The need for defense is high right now for our New Jersey Devils; while we can be fairly certain that their first round pick will not be used on one (Nico V Nolan will occupy that slot/discussion) the team still has a number of picks to use in the remainder of the draft. The Devs will be almost certainly draft at least one defender in the 2nd or 3rd round in hopes that said prospect can eventually make in an impact at the NHL level, preferably sooner rather than later. Cale Fleury is one such player that New Jersey might decide to take a look at.
Who is Cale Fleury?
Courtesy of his Elite Prospects bio, Fleury was born on November 19, 1998 in Carlyle, Saskatchewan, Canada. The last name may sound familiar due to the fact that his older brother Haydn was selected in 2014 (#7 overall) by the Carolina Hurricanes. Cale has already done a fair bit of growing into his frame, standing 6’1” and weighing 201 lbs. He just completed his third season with the WHL’s Kootenay Ice where he appeared in 70 games and posted career highs in goals (11), assists (27) and points (38).
Unfortunately, he also wound up posting a -61 +/- on the year, though it’s worth mentioning that Kootenay finished dead last in the WHL standings this past season. While +/- isn’t that telling of a stat (especially if he’s receiving a lot of ice time on a bad team) the fact that he was a full -15 worse than his closest teammates (Dallas Hines and Brett Davis were each a -46) is a little worrisome.
Where is Fleury Ranked?
According to the available rankings, here is where Cale is currently projected against his fellow prospects:
NHL Central Scouting Services (Final) - North American Skaters: 62
The numbers are fairly scattered across the board right now, but from what we have available, my guess would be that Fleury will be a late second round pick at best, but more than likely he goes in the third round; with some of his ranking however, it becomes possible that he may also slip into round 4.
What Others Say About Cale Fleury
For the 62nd overall ranked North American skater, Fleury seems to be flying under the radar, as there isn’t much being written about him. I assume part of the reason for this is due to how terrible the Ice were this past season; after some digging, I managed to find a few comments about his game.
HockeyNow.ca (a fellow blog from our friends north of the border) featured him along with two others in their weekly prospect update back in March; here’s what they had to say of his game:
“He is a decent skater and can get up the ice and create offence from the blue line. He likes to shoot and skate down low and engage physically. In his own end, he needs to work on positioning and get tougher in front. He has not had the supporting cast around him in Kootenay to fully show what he can do but at times makes some questionable decisions with the puck in his own end. Has the potential to improve with a much better team in front of him.”
I’m always a fan of an analysis that incorporates both what a player does well and where they have room to grow; it’s helpful in my opinion for figuring out if a player if a fit for New Jersey’s team/system or not. We need defenders of all types right now, but especially ones who can help to create offense. We have discussed at times here at AAtJ that because our defenders have such trouble moving the puck up the ice, it compounds all the other issues we have with scoring goals. Fleury seems like he could help to alleviate some of those woes, and the fact that he isn’t hesitant to jump into the offensive zone could be beneficial.
The issue with him is a common trend among many defenders already seeing nightly ice time in Jersey: poor positioning and weak in front. How many times this season did an opposing team score a goal due to a D man being out of position or being outworked by an opponent? Actually, don’t answer that it’s probably not a pretty number. If our scouts are looking at Fleury as a possibility, I would hope they are checking to see if the positives he brings could outweigh the areas where he needs to improve, and also if we’re the right organization to be able to round out his game.
We also have some additional information via an NHL scout that was posted on Recrutes.ca in their section on Fleury:
“It’s not easy scouting him because that team is horrible. Good size, skates well for his size, he shoots it okay. Fleury looked better than (Moose Jaw defenceman Josh) Brook. There’s something there. He tries to make a difference even though they were horrible. He seems to move the puck pretty well…he gets a little bit caught up in watching the puck and sometimes drifts a little bit, some turnovers in the transition game..some little things he needs to work on. He’s competitive. But…not easy to rank him. One more year of junior and that team isn’t very good…how much more will he develop before he turns pro?”
Scouts don’t mince words about teams, do they? The NHL scout they quoted seems to echo much of the above scouting report in that he’s a good offensive contributor, but has some things to work on. I find the mention of him not being easy to rank as well as the question at the end to be concerning; it seems that he could be a boom or bust type player, and that his current situation leaves him with little room to grow at the junior level.
A Little Video
First up we have a video of his play as well as some a narration of him as a player from Fleury’s rookie season with Kootenay; with so little available online as to what others are saying about Cale, these videos were integral for forging my opinion of him as a player:
Next we have a similar, but more recent video discussing how Fleury has progressed as a player since joining the league and how not only his game, but his leadership qualities have grown:
And finally for our video, we have a fight between Cale and Zach Fischer of the Medicine Hat Tigers from the earlier stages of this past WHL season. The tilt is preceded by a big hit from Fleury, and while he technically loses the fight by going down to the ice first, he more than held his own against his opponent:
An Opinion of Sorts
I have to say that overall, I’m conflicted about Fleury as a prospect. I absolutely think he has a useful offensive skill set, and from the above video he has definitely grown as a player from when he was a rookie to where we stand now heading into the draft. At the same time, I am worried about him being labeled not easy to rank as well as the fact that he’s playing for a very bad Kootenay team. To again switch back to the positive side, he obviously is a player with leadership qualities as well, having served as an alternate and now being the Ice’s captain.
If I were the Devils scouts, I would make sure to watch as much tape on Fleury as possible before making a decision whether to target him or not. He could wind up being a steal in this draft; there’s not a lot of chatter around him, and again it could be that he’s a very good player on a very bad team. NHL Central Scouting has him at #62 as mentioned above, and the Devils hold the Colorado Avalanche’s 3rd round pick this year which is #63 overall, as well as the San Jose Sharks’ which is #83 overall. Assuming there will be some goaltenders taken as well as some European players, Fleury could still be on the board with either of those picks depending upon how other teams see these prospects. I wouldn’t mind seeing the Devils take Fleury in round 3; again, he could wind up being a steal and New Jersey needs all the defensive help they can get right now.
Cale is certainly not a sure-fire future NHLer as his older brother Haydn seems to be, but I’d like to hear what do you think of Fleury as a prospect? Is he someone you would like to see New Jersey draft? Do you think the alleged shortcomings in his game could be strengthened as a part of the Devils organization? What round do you think he winds up going in? Leave your thoughts down below and thanks as always for reading!