The Saint John Sea Dogs did something very special this year. CHL teams tend to build from the top down, utilizing their overage players as much as they can while giving their younger guys time to develop on the bottom lines. Saint John opted for the opposite, filling their defensive corps with five players in their 16 or 17 year old years.
These young guns move the puck, score, and play defence, all of which transformed the Sea Dogs from bottom of the league (43 points in 2013-14, second worst team by two points) to a respectable finish (74 points, first round playoff exit). Their defenders are the next generation for the NHL, which explains why four are draft eligible this year, and two are projected top 20 picks.
Like the Sea Dogs, the Flames are looking to fill their defence with fast, smart, skilled, and young scorers. This is why Thomas Chabot is an attractive pick for the team, and why we're profiling him today.
|Birthdate||January 30th, 1997
|NHL Central Scouting ranking||#16 NA (15 midterm)|
|NHLe (Draft -1)||9
If you've been following these profiles, you should know by now that every first round defenceman is a two-way, puck moving defenceman. Chabot is also a two-way, puck moving defenceman. Nothing out of the ordinary for this draft.
Chabot's main focus is on offence, sort of an engineer in that zone. His typical shift involves him charging into the zone and setting up the play. All of this is quick, both mentally and physically. Scouts have praised his skating ability and his quick thinking, both of which were on point for the Sea Dogs this year.
His offensive mind and skill set doesn't detract from his defensive game. Chabot is a nuisance for opposing forwards, forcing turnovers and disrupting passing play. He always seem to think one step ahead of attackers, and it's the reason he's a top prospect in this year's draft.
Not to mention his intangibles. Future Flames media will drool over his work ethic and his desire to be better every shift. During this season, he was benched for an early production slump (get used to it when you play under Bob!) but rebounded and became the top defensive producer on his team.
Despite all the offensive acumen, Chabot's points total is a little bit concerning. He ranked 22nd among qualified QMJHL defencemen for points per game. This is especially concerning because of how easy it is to score in the Q. It might be an issue of luck, or it might be that his team wasn't that good (10th in the Q for goals scored, slightly below the league average 3.52 GF/G with 3.48). Whatever the reason, though, he wasn't putting up the points that others were.
Another issue is his size. He's 6'2", but a very lanky 6'2". Another issue battling him this year was the fact that his body was starting to fill out, and he had to constantly adjust his game to his growing stature. Chabot wasn't very comfortable in physical situations, and still doesn't look that comfortable now. This will keep him away from the NHL for a few years, which is good for him, but bad for teams wanting to draft him.
As mentioned in the intro, the Flames are looking to emulate the Sea Dogs and fill their lines with young, fast, play-making defencemen. Thomas Chabot is a prototype of what they're looking for. While he is held back by some issues, he has shown the will to constantly get better, making him a perfect project player.
But do the Flames want another project? To ballpark it, it might be between three or four years before he gets whiffs of the NHL, and maybe even five or six until he's a regular face. With the newly opened window the team has based on the growth from 13-14 to 14-15, the team wants to get better sooner rather than later. Maybe if the Flames were comfortable contenders, they wouldn't mind the wait. Considering that the front office knows they cannot reproduce the success of this previous season without getting better now, they might opt for a more NHL-ready prospect on Friday.
On the flip side, thinking long term might be a good option. If it does take seven years, the Flames will be looking at (unfortunately) replacing a 38 year old Mark Giordano, and Chabot has the potential to step in without anyone noticing the difference. Sustained success comes through drafting, and if you draft someone who will seamlessly replace current leaders, you'll be golden.
Why draft him?
- Constantly growing, and constantly getting better
- Very smart in all three zones
- Plays offence like a forward
- Very solid future ahead of him
Why not draft him?
- Project player who needs a ton of work before making the big time
- Offensive totals concerning
Chabot is a very good player with a very high ceiling, but it'll take a long time to get to. His flaws in his draft year can be overcome with time, but the Flames' front office vision will ultimately decide whether they want him or not.