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 2020 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 Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! We have a complete listing of our draft articles here. Today we look at James Hardie.
The eighth overall pick in the 2018 OHL Priority Selection Draft, James Hardie struggled in his rookie season with the Mississauga Steelheads. He did not get a lot of ice time and put up 15 goals and seven assists for 22 points in 62 games. Hardie also added one goal in four playoff games. He also represented Team Canada Black at the 2018 Under-17 World Hockey Challenge picking up one goal and one assist for two points in five tournament games. Hardie broke out this season. He scored 34 goals and 29 assists for 63 points in 59 games played before the season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Innisfil, Ontario native played his minor hockey in Barrie. Playing for the Barrie Colts Minor Midget AAA team, he put up 41 goals and 29 assists for 70 points in 34 games in 2017-18. He also added six goals and seven assists for 13 points in eight playoff games. Hardie also impressed at the OHL Cup, scoring three goals and five assists for eight points in five tournament games. He represented Team OMHA Black at the OGC-16 scoring two assists in four games and helping the team to a third-place finish.
James Hardie Scouting Report
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born January 18th, 2002 — Innisfil, Ontario
Height 5’11” — Weight 176 lbs [180 cm/80 kg]
Hardie is a very good skating. He has a very good first step and excellent acceleration. This leads to excellent top-end speed. He can get behind the defence and create breakaway opportunities. His ability to change speeds also allows Hardie to fool defenders on the rush. He adds to this with excellent edgework and agility. This gives him the ability to get away from defenders both with and without the puck. Hardie can add more core strength. At the junior level he has good balance and strength on the puck. He also does a good job of winning battles along the boards and controlling the puck down low. To continue to play this style in the pros, he will need to continue to get stronger.
Hardie is a pure sniper. He has an excellent arsenal of shots. Hardie has a very strong wrist shot with an outstanding release. His quick hands allow him to make a quick toe-drag or other dangle before letting the puck go. With his ability to make subtle changes in the angle of his release, Hardie fools goaltenders. His shot is also extremely accurate. Hardie can also score with his snapshot and his one-timer. He is also able to beat goalies on the backhand. Hardie has the quick hands to deke the goalie and finish in tight to the net. He can also pounce on a rebound or deflect in a teammates’ shot.
Hardie can use his stickhandling and skating ability to create open space and get off his shot. He also does a good job of finding open space in the defence and making himself open to take a pass and get his shot off. Hardie can also help create offence for teammates. He forechecks effectively and grinds in the corners. When he gets the puck, he can get it to the front of the net. While he is a shoot-first player, he can also thread a pass through a tight space to set up a teammate. He has good vision and reads the play well. He gets a little too focused on shooting sometimes though, trying to do it all himself.
Hardie’s defensive game is very much a work in progress. He does not show the same high effort level that he shows to battling for loose pucks in the offensive zone, in the defensive end of the ice. He also has a tendency to watch the puck a bit too much at times, letting his man get away from him. Hardie can use some improvements in his positioning, working to take away passing lanes and break up plays. He needs to spend some time working with a good coach in terms of his play away from the puck.
Projection and Comparison
Hardie’s offensive skills are intriguing and could help him to become a top-six winger. He will need to continue to develop his all-around game though. There are times he is so focused on shooting, he can miss an opportunity to set up a teammate. However, the biggest issue is his play without the puck especially in the defensive zone. It is easier to teach defensive skills than offensive ones though, so he’s certainly worth taking a chance on. Hardie’s game is reminiscent of Kyle Palmieri. This is a stylistic comparison only though, not one based on talent and potential.
The following is a compilation of some of the highlight packages and features of James Hardie that are available on youtube and twitter.
2️⃣ James Hardie 👊🏻 pic.twitter.com/3kP0K3wWjI
— Mississauga Steelheads (@OHLSteelheads) September 22, 2018
Mississauga Steelheads winger James Hardie has had a break out season in the OHL. Was one of the biggest risers on my draft board. He has a wicked wrist shot with a variety of releases. Under rated play maker and a pure goal scorer with 34g and 29a in 59GP. #2020NHLDraft #OHL pic.twitter.com/gnHEw6VUjE
— matt morrison (@95morrison) March 20, 2020
Not sure why I didn’t have James Hardie on my previous list. The former Barrie Jr. Colts AAA star has been on an absolute tear lately for the Mississauga Steelheads. I’ll never doubt him or fall in line (partially) with the crowd again. He’s big time!@Jamehardie14 #OHL #NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/LUKzegcF2o
— Ryan McArthur (@ryanpmcarthur) February 8, 2020
— Generals Live (@GeneralsUpdates) March 3, 2018
Mississauga Steelheads left winger James Hardie had 34 goals in 59 games this season. The former Barrie Jr. Colts AAA sniper is a top prospect for the upcoming #NHLDraft.@Jamehardie14 @OHLSteelheads pic.twitter.com/gLwv0JdmDO
— Ryan McArthur (@ryanpmcarthur) May 9, 2020
James Hardie with a great breakaway and backhand move to put @OHLSteelheads up four.
— Caitlin Berry (@caitlinsports) February 1, 2020
Check back tomorrow for the next prospect on our draft board.
James Hardie Main Photo:
Embed from Getty ImagesOSHAWA, ON – NOVEMBER 28: James Hardie #14 of the Mississauga Steelheads skates with the puck during an OHL game against the Oshawa Generals at the Tribute Communities Centre on November 28, 2019, in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images)