As the Devils continue on their rebuild, they will need to land talent in the NHL Draft beyond just the 11th pick of the first round. In the second and third rounds of the draft, plenty of solid prospects remain available and hitting on picks in this range can go a long way toward making a team into a contender. One intriguing prospect who could be available when the Devils make their second-round pick is Noah Gregor.
Who is Noah Gregor
Noah Gregor is a center currently with the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League. Born July 28th, 1998, Gregor is a 17-year-old native of Beaumont, Alberta who just finished up his second season of major junior hockey. Listed at 6'-0" and 178lbs on the Moose Jaw team website, Gregor is a mid-sized forward who just wrapped up a successful draft-year campaign as a staple on the Warriors top line. He also was part of the CHL top prospects game and played for Canada at U18 Worlds. His stats below from Elite Prospects show a strong first full season in juniors where he was able to put up over a point per game:
This past season was Gregor's first full season in the WHL because his first season in the league after he was drafted got derailed by a broken clavicle. That injury likely pushed him to the periphery of a lot of NHL radars to start the season, but after putting up some impressive numbers while playing alongside Brayden Point and Dryden Hunt on Moose Jaw's first line, he has climbed up a lot of draft boards. While not a big player, Gregor is not necessarily undersized either and has a decent set of tools at his disposal including quickness and skill on the puck. His biggest assets though seem to be his instincts and an ability to see the game well and make the right plays with the puck.
Rankings-wise, his location is a little bit varied, but he definitely seems to be trending upwards on most boards. He was ranked #45 in the NHL's CSS rankings among North American skaters after being ranked 75th in the midterm, so he has turned a few heads over the course of this season. Elsewhere, he was #58 in Bob McKenzie's midterm rankings, #44 in Craig Button's latest list from March, and #38 in Steve Kournianos' April rankings at The Draft Analyst. Putting it all together, Gregor likely projects to go somewhere in the mid-second round and seems like a potential candidate for the Devils selection at #41.
What Others Say About Noah Gregor
While Noah Gregor didn't start the season high on a lot of boards, it's clear that he got a lot of people's attention during the 2015-16 season. First, a couple quick blurbs on his season from Ryan Kennedy at The Hockey News:
At the start of the season, scouts weren’t paying too much attention to Gregor, who missed most of last year due to a collarbone injury. But his play with the Warriors has made him one of the biggest surprises in the WHL and now scouts can’t get enough of his quickness, his smarts with the puck and his compete level.
So being under the radar is just fine with Gregor, who models his game after another player who had to prove himself in junior and beyond, Ottawa’s Mike Hoffman.
Gregor's smarts and his eyes for the game are things that come up in a lot of stories on him and those are traits that can be very hard to teach. Also interesting that he models his game after Mike Hoffman as that is a type of player the Devils could certainly use. Gregor seems to recognize that since he doesn't have elite tools or size, he'll have to keep working to prove himself worthy of an NHL roster someday, which isn't necessarily a groundbreaking perspective, but is still an encouraging attitude for a prospect to have.
Next, we take a look at this profile from Marshall MacKinder at HockeyNow:
Is not a big kid but can use his speed all over the ice, winning loose pucks and winning battles along the boards. Has tremendous offensive zone instincts and knows where his teammates are and doesn’t hesitate to shoot from anywhere on the ice. Quick, agile skater who can use a sharp change of direction to throw defenders off balance. Good vision on the power play and always seems to find an opening for a good scoring chance. Tends to get caught puck watching but not many more weaknesses in his game.
More here on his smarts and vision, but it's also clear that Gregor isn't just getting by on pure guile. Quickness can be a great asset for a player to crate space and keep opponents off balance and Gregor definitely seems to have it based on the profiles that are out there for him. And despite the note on some puck-watching, the feeling seems to be that he has a decently well-rounded game.
To wit, this bit from a profile done back in February by Ryan Pike at The Hockey Writers indicates that Gregor is more than just a gifted offensive playmaker:
When you watch Gregor play, the one thing that sticks out is how much he doesn’t stick out despite his relative inexperience in major junior. Compare him to seasoned WHLers in all three zones and there isn’t very much of a drop-off, and he’s still improving. He’s an intelligent 200-foot player and plays a very up-tempo game, utilizing his skating and intelligence to get himself into the right positions on the ice. He was already a skilled offensive player from his days in bantam and midget, but he’s improved his all-around game playing within the Warriors system.
Since Gregor was injured for the vast majority of 2014-15, this past season was his de facto rookie season in the WHL, so if he's able to hold his own in all three zones without too much experience, it seems to speak to some potential as not just an offensive playmaker, but as a strong two-way contributor in the future.
A Little Video
For video, this lengthy video highlight package put together by YouTube channel SEER VIDEO features portions of this interview with Gregor on returning from his season lost to injury, as well as a bunch of his goals and assists from his time in Moose Jaw. There are some nice passes mixed in there along with a clear display of an ability to score by pouncing on opportunities with a quick release.
Beyond this highlight package, there wasn't too much more of his game footage out there, but here are a couple other quick interviews, first on the CHL top prospects game (including some nice words from his coach in Moose Jaw, Tim Hunter):
And then on the WHL combine:
An Opinion of Sorts
It's early in the prospect profiling season here at AAtJ, and a number of other players will be looked at in this range, but my impression on Noah Gregor is that he would be a player I can get behind picking at the 41st spot. He put up over a point per game as a 17-year-old (albeit with very good linemates) and based on the scouting reports, may have the type of vision and playmaking instincts on offense the the Devils seem to be perpetually lacking. He flew under the radar for much of the season, so there is perhaps a chance he's a bit undervalued where he is. Based on his rising rankings, scouts might be catching on, but if he's available when the Devils are up in the second round, it seems like he'd be a solid choice.
So what are your thoughts on Noah Gregor? Do you think he's a player worth spending a second-round pick on in this year's draft? Do you have any specific concerns related to size or other aspects of his game? Sound off with your comments below and thanks for reading.