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Mason Primeau: 2019 NHL Draft Prospect Profile; Big Project Forward from North Bay

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Mason Primeau is a large center who thrived after being traded to the North Bay Battalion in the OHL last season. His game has some but he could be seen as a project pick - someone that could become useful if those issues are resolved. Learn more about him in this prospect profile.

Guelph Storm v Windsor Spitfires
A rare photo in the stream of a prospect! Mason Primeau is in the middle.
Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images

As I get older, I continue to be marveled by the fact that I am seeing the sons of players get drafted. Players I used to watch when they were young. It almost feels like a random name generator from a hockey simulation game, but this is real. The subject for today’s prospect profile is the latest in a long example of players with family ties to the NHL. He is the son of Wayne, the nephew of Keith, and the cousin of Cayden, he is Mason Primeau.

Who is Mason Primeau?

Mason Primeau is a center who plays for the North Bay Battalion of the Ontario Hockey League. According to his Elite Prospects profile, he was born on July 28, 2001, he shoots left, and he is officially listed at 6’5” and 203 pounds. Height is definitely not an issue for Primeau. The weight suggests he could bulk up still; but he is a big man already. He is also on the younger end of the draft class as he’ll turn 18 this Summer. Primeau has finished up his second season in the OHL. Let’s go over what he has done.

He started his OHL career with Guelph in 2017-18. As a 16-year old, he put up seven goals, six assists, 30 PIM, and 55 shots on net in 60 games per the OHL website. Modest numbers for a rookie. The major junior leagues do not have ice time officially recorded; it would not surprise me if he was held to limited minutes. According to his 2017-18 page at Prospect-Stats, it’s estimated he played less than ten minutes per game. When he did get a shot on net, it was usually between the right dot and the crease. In 2018-19, Primeau started with Guelph but was dealt to North Bay in November. According to this November 15, 2018 article by Matt Carty at Global News.ca, the head coach and GM of Guelph indicated that Primeau was not happy with his role on the team and so that drove a deal for picks. After three goals and four assists in 20 games with the Storm, Primeau picked up the production with the Battalion by putting up ten goals, sixteen assists, 45 PIM, and 90 shots on net in 49 games. Again, we do not have official ice time, but his Prospect-Stats’ page for his 2018-19 season estimates that he received 12-13 minutes per game. His production rates improved, although none of them were particularly notable. Primeau took more shots (and scored more) in the slot based on his shot-location chart at P-S. It still suggests that the trade worked out in that Primeau was able to play more and, subsequently, contribute more.

Primeau is set to return to North Bay for his third season at 18-years old. He has not been selected to play at the international level; he’s a major junior player through and through. Battalion fans should be hopeful that he’ll take another step as a forward. Who knows, he may even be a drafted player by training camp.

Where is Mason Primeau Ranked?

Rankings are not everything and plenty can change between now and the draft. Still, they can provide a general idea as to whether a prospect is worth getting excited over.

  • NHL Central Scouting Services: North American - 142 (Midterm), 113 (Final)
  • Steve Kournianos - The Draft Analyst: 120 (Preseason 400, August 2018), 166 (Midseason 400, December 2018), 214 (Top 500, April 2019)

Primeau made only two rankings that are available. Yes, he did not even make Larry Fisher’s Top 350 in his Final rankings over at The Hockey Writers. It is odd given that Central Scouting Services gave him a bump - likely a result of how he did in North Bay after the trade. Primeau has fallen in each iteration of Steve Kournianos’ ranking, but he finished in his top 250, at least. All the same, this is not a player who is expected to go anywhere but late in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft - if at all.

What Others Say About Mason Primeau

As Primeau plays in the OHL, the go-to source is Brock Otten’s OHL Prospects. Otten has been describing prospects in this league for years and he has connections with several others in the scouting world to get a variety of views for the top guys. Primeau is not one of them, but Otten did include him in his top-50 prospects at beginning of the 2018-19 season, midseason, and after the 2018-19 season. Let’s go over what he wrote at each stage.

As the season begun, here is Otten’s preliminary top-50 OHL prospects. He ranked Primeau at 35th with the following short description:

Massive forward (6’5) who looks better on the wing than he does down the middle. Has a lot of potential as someone who can control play below the hash marks. Just needs to get stronger. Want to see him play more with the puck on his stick.

Interesting that Otten noted that Primeau played wing in addition to center - and it may have been better. Primeau’s large frame would help him in physical situations on offense, certainly. It is worth noting that Primeau was not 205 pounds at the start of the season. Older profiles have him at 188 pounds.

