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 Gracyn Sawchyn Scouting Report.
Gracyn Sawchyn Scouting Report
Sawchyn, born in Grande Prairie, Alberta on January 19th, 2005, is a forward in the WHL. The young center stands at 5’11” and 165 pounds. Last season, Sawchyn played with the US National Team Development Program’s U17 team. There, he scored 10 goals and 23 assists for 33 points in 52 games. After that season, he made the decision to go back up north for the WHL. In his first season, he managed to produce 18 goals and 40 assists for 58 points in 58 games. That production with the Seattle Thunderbirds may not seem impressive, but outlets liked his game.
Sawchyn has drawn eyes from some notable sites as a first-round talent. Others are lower, including several third-round rankings. Those rankings include being placed 13th by Elite Prospects, 21st by Smaht Scouting, 28th by Recruit Scouting, 29th by Dobber Prospects, 31st by Draft Prospects Hockey, 35th by Hockey Prospect Radio, 37th by Daily Faceoff, 38th by Flo Hockey, 41st by McKeen’s Hockey, 45th by FCHockey, 47th by Craig Button, 80th by Bob McKenzie, and 90th by The Hockey News.
Gracyn Sawchyn Deep Dive
With the solid, but not outstanding, production, where will Sawchyn land? In Last Word’s recent 2023 NHL mock draft, he landed at 33rd with the Anaheim Ducks. With McKenzie being very low, and Button placing him in the early/mid second round, he likely lands between 40th and 70th. It all comes down to preferences. So, why would some teams fall in love, and why might others turn away?
Gracyn Sawchyn’s Skating
Sawchyn’s skating is decent. He’s not a burner, who makes a big impact with just his feet. His top end speed is strong, but he doesn’t possess that extra gear to burn defenders wide. His acceleration is good, as he can generate a bit of power off his first step. But again, it’s only above average in this class, and needs work moving forward.
Possibly his weakest attribute in his skating are his edges. He doesn’t have the ability to complete tight turns without losing speed, and can get caught taking wide and slow turns at times. Additionally, while his crossovers aren’t bad, they don’t generate a lot of speed at this point. Working on his edges and ability to change directions with the play, while also becoming a more powerful skater off his crossovers or otherwise, will go a long way.
In the offensive end, Sawchyn can certainly flash his skill. His creativity and stickhandling pop off the page, showing an ability to get himself out of tight checking situations. With the puck, he loves attacking the slot areas. He can skate off the boards and gain the slot consistently. That uncanny ability to attack those high-danger areas show a high confidence level and awareness. Additionally, he constantly looks to find teammates in the slot area. That vision is important, and again the confidence is evident. But he doesn’t connect on those passes consistently, and a lot of the time he turns the puck over.
As for his shooting, Sawchyn doesn’t have a threatening one at this point. The power is lacking, and he isn’t consistently accurate. As for his shot selection, he often looks off a shot at times for a more difficult pass. Learning to shoot more, while bulking up and working on the power behind his shot, will help make his playmaking game more unpredictable and dangerous. Away from the puck, Sawchyn is solid. He can, at times, find open lanes to give his teammates an option. But due to his smaller frame and lighter build, it’s not often he’ll get to the middle. Again, bulking up will likely help him gain more confidence to attack the slot away from the puck more often.
Gracyn Sawchyn’s Transitional Abilities
Sawchyn is an excellent transitional player. When it comes to transporting the puck from the defensive zone all the way to the offensive zone, he’s one of the best. Seattle knows it, as they constantly let him take the puck up ice, leading his line. His creativity and stickhandling, plus his willingness to attempt difficult passes, shines through. His vision with the puck absolutely shines through.
When he doesn’t have the puck, he puts himself in good spots to receive a pass. That helps with his involvement, as his linemates often look his way. With the IQ, stickhandling, confidence and creativity are all put together and wrapped up with efficiency and consistency. That’s important to remember, especially considering that’s what he is missing in the offensive zone at this time.
Sawchyn’s Defensive Zone Play
Sawchyn is pretty effective in his own end. Though he is on the smaller side and struggles along the boards, he’s still quite efficient. His positioning is mostly solid, though he can get caught chasing on occasion. The biggest thing, however, is his motor. He hounds the opposing puck carrier and utilizes an active stick to break up chances. That motor and willingness to play at a high level in his own end will be taken well by NHL coaches.
Sticking with that motor, he forechecks like his life depended on it. Additionally, if the opposition is looking to enter the offensive, he does a good job keeping the play in front of him, and acting as an extra defender at times. Additionally, he tries playing bigger than he really is. However, he needs to bulk up to be more effective, and that includes his defensive game and his forechecking.
Gracyn Sawchyn’s Potential
Sawchyn forechecks hard, tries playing a physical game, is one of the better transitional players in the class, and has an intriguing offensive skill set. At this stage, his offensive game doesn’t have a lot in the way of translatability to the NHL level. His playmaking is too high-risk and inconsistent to comfortably say he can translate that aspect to a higher level. Plus, his shot is lacking at this point, and he needs to add that to his arsenal. However, his puck moving ability and strong defensive game all point towards a future in the NHL.
As it stands now, Sawchyn looks like the type to play up and down a lineup and find success. His 200-foot game and high-pace playmaking could work in a top-six role, though he likely will only be a complementary piece. But he could be a solid third line option and one of the better fourth line options league wide in the future.
Comparing Sawchyn to an NHL player, based on style and not a projection of skills, he is reminiscent of JG Pageau. Pageau is a strong defensive zone presence with a high-end motor that can cause issues for his opponents. Pageau also possessed a high-end IQ, and was solid transitionally. While Sawchyn has more raw talent than Pageau displayed, the questions surrounding the translatability of his offensive game makes it interesting.
Overall, Pageau was a fairly inconsistent player for much of his career. Sawchyn’s offensive upside shows something that could be better than Pageau displayed, but that’s if he can put the whole puzzle together. That means working on his shot, being more active away from the puck when his teammates are looking for options, bulking up, and being far more consistent with his passes. That’s a lot of “if’s” for a player to hit on all of them. Only time will tell, however.
Raw stats via Elite Prospects
Main Photo: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports