by J.T. Toth
Photo courtesy of PensBurgh.
The Pittsburgh Penguins selected center, Brayden Yager, out of Moose Jaw (WHL) with their first round pick, 14th overall in this year’s NHL Draft.
At the fourteen spot, Draft 412 had some prospects still on the board ranked higher than Yager, including Oliver Moore, Matthew Wood, Gabriel Perreault and Axel Sandin-Pellikka, but the selection of Yager is not a huge reach. Perhaps a player like Moore, Perreault or Wood might have made the big club in time to play during the Crosby/Malkin era, adding a young and talented winger to the remaining years that the core is together. But Yager projects as a quality centerman—a coveted position—and one that aims to play for the team a little farther down the line.
Here is Draft 412’s scouting report on Brayden Yager.
Name- Brayden Yager
Team- Moose Jaw (WHL)
HT/WT- 5’11” 166 lbs.
Home – Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Brayden Yager was a clear “middle of the first round” prospect that some scouting circles struggled to guess just where in the first round he’d go. Fourteen it turned out to be, nearly tap dead center in the round to the Pens.
All believe Yager will develop into a quality center in the league, and at times, he appears to be a game changer, and then at other times, he disappears on scouting film.
The best part of Yager’s game is his shot and his accuracy. If Yager develops a more “shot first” mentality, he could become a 25-goal scorer in the NHL.
Where Yager lags behind the other top end centers in this draft class in playmaking creativity. Yet on film, he makes the simple pass plays you’d ask for from a coach and scouting perspective and finds ways to get his teammates involved. He plays a responsible game and is considered a good two-way player, which will serve him well as a middle-six center.
The Moose Jaw prospect is an explosive skater with great speed, and he’s able to make accurate shots while at top speed. He’s dangerous in transition with the ability to stick handle in tight situations, which tends to open up play for teammates.
However, Yager tends to play out on the perimeter a lot, and he will have to prove he can go to the dirty areas on the ice in the NHL. As many teenage athletes, he needs to get stronger physically to be successful at the next level, which he will do in the minors.
Brayden Yager has been compared to NHLer, Mike Hoffman. Once Yager improves his consistency, adds a bit of muscle and grit to his game, Draft 412 sees him as a middle-six center for the Pens. Is that true second liner to replace Malkin in a few years? The jury is still out, but rest assured Yager has the talent to play well at the next level.
Round 1- Top 25 / #23 on Draft 412 big board.