Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day our LWOS Prospects Writers will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2023 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow Ben Kerr, Kyle Pereira and Frederik Frandson on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! Today we bring you our Andrew Cristall Scouting Report.
In a draft filled with superstars, it’s not unlikely for some of the talents to get overlooked by the public eye. One of these somewhat overlooked names in the star-studded 2023 NHL Draft is Andrew Cristall, who has had yet another great season for the Kelowna Rockets. In 54 games, he scored 39 goals and made 56 assists for a grand total of 95 points. Forth most of the draft-eligible players in the WHL. Even better were his points per game which was second in the WHL among draft-eligible players. The only one better was none other than Connor Bedard.
Internationally, Cristall also delivered a decent showing at the recent IIHF Men’s U18 Championship. Despite Canada only getting Bronze at the event, Cristall had six points in seven games. Overall it’s been a good year for the undersized winger, who has been a steady riser in a lot of rankings, and when looking at his skill set, it’s not a mystery, despite a few concerns over his ability to stay healthy. Especially after a lower-body injury took him out for a portion of the season.
Andrew Cristall Scouting Report
Left Wing – shoots Left
Born February 4th, 2005 – Vancouver, British Columbia
Height 5’10” – Weight 165 lbs [178 cm / 75 kg]
Andrew Cristall’s skating can be divided into two areas. One area is his edgework which is among the best in the draft class. The other is his speed, which is among his greatest weaknesses as a player. Starting with the edges, he is an extremely smooth player who can turn on a dime. This allows him to create space for himself and his teammates. Especially when combined with his crafty and deceptive ability to change speed on a whim. His skating is one of his key weapons, which makes him such a dynamic player.
With all that said, what he lacks to reach his next level is his breakaway speed. While he can change direction without any issues due to his edgework, he lacks the power and speed to fully get open. This, combined with the smaller frame, makes him susceptible to getting caught or losing the puck when up against defenders. His edges help him get around the physical defenders, but he is wrestled off the puck too easily. Therefore, Cristall has to work a lot on his speed or his power if he is to have a smooth transition into the NHL.
As mentioned previously, Andrew Cristall’s skating is one of his greatest weapons offensively. His edges are a work of art in the offensive zone. Cristall can find and create space out of nothing due to his dynamic skating. This is helped by his wonderful IQ and vision in the offensive zone. He reads the play a few steps ahead of most other players. His hockey sense is up there with that of Connor Bedard. Cristall always seems to outwait the defending team. He often waits until the goalie or defender makes a move before he makes a pass or shot that perfectly counters the initial action of the opponents.
He is also extremely calm under pressure from defenders where he is more than capable of making great and creative passes while under heavy pressure. Be it through the legs or with a slick saucer pass to a wide-open teammate for some spectacular assists. He can make plays out of nothing and often sets up his teammates for one-timers or great chances.
Another part of his offensive game is his deceptive and quick release. While his passing is his biggest strength, his shot is another great tool to his offensive arsenal. It’s not the hardest shot in the world, but it comes off the stick in a flash and often is made with extreme accuracy. Cristall has had a ton of goals this season, where he uses his hockey sense to find the area of the goal that the goalie gives to him, which he its with extreme accuracy. Be it five-hole or the far corner, if there is a gap, Cristall is going to take it. The only thing holding Cristall back from being a complete offensive player is his physical strength and breakaway speed.
Like a few of the other players at the junior hockey level, Andrew Cristall has yet to fully develop his defensive game. His primary abilities are in the offensive zone, and it’s not often he is tested. He is often the last forward back and then his primary job is to cover the point or take away cross-ice passes. It’s something he does relatively well due to his great vision and hockey IQ.
At times this can cause him to look disinterested or not fully engaged in the defense duties, especially on the backcheck and at the boards. Especially due to his smaller frame, he often struggles to win the puck battles that would allow his team to clear the zone. Overall, there is a bit of coaching to be done to make Cristall a better player off the puck. A thing that should be relatively easy to learn to make him a better player in all three zones.
Comparable and Prediction
In a draft, there is often a few players who have a higher ceiling than most others but drop due to a lower floor. This could be the tale of Andrew Cristall, whose highs are among the best of the draft, apart from Connor Bedard. His edgework, passing, and understanding of the game are already NHL-ready, and if everything clicks, he could be a top 20 player in the NHL. He has a ceiling of a potential superstar and a 100-point producer.
However, all this depends on Cristall’s ability to generate more power and speed in his skating, as well as learn to be stronger in the 50/50 battles. Despite his smaller frame, he needs to learn to withstand the physicality of NHL defensemen, who will try to push him off the puck. Something they will do unless he gets more speed or add some more strength to his game. If he doesn’t, Cristall could find himself struggling to adapt properly to the NHL.
One player who Cristall could look to for inspiration is Winnipeg Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers. Ehlers has a similar size and style to Andrew Cristall. Both are great on the puck, make brilliant decisions in the offensive zone, and have some slick hands and edges. Ehlers is also able to generate a lot of power in his strides to reach a far greater top speed. Something Cristall would do wonders to emulate, as it could be what makes him a superstar in the NHL.
Main photo credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports