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 Lukas Dragicevic Scouting Report.
Lukas Dragicevic Scouting Report
Dragicevic, born in Richmond, British Columbia, is a defenseman in the WHL. The right-shot defender played for the Tri-City Americans for parts of the last three seasons. Standing at 6’4” and 181 pounds, his production from the blueline this season was impressive. In 68 games, he managed to produce 15 goals and 60 assists for 75 points. With over a point per game from the back end, Dragicevic has lately been considered a late first-round option or early second-round option for teams.
After the season he has had, Dragicevic has been ranked 16th by McKeen’s Hockey, 18th by The Hockey News, 27th by Bob McKenzie and Daily Faceoff, 28th by Draft Prospects Hockey, 36th by Elite Prospects, Smaht Scouting and Recruit Scouting, 51st by Dobber Prospects, 56th by Craig Button, and 59th by FCHockey.
Lukas Dragicevic Deep Dive
The discrepancy in the ranking of Dragicevic should certainly raise some eyebrows. But the biggest thing, on the surface, is this. His production for a defender this season was excellent. He also possesses a large frame, of which he can continue to grow into and bulk further. Generally, defenders who possess those traits are high upside selections. But what else is there in his game that people love or hate?
Dragicevic is a very good skater. Paired with his height, and eventually overall size and strength after a couple developmental seasons, is exciting to think about. The best quality in Dragicevic’s skating is how fluid his edges are. When in the offensive zone, he can walk the blueline better than almost any other defender in the WHL. Maybe even the CHL in its entirety. His skating has certainly aided in his offensive production this season.
Outside of his edges, he possesses solid, but not great, short area burst and acceleration. Additionally, his top speed is solid, but not excellent. Getting used to his lanky frame, continuing to build lower-body power, and refining his stride mechanics should help him reach his fullest skating potential. With NHL-level coaching, he should become an excellent skater.
When it comes to Dragicevic’s game, there’s no doubt experts and fans alike are drawn to what he can do offensively. He is so much fun to watch. Dragicevic acts as a fourth forward at times, willing and able to jump up into the play when the time calls for it. He also demands the puck, constantly calling for passes when he puts himself in an open lane. When it comes to him having the puck, Dragicevic attacks the slot with his passing. Additionally, when he shoots, he manages to put the puck on net, consistently, through all kinds of traffic.
To go back to his passing, according to Mitch Brown and Lassi Alanen’s tracked data, across about 170 minutes of ice time at five on five, he attempted 4.2 slot pass attempts per 60 minutes (the average is 1.9 slot pass attempts per 60). Meanwhile, he completes those passes at a 75% clip (the average slot pass completion rate is 56%). As for his shot, he doesn’t possess a lot of power, but he keeps them low and, as mentioned, on the net, and generates a lot of tipped chances and rebounds.
Lukas Dragicevic’s Transitional Abilities
As is the case with his offence, Dragicevic demands the puck in transition. Again, he acts like a fourth forward. If there’s a situation where a forward is down low in the defensive zone and possesses the puck, he will take the place of the forward and jump up the ice for a breakout pass. Dragicevic’s edge work and slippery skating stands out in this area as well. He does an excellent job keeping his head up, finding skating lanes, and navigating through them. When it comes to his top speed, he almost glides through the neutral zone, and slices through the traffic. Dragicevic almost does not need to be faster.
This area of his game is generally a strength. His involvement, as a defenseman on entries especially, is high. He is relatively effective as well, and if he does not have a lane to enter, he doesn’t force it. He will dump pucks in deep rather than try to take on multiple defenders at the line. However, it is also a weakness. There are many situations where he jumps up ice, a teammate turns it over or fails to gain an entry, and the opposition has a chance to turn the puck up the ice for an odd-man rush.
Defending The Rush
With mention of his over-aggressive playstyle, this area is arguably his weakest. When it comes to defending the rush, he is… not good. Either he is caught too deep in the offensive zone and gives up an odd-man rush, or he is back but doesn’t possess good gap control. Even then, when he does get a good gap early on, he does not angle the opposing player wide. He just keeps backskating, not using his stick as a deterrent, and allowing the forward to keep skating in.
The one positive that can be taken away is his backwards skating. He very hardly ever gets burned around the outside. But, then again, that’s because he allows the forward to skate right at him with no pressure. However, knowing that he can stick with the play while skating backwards, if he can learn his angles and a more active stick, he could be less of a liability in this area.
Dragicevic’s Defensive Zone Play
When it comes to in-zone defending, Dragicevic isn’t bad. When he is engaged, at least. He knows where to position himself, and seemingly has great communication with his partner, knowing when an assignment is switched into his zone. Dragicevic hardly gets caught chasing a puck carrier, as well. Plus, he is willing and able to clear the crease in front of his goalie.
However, there are moments where he can get caught puck watching. That leads to him, on occasion, being drawn out of position. Plus, when a teammate nets possession of the puck, he is quick to jump up ice. Cheating up ice, as a defenseman, is questionable at best. Knowing when to dial back the aggressive offensive style will go a long, long way in making his game more translatable to the next level.
Lukas Dragicevic’s Potential
When it comes to raw skills and potential, Dragicevic has a ton of it. His offensive skills, from the blueline, are hard to teach. He has that special ability to be a threat and someone a team has to gameplan for. That will inevitably open up space for the forwards down low to work. With that said, looking at his offensive and puck moving skills alone, he has top-pair upside.
However, when his defensive game is taken into account, there are some serious holes. He simply will not fare well at the NHL level, and coaches will not take kindly to the costly mistakes that could be had with him on the back end. But if he can work on that, and be below average, but not a liability, the offensive potential is tantalizing.
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Based solely on playing style and not a projection of skills, Dragicevic is reminiscent of P.K. Subban. Subban was always known for his high-risk, high-reward, puck-moving playing style. In fact, that playing style led to some backlash from his former head coach Michel Therrien. However, it worked, as he had four 50+ point seasons, including one 60-point year. Subban also finished as a three-time all-star, and a Norris Trophy winner.
That, again, is not to say that Dragicevic will become a Norris Trophy winner. However, that aggressive style worked for Subban. There’s a track record of offensive defensemen having NHL success. There is a path to success for Dragicevic. It’s a risk, but one many teams may find worth it.
Tracked Stats from Lassi Alanen and Mitch Brown
Raw stats via Elite Prospects
Main Photo: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports