The state of New Jersey not only hosts our favorite team, but it also produces plenty of hockey talent. From Jim Dowd (who's currently trying to drum up support for D-I hockey at Rutgers, which I definitely agree with although the issue will have more to do with who can be a Terry Pegula for the Scarlet Knights) to Johnny Gaudreau, the Garden State has produced talent that leads to draft picks and, with luck, NHL appearances. As far as I'm aware, today's subject for this draft profile would be the highest ranked among all draft eligible players from New Jersey. From Toms River, this is a profile on defenseman, Cam Dineen.
Who is Cam Dineen?
According to Elite Prospects, Cam Dineen was born on June 19, 1998 from Toms River. He currently plays defense for the North Bay Battalion of the Ontario Hockey League. He shoots left and he stands at 5'11" and 183 pounds. While that isn't exactly an imposing frame, his numbers certainly tell a different tale. Here they are from Elite Prospects:
With 59 points, Dineen finished third among all North Bay players in scoring and he finished second among all defensemen in the OHL in scoring. As a rookie. Yes, even more than potential top-ten pick Mikhail Sergachev, who I profiled last week. The production didn't end when the season did as Dineen contributed eight assists in eleven playoff games for the Battalion. The 165 shots he put on net in 2015-16 show that he's been very much involved in North Bay's attack, he's more than just a distributor as his 43 assists suggest. Do note that 28 of those 43 assists came on special teams - 24 on the power play, four on the penalty kill; that did help his production. That being said, North Bay's power play wasn't exactly a relative force in the 'O' (Dineen was involved in over half of their power play goals) and the points mean he did help make things happen on both special teams and in even strength play on the scoresheet. All while staying out the box, which is good in general for a defenseman.
North Bay or the OHL was not the original plan for Dineen. He was picked in the eleventh round by North Bay in their league's selection draft. Dineen was a Yale commit up until this past season. What happened? Brock Otten at OHL Prospects had a post focusing on that decision back in March. Dineen himself stated that he went to the OHL instead the ECAC because he thought that would be better for his development in his draft eligible year. He would turn out to be right. For example, Central Scouting Services bumped his ranking from 117th among North American skaters at their midterm to 39th in their final rankings. Steve Kournianos at The Draft Analyst bumped him from 80th to 58th in his April Top 250 and had him going 31st in a mock draft he did in May. The point is that his season in North Bay got him plenty of attention that helped push him for second round consideration.
What Others Say About Cam Dineen
Let's start with Otten at OHL Prospects. Otten is a big fan of Dineen's game. So much so that he thinks he could sneak into the first round. That wouldn't be the first time that would happen at the NHL Draft. Otten ranked Dineen tenth on his Top 50 List of OHL prospects. Here's a section of his explanation that goes into what he likes the most about Dineen:
Dineen's best asset is far and away his ability to see the ice offensively. His hockey sense is elite and his brain for the game is going to carry him places. I saw North Bay a lot this year and I honestly can't remember him making a bad pass out of his own end. He also distributes exceptionally well on the powerplay and does a great job of getting a low hard point shot through to the net. The physical skills are only average (size, strength), and I'm sure there are some scouts who wish he was a little more explosive in his first few steps (he moves well and has very good overall mobility, but I do think it is a legit criticism). But you just can't ignore how well he processes the game.
Given Dineen's size, it's not exactly surprising to read that strength is an issue. However, Otten correctly notes that can be improved upon and that what Dineen has - his vision on the puck - cannot be taught. This really sets the frame for what many praise about Dineen. He's not just an offensive producer; he's an offensive defenseman with the offensive skillset that one would want in such a player. Not just someone who has that desirable "low, hard point shot" but someone who's very good at moving the puck around. Dineen isn't perfect and Otten recognizes that, but this was the section that stood out to me.
A very good profile on Dineen is up at Canucks Army by AWheeler. Wheeler's profile goes into depth about the team situation that led Dineen to soar in 2015-16 with North Bay. The Battalion traded away an overage defenseman and Kyle Wood, Dineen's common partner for the season, returned from injury. Those two events helped Dineen get to where he is now. The profile also has additional statistical work that you just don't get at most other sites. Here's a relevant section from the profile that summarizes his season:
Though the sample he matched against only contained 14 players, the prospect of getting a player with a 50% likelihood of being an NHLer outside of the first round is one NHL teams should be relishing. And while the raw numbers aren't quite in the same range, his stature and position on the league scoring chart are reminiscent of recent prospect standouts like Ryan Ellis and Anthony DeAngelo. While an argument about quality of teammates can be made, given that he spent the vast majority of his time with another very good OHL defenseman in Kyle Wood, the fact remains the Dineen played a lot of minutes, against strong competition, and scored at a well above league average rate.
Not many prospect profiles or amalagations of profiles (what we do) really go into the context of a player's season. Knowing what situations and who a player primarily played with could explain the success they may or may not have had. Wheeler notes that while playing with Wood certainly helped, Dineen excelled with prime minutes in North Bay. That should ease concerns whether Dineen was a passenger or a primary beneficiary of being on a great team. Check out the whole profile; what Wheeler highlights about Dineen is similar to what Otten did as well.
Christopher Ralph at The Hockey Writers has a profile on Dineen as well. Ralph calls him "Mr. HSMP" for "Mr. High Speed Mental Processor." I don't think that nickname will stick. However, I get what he means. He also thinks Dineen's best asset as a prospect is his mind in how he reads and reacts to plays on offense. In terms of what he can improve upon, Ralph notes that his strength needs work and also his defensive game. This was something Otten noted as well; Dineen got better in his own end as the season went on, but there's more work to do. Here's how Ralph projects the player:
There is a fairly big gap between the low and the high of Dineen’s NHL potential. He will be an NHLer, I am confident of that. However, if he doesn’t develop an edge to his game, he will likely struggle to be a top defender but if he does, "wow" is the limit. Just remember, Keith had two years in the AHL before making it and you could say that he played the best of his career in last year’s playoffs, thirteen years after his draft year. So the road ahead is still a long one for Cam Dineen. He has the potential to make it a long, successful one.
Ralph compared Dineen's style of game to Duncan Keith; hence, the reference to him here. I'll leave it to you to decide whether Keith's apex was his 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but it does remind me that development for a defenseman does take time. Given that Dineen could get stronger, could get better in his own end, and perhaps could get "an edge," there's reason to let him develop. I just hope getting an edge doesn't just mean getting more physical. Sure, he can get stronger but at 5'11", there's only so much weight to be put on to be a factor there. Given his other skills, I would think the focus would be on moving the play forward.
Ben Kerr at the Last Word on Sports came to the same point of comparison for Dineen in his profile: Duncan Keith. As Kerr correctly and usually points out, that's a stylistic comparison and not an actual comparison for his potential. Kerr also goes into a little more detail about his defensive game after speaking well of his offensive skills and his "above average" skating. Here's that section of the profile:
Dineen has improved his defensive game as the season has gone on. He uses his hockey IQ to maintain good positioning, and a quick stick to cut down passing and shooting lanes. The quickness with which he retrieves loose pucks and starts the transition game is also a major asset. However, his lack of size still creates some issues here as he can have issues clearing the front of the net, containing forwards cycling the puck, and winning battles along the boards.
As with Otten, Kerr would agree that Dineen has improved on 'D.' While Kerr notes he needs work, it reads that more of this has to do with getting stronger and using his size, not as ideal as it may be, more often. To an extent, a defenseman would have to be able to use his frame to get into the right position on an opposing forward. Whether it is to prevent him from a more advantageous location in front of the net or to win a puck battle. While I agree Dineen can get stronger, again, I don't know how much he can put on and whether that is enough to make a big difference. I suppose that's a reason why he could sneak into the first round as opposed to being expected to go in the first round.
A Little Video
Dineen has been quite productive and he plays in the O. Therefore, there's some video on what he has done. Your big provider of draft prospect highlights, bigwhite06, has an extended highlight video on Dineen. He's wearing #4 - always a good choice - and you can see him make all kinds of dishes that led to delicious goals. As far as
There is one defensive highlight at about the 2:43 that shows that he can skate and backcheck in a tough situation as needed. As far as an offensive highlight to check out, if you must view only one, then go to 4:06 where you'll see him drive in, take a shot, get his own rebound, and then pass it across for a score. All in a fluid motion.
Ralph's profile at The Hockey Writers linked to this short video at HockeyProspect.com that isolates on Dineen for a game. Here's that clip by Chris Dawson:
It's a pretty short video so there's not a whole lot to highlight in it. That said, it's an interesting short video and the production values are much better than most freely available videos.
An Opinion of Sorts
Dineen has been rising prospect throughout 2015-16. Dineen's decision to go to North Bay instead of Yale really did turn out for the best for his own path to pro hockey. His rankings by services have shot up as the season went on and his production was too prolific to ignore. Based on how others describe him, I can believe he could sneak into the first round. The upper half of the second round of most draft years aren't really that far away from those projected to go at the end of the first round. So if a team really liked what they saw from Dineen and could use an offensive defenseman prospect, then I could see him getting in there.
While he has flaws that need to be worked on, most of them can be worked on and that's an important point. Dineen may not be able to get that extra two inches in height to make his size be less of an issue, but he can be stronger, he can get the experience to be better in his own end, and he will refine his game to be prepared for the next level. That he already is able to pass the puck well, recognize when and where to place his passes, and shoot the puck low from distance means to me that he'll be worth the time in development. Like I noted in my profile on Mikhail Sergachev from last week, the Devils don't really have this kind of offensive defenseman in their system. I don't think Sergachev will fall to them at eleventh overall. As much as their constant non-forward-selections-in-the-second-round have been, Dineen would be a fine fit for that need in the second round. Unfortunately, based on how others regard him, Dineen may not make it to 41st overall. If he does though - and the Devils pick him, of course - he'll automatically get some fans for the local team securing the latest in an increasing line of hockey prospects from New Jersey.
Cam Dineen will definitely get picked and definitely will be one to watch for in the future regardless of who drafts him. Would you want the Devils to take him at #41 and why? What about Dineen impresses you the most? What about him concerns you? If you've seen him play at North Bay in this past season, then what did you think? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Dineen in the comments. Thank you for reading.