorer on the Winnipeg Ice, the WHL's top team, posting 35-55-90 in just 65 games. He checks a lot of boxes, namely that he plays center and has high-end playmaking and scoring ability. Admittedly, picking sixth will almost certainly take the Blue Jackets out of the running for the consensus top-two centers in the draft in Shane Wright and Logan Cooley, but Savoie is no slouch as the likely number three center on the board.
The knock on Savoie is clear. At 5'9 and 175 lbs, he's on the smaller size for centers in the NHL, though players like Brayden Point have done well to start to change the narrative. Still, there aren't many top-six centers with his size profile. While some scouts have been critical of his skating (at least, at his size), I don't see it as an issue. On the contrary, actually, I think his skating will be above average in the NHL. His shiftiness is an asset, as he utilizes his crossovers to be a deceptive player with the puck on his stick, and he can beat defenders wide with ease. That won't happen with the same regularity in the NHL as it does the WHL, but his skating shouldn't hold him back.
The Athletic's Corey Pronman recently ranked him his number eight overall prospect, and had high praise for the "bubble top and middle of the lineup player".
Savoie is a very talented scorer. He stands out with the puck on his stick and can attack in a variety of ways. Savoie is an excellent passer, who can run a power play, hit seams at a high rate and make tough plays under duress. He has very good hands to maneuver in traffic. He has good speed to beat opponents wide and he has a shot that can score from range. Savoie lacks ideal NHL size, but he competes hard and wins a surprising amount of battles for his size. He doesn’t have incredible speed and skill for a 5-foot-9 player so he may be moved to the wing in the NHL, but regardless I see him as a very good top-six forward.
David St. Louis, a prospects writer at Elite Prospects (and a great Twitter follow), recently broke down one of Savoie's games earlier this season in EP's "Let's Watch" series.
Recent mock draft results: