Owen Pickering is a large, smooth-skating, left-handed defenseman born in Manitoba, Canada. He was drafted ninth overall in the 2019 WHL draft and has played the last two seasons for the Swift Current Broncos. Before the 2021-22 season, Pickering was not projected for the first round and even found himself outside the second round. But things can change fast with NHL prospects, and Pickering’s growth in his draft year shot him up into the late first round and rising. Because he’s a little late to the party, there isn’t exactly a consensus on him. You can see that even in just the rankings we’ve got linked below, with Pickering ranging from the middle of the first round to late in the second round.
At this point in the draft, as with any draft, the hit-to-miss ratio on a lot of prospects is a lot more lopsided; you’ve got long-term projects, guys who project as middle-of-the-lineup, and a wide range of opinions on all of them. At 20, it seems the best you’re going to end up with is a Scott Laughton/Travis Zajac/Anthony Mantha kind of guy. That’s not so bad—all very valuable additions to any lineup for the most part—if you get them at 20. The Flyers aren’t picking at 20 though: they’re picking at 5.
BSH 2022 Community Draft Board, No. 20: Owen Pickering
Team: Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
Statistics: 9 G, 24 A in 62 GP
No. 15 (NA skaters) by NHL Central Scouting
No. 36 by McKenzie/TSN (midseason)
No. 16 by Dobber Prospects (April)
No. 60 by Wheeler/The Athletic (midseason)
What’s there to like?
There’s a lot to like. Every scouting report on Owen Pickering mentions his skating and his speed. He’s six-foot-four and has top tier speed, which allows him to act as a one-man breakout machine on offense and to smother oncoming attackers on defense. Thanks to those swift feet, Pickering is both a strong playmaker and a strong defender. And, as you would expect for someone of his size, he’s got a pretty strong shot from the point, too.
What’s not to like?
One thing scouts mention is Pickering’s passes in transition. It seems like it’s mostly consistency issues; it’s not that the wrong decision is being made, it’s that the passes are not always on the money or with the right amount of speed. His passing leads to a lot of turnovers, sometimes even on pretty basic passes. While this is all something that seems pretty bad for an potential NHL-calibre player, the upside for me is that these issues strike me as very fixable. Consistent breakout passes are practicable, coachable, and a very work-on-able skill.
There’s also his development timeline. It doesn’t seem like Pickering is NHL-ready at this point, and he won’t be for a while. He was a late bloomer in terms of his draft status, and it’s likely he’ll be a late bloomer to the NHL—that is, of course, if he gets there at all. Basically, all of his skills are there, he just needs time to get there.
How would he fit in the Flyers’ system?
Like I said above, he’s a bit of a project. The Flyers are claiming they’re re-tooling on the fly, but as we can see with these re-tools, there’s been some pretty large roster turnover and they often don’t work very well, usually leading to full-on rebuilds. Who knows where things will be for the Flyers depth chart by the time Pickering is ready to step into an NHL role. He’ll be a great wait-and-see pick for some team that does not have the pressing need of adding top prospects to their roster right away because they’re already contending. That’s not the Flyers.
Could the Flyers actually get him?
They might’ve been able to snag him at 36 if he dropped and if they hadn’t handed that pick away last offseason to convince another team to take the smooth-skating left-handed defenseman they already had on their roster.
One addition to the poll:
Our new addition to the poll this week could potentially become the first NHL player ever named Seamus.
Seamus Casey — RHD, USNTDP — 10 G, 23 A, 48 GP
Casey is, for my money, the best 2004-born D prospect at the program this year. I really like the way he operates — he relies on his mobility to adjust to pressure and escape. He looks effortless out there, weaving in and out of coverage, and mixing in delays and fakes with the puck to create space for himself or take it from others. He’s a fabulous puck transporter through neutral ice and a tactile player inside the offensive zone, where his footwork shines through. —Scott Wheeler, The Athletic
Who should be no. 21 on the 2022 Community Draft Board?
This poll is closed
1. Shane Wright — C, Kingston (OHL)
2. Juraj Slafkovský — LW, TPS (Liiga)
3. Logan Cooley — C, NTDP (USDP/USHL)
4. Simon Nemec — D, HK Nitra (Slovakia)
5. Matthew Savoie — C, Winnipeg (OHL)
6. David Jiricek — D, HC Plzeň (Czechia)
7. Joakim Kemell — W, JYP (Liiga)
8. Conor Geekie — C, Winnipeg (OHL)
9. Frank Nazar — C, NTDP (USDP/USHL)
T-10. Brad Lambert — C, JYP/Pelicans (Liiga)
T-10. Cutter Gauthier — C, NTDP (USDP/USHL)
12. Ivan Miroshnichenko — LW, Omskie Krylia (VHL)
13. Jonathan Lekkerimaki — RW, Djurgårdens IF (Ligga)
14. Danila Yurov — RW, Metallurg Magnitogorsk (KHL)
15. Isaac Howard — LW, NTDP (USDP/USHL)
16. Pavel Mintyukov — D, Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
17. Jimmy Snuggerud — RW, US NTDP (USDP/USHL)
18. Rutger McGroarty — LW, US NTDP (USDP/USHL)
19. Marco Kasper — C, Rogle BK (SHL)
20. Owen Pickering — D, Swift Current (WHL)