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EJ Emery Scouting Report: 2024 NHL Draft #25

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 2024 NHL Entry Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow Ben Kerr, and Frederik Frandsen 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 EJ Emery Scouting Report.

The 2024 NHL draft class is one of the most stacked defensively. From Artyom Levshunov to Sam Dickinson, there isn’t a shortage of quality defensive prospects. Therefore, some of the defensive prospects in the draft will go under the radar for some. One of these is EJ Emery, who quietly and without much noise has made a name for himself as one of the best defensive defencemen in the draft. While 16 points in 61 games with no goals aren’t mouthwatering stats, he has started to turn some heads due to his ability to shut down any forward. This was especially noticeable during the under-18 championship, where he dominated defensively and even had six assists in seven games. A performance that saw him climb into the top 20 on a few boards and become a player with a solid chance to be a first-round pick.

EJ Emery 2024 NHL Draft Scouting Report

Defenceman — shoots Right
Born March 30th, 2006 — Surrey, BC, CAN
Height 6’3″ — Weight 185 lbs [191cm / 84 kg]

Skating:

Back in the day, being a defensive defenceman often meant the skating would be somewhat lacklustre. However, with the modern game, where skating is a much higher priority, it’s paramount that players can skate at a high level on both sides of the puck. For Emery, this is the case as he is a smooth and clever skater. He uses his skating to close down on his direct opponent in an instant. This is also useful to close down gaps that are forming in the defensive structure, allowing him to quickly and smoothly shut down plays from developing.

Transitionally he won’t be the guy who just skates the puck up ice but is more so the one creating the breakout pass. Finding the open ice and being composed under pressure. Here his skating and strong edges allows him to get away from pressure, in order to control the pace of the game and breakout. Often skating away from pressure and gathering speed behind the net to get away from the forecheck.

Offensive Game:

As a pure defensive-minded defenceman, whose role is that of a shutdown player, the offensive production is an obvious omission. This season he played a total of 95 games without a single goal and only 28 assists. A stat line that shows a lot about where his priorities lie. It’s often about just moving the offence forward with a simple shot for a rebound or a D-to-D pass. The passing overall is very strong, and it is better than 28 assists, but his lack of risk-taking prevents him from getting more points. He won’t be the main man to quarterback a power play, and his shots lacks both power and accuracy to really become a threat.

However with that said, there is potential to improve his offensive numbers. His hockey sense is great and he sees the game at a high level. It’s rare to see him lose the puck or make a mistake on the blueline, so if he can apply this to passes that open up the ice, his numbers would jump up. The same can be said about his ability to step up in the play with a pinch. It’s rarely utilized but is highly successful when he does it. If a team can develop him into a more involved player in the offensive zone, he could become a dominant force all over the ice.

Defensive Game:

This is where EJ Emery truly shines. He is the best defensive player in the draft by quite a long way. His ability to read the situation and make the perfect play is second to none. His gap control is elite, which helps him defend the rush. The stick control is great as he uses it to intercept passes or perfectly time poke checks. His positioning is outstanding and he will use both body and stick to outsmart forwards. Making gaps disappear in an instant with smart movement and body and stick positioning. It’s not often forwards find space with Emery on the ice to even enter the zone.

While there aren’t many bad things to say about Emery in his zone there are a few nitpicks. One is his tendency to pass the puck when pressured behind his net. While that works at a junior level, a habit like that can be costly in the NHL. However, that’s almost it, and overall the combination of leadership, skating, hockey IQ, positioning, stickwork and gap control is beyond enough to offset it, which makes him the best shut-down player at the draft.

Projection and Comparison

EJ Emery is a defensive-minded coach’s dream player. He works hard, has great leadership and is trustworthy against anyone. You can throw him out there against the best a league has to offer and have faith in the team to not concede. The tradeoff is that he won’t do much offensively. At least not without a style change where he becomes willing to get involved and play with more risk to his game. However, even without that change, Emery feels like a player destined to play in the NHL. His floor and the defensive game is simply too great for anything else.
In many ways, Emery reminds me a lot of a mix between Erik Cernak and Brock Faber, when looking at their style of play rather than purely on ability. He has the same defence-first mindset as both of them and reminds me a lot of Cernak, who just stabilizes the defence whenever he is on the ice. Making sure no drama and chaos happens in the time. Emery also has a lot of Faber’s skating and like Faber could see a potential offensive impact due to his skating. What it takes is a similar change in his poise offensively where he is willing to get involved and jump into the play more often. The last similarity to both Faber and Cernak is the ability to eat minutes. Both can go out and play 20-25 minutes a game without problems or drops in performance. Something that can be just as valuable as points. Even without offensive improvements, that can be what makes Emery shine in the NHL as a third-pair guy for the next decade.
Main Photo Credit: David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

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