Who is Morgan Klimchuk?
Morgan Klimchuk is a left winger who has spent his last couple of years with the Regina Pats of the WHL. Klimchuk is a strong player who has seen success with his junior team as well as in international competition. Right now, he is projecting to go somewhere in the late first or early second round. With that in mind, there's a possibility that he could be on the board when the Devils are selecting in the second round of the draft.
Klimchuk is an 18-year-old player with a March '95 birthday, putting him in the middle of the pack for this class, age-wise. He is pretty average in size, standing at 5'-11" and 180 pounds. In his latest season with the Regina Pats, he put up 36 goals and 76 points in 72 games for a team that wasn't very good and finished 11 out of 12 in their conference. He also helped lead the Canadian U-18 team to a championship for the first time in 5 years with his 8 points in his 7 tournament games. Central Scouting has Klimchuk as their 25th ranked North American Skater, CBSSports' Chris Peters puts him at 44 in his rankings, and Corey Pronman has him at number 33 in his draft rankings at Hockey Prospectus.
Klimchuk is a player with some definite talent as a forward. Scouts praise him for his strong skating and his good hands. He also has a pretty good shot with a quick release as well as pretty good awareness on defense in his own end. He seems to fall short of scouts and experts projecting him to be elite, as he is slightly undersized and had to toil away on a struggling team this past season. He also really only has this past season where he's been producing at a high level as he took some time to adjust to the WHL in his first full season after being drafted. The qualms that people have with taking Klimchuk do seem to mostly be minor, though, and he looks to have the kind of skill set that could end up being a second round steal for the Devils.
Morgan Klimchuk Player Statistics
What Experts are Saying About Klimchuk
Scouts and experts all seem to like what Morgan Klimchuk can bring as a hockey player. Kirk Leudeke feels that Klimchuk is the poster-boy for 'underrated' in this year's draft class in his prospect profile at the New England Hockey Journal:
Although his size is only average at a listed 5-foot-11, 180-pounds, Klimchuk is an excellent skater and puckhandler with a lightning release and the natural vision/hockey sense to be a threat to score on every shift. However, where he was considered by many to be a one-dimensional player during his 18-goal, 36-point rookie campaign, the center (who can play any forward position) jumped to 36 goals and 76 points while bringing a more rounded game in 2012-13.
Leudeke actually liked Klimchuk as a possibility for the what was going to be the Bruins first round pick (that pick was conditionally traded in the Jagr deal and is now Dallas') and mentions how his skills would be a good get in the late first round. This does seem to indicate that Klimchuk may have to slide a bit to make it down to the Devils' 39th pick in the second round, but you never know how things will shake out on draft day.
Corey Pronman also has some praise for Klimchuk's hands and skating over at Hockey Prospectus:
Scouts rave about his quick hands and feet, as he can barrel through the neutral zone with the puck or pressure opponents effectively without it. He is also a very agile player, and he picks up speed well. Klimchuk can control the puck effectively on the power play; he has been used on the point as well as in a distributing role. ... Klimchuk is a bit undersized at 5'11", but he works hard in battles, and he will drive the net. He is also a committed defensive player.
In addition to his good skating and shooting, it looks like Klimchuk may have some playmaking ability as well. The Devils' power play could always use another capable playmaker/point man and it appears Klimchuk has that in his repertoire. Pronman (and others) have also noted that Klimchuk isn't afraid to go to the dirty areas now, so he can get involved in board play and crash the net if need be.
In a piece done by Glen Erickson at Hockey's Future, the development of Klimchuk as a well-rounded two-way player is explored. This quote from one of Morgan's coaches is pretty encouraging:
"We certainly count on him for offense," [Pats' assistant coach, Josh] Dixon said. "But as a coaching staff, we don’t want him to feel that is the only way he can contribute to the hockey team. He kills penalties very well, is playing well defensively in our zone, and is getting in early on the forecheck to create chances for himself and his linemates. All of those things add up to team success."
It's always good to see when a guy takes time to round out his defensive game rather that being just a raw offensive talent that NHL coaches will have to mold into a complete player. There are a few more good quotes from coaches in that Erickson profile, and they seem to love Klimchuk's work ethic and desire to keep improving.
Some Highlights and Other Video
Here's Klimchuk doing all sorts of fun things for the WHL Pats in this highlight video:
Here's a great video of Klimchuk making plays at both ends of the ice for Canada at the U-18 Championships:
And here's an interview with Klimchuk where he talks about playing in the WHL, and other things like keeping up with school, playing back home in front of friends/family, the draft, and his team's struggles through the season:
It's hard not to like Klimchuk when you read about him. His coaches seem to love what he brings in terms of both effort and talent and scouts feel that he has a lot of good tools to make it in the NHL. He has a very good shot, he skates well, he can make plays in open ice and in traffic, and he is committed to being a good defensive player as well. Overall, if he's out there when pick number 39 rolls around, I would love to see the Devils take him. We all know the Devils need forwards in the system, and if the Devils grab a top tier one in the first round and follow that up with Klimchuk in the second, they could be well on their way to replenishing that dearth of forwards.
Based on what I've read though, I'm not so sure Klimchuk is still out there once the Devils are on the clock in the second round. Some have him going as high as the mid-to-late first round (via The Hockey Writers) and the Devils getting him seems like it'd be somewhat of a steal. Still, there's hope that the fact that he has only one really impressive season and that his team stunk this year could cause him to slide a bit in the draft. Bottom line is that I believe this would be a great pick for the Devils in the second round if he's available.
What Do You Think?
What are your thoughts on Klimchuk? Are you as bullish on him as I am? Do you think he will be available once the Devils second round pick rolls around? If the Devils trade down in the first round, could you see the team taking him then? Have at it in the comments below and thanks for reading.