Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2015 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Sports is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! For a Complete Listing of all our 2016 Draft Articles Click here.
For a young player on a stacked CHL squad, finding playing time can be difficult. That’s the situation that Cliff Pu faced on the OHL‘s London Knights this year. He spent most of the first half of the year playing a bottom six role and not getting a lot of offensive opportunities. When players like Mitch Marner, Christian Dvorak, and Matthew Tkachuk gone for the World Juniors, Pu got a bigger opportunity and took full advantage, impressing head coach Dale Hunter. When the Knights stars returned he remained in a top six role, and impressed down the stretch. He has also been in an important role throughout the Knights march to the OHL Championship, and now as they look to chase the Memorial Cup. With just 31 points in 63 games this year, Pu’s numbers aren’t as impressive as some of his fellow draft eligible prospect, but that was mainly due to the ice time. He did pick up 13 points in 18 OHL Playoff games, and has three points in his first two games at the Memorial Cup. He got some international experience when he played for Team Canada Black at the 2015 World Under 17 Hockey Challenge.
Cliff Pu Scouting Report: 2016 NHL Draft #55
Center/Right Wing — shoots Right
Born Jun 3 1998 — Richmond Hill, ONT
Height 6’01” — Weight 188 lbs [185 cm / 85 kg]
Cliff Pu is an excellent skater. He shows great top end speed, a quick first step, and outstanding acceleration. This makes him very hard to contain on the rush, as defenders must respect his speed. He has excellent agility and so can go wide or make a quick fake and go through the middle. He does have good power in his stride and can fight through checks, but can still afford to add more muscle and strength to improve in this area going forward. He does have good balance and this helps him to win battles along the boards and establish position in front of the net at the junior level, but again this is an area he can bulk up in.
Pu is more of a playmaker, than a scorer at this point in his development. He combines his skating with good puck handling skills and uses this to open up passing lanes. He also can extend plays in the cycle game, and then find a pass to a teammate. As the season went on, Pu developped his shot, as it became harder and his release a bit quicker. However there is still a ways to develop here, before it becomes really effective at the OHL level and going forward. This is another area where increased strength would help his game. Pu works the boards both in trying to create turnovers on the forecheck, and in battling for loose pucks. He also is not afraid to get to the front of the net to make plays.
Pu already has a decent defensive game. He uses his quickness to create pressure on the back check and take away the time and space of his opponents. He also uses his stick to cut down passing lanes. Willing to do anything to get ice time, Pu was effective at blocking shots and taking away passing lanes for the Knights. He also showed his willingness to get involved in battles in the defensive zone. One area he can stand to improve is his face-off skills if he wants to play centre at the next level.
Cliff Pu has the skating and defensive skill to eventually become an NHLer. The question here is how much offensive upside there is. He might explode with increased icetime and a bigger role next year, showing potential as a top 6 player, in much the way that the Knights Christian Dvorak, or Dominic Turgeon of the Portland Winterhawks have done in recent years. They struggled in limited roles during their draft year, but became much better prospects following their draft year, as their ice time increased. In terms of Pu’s style, he is comparable to Kyle Turris of the Ottawa Senators; but this is a stylistic comparison only and not one based on skill.
The following is a compilation of Cliff Pu highlights, assembled from youtube.
Check back tomorrow for the #56 prospect on our NHL Draft Board.