For his midseason ranking, Otten rated Primeau at 30th and went into more detail about Primeau’s game. The post went up well after Primeau was traded from Guelph to North Bay. Here’s some interesting snippets from his midseason description (go to the link for the whole thing):

Primeau looks a lot more confident with the puck in North Bay. Seeing him now try to use his size to drive the middle with the puck, attempting to open up scoring lanes for either himself or teammates. And he’s a force below the hash marks, controlling the wall. There’s still work to be done with his ability to work in transition, especially being able to receive and control passes at full speed. And his skating will need to improve. But Primeau has some nice NHL bloodlines and is trending in the right direction.

Otten highlighted what Primeau received after the trade: a bigger role. And I appreciate that he’s noted that he has responded well. The shot map at Prospect-Stats confirms Otten’s statement that Primeau has went to the slot more often for shots (and goals). I also appreciate Otten noting what specifically he needs to work on: skating and receiving passes. Both are critical for any skater. That he wrote that then suggests that Primeau may be a good example of a “project pick.”

In his final rankings for 2018-19, Otten dropped Primeau down a few spots to 33 on his top-50 list. I do not know if it is more of a function of other prospects surpassing him, Primeau not impressing him (possible given the decline in Kournianos’ rankings), or a combination of both. All the same, Otten re-iterated what to like and not like about Primeau’s game. Here is a part of Otten’s description:

In North Bay, I thought Primeau’s compete level without the puck was significantly higher and that is going to be key for his development moving forward. If he can learn to use his size consistently to engage in the offensive end, (forcing turnovers, dominating the wall, dominating near the net), he could turn into a real player. There is definitely some puck skill there and he shows well at times, moving across the blueline as he looks to attack the middle of the ice. Obviously with his size, he can be difficult to separate from the puck, especially as he draws nearer to the crease. As he adds bulk to his frame and becomes even stronger, it will be interesting to see just how unstoppable he can become below the dots. I also wonder just how much room for improvement there is in his skating. Primeau is alright once he gets going, but his slow starts allow him to be pinned in the neutral zone sometimes, and really prevent him from being a consistent offensive contributor.

There’s plenty to unpack here. While Otten notes that he can become stronger, the issue with his size is more in utilization than just having it. It is one thing to be large, it is another to utilize it. Otten notes that there are already positives with it. However, he notes a really large red flag with his skating. While Primeau will definitely have time before going professional, he will need to hasten how fast he gets going at the next levels. Otherwise, he will not be able to be the attacking force he could be when he has the puck. Given how Otten notes how Primeau can and should be a force along the boards and in front of the net, not being able to quickly get to those spots leaves something to be desired. Given how much an offense uses the boards to win pucks and cycle defenses down, Primeau will need to keep up. Otten touched on skating being an issue in his midseason description of Primeau. This seemingly clarifies that. At least Otten did not think it was worth repeating any issues with receiving passes in motion.

In the midseason and final ranking posts, Otten seemed hopeful in Primeau’s future given he is in North Bay. Otten believes head coach Stan Butler will help Primeau out. Plus, Primeau is younger than the majority of the draft-eligible prospects this year - that allows a little more room to grow in theory. Given how much can be improved, I am similarly hopeful for his sake.

As to not make this whole section all from Otten - who is fantastic, by the way - I did find one other outside opinion. In February, Joseph Aleong of Future Considerations shared his notes for three OHL players. It is a fairly positive description of Primeau’s game. These parts of it stuck out to me:

A big-bodied power center, Primeau’s skating stride can be clunky and slow to get going in the first few steps despite good top-end speed when he has room to skate. He possesses good stride power and strength on his skates, particularly in tight areas and physical play.

...

His puckhandling abilities are decent, but he seems to prefer to chip the puck in and forecheck rather than carry it from the neutral zone. Playing more with control of the puck and making plays rather than tracking it down on the forecheck would be a good step towards increasing his point totals.

Aleong’s brief description of Primeau’s skating does align with Otten’s take in his final rankings. To me, this confirms that Primeau needs to work on that first step (stride? glide? skate?). Other aspects to his movement not being seen as issues suggest to me that addressing that one issue may be sufficient.

I highlighted the second part of Aleong’s description because it is possibly another specific area of improvement for Primeau. I write possibly because I wonder if the North Bay coaching staff has instructed Primeau to chip in pucks and try win them back later. This may be something Butler can help correct just by giving Primeau a different gameplan. Of course, Butler could be giving Primeau these instructions on purpose and Primeau needs to demonstrate improvement in other skills before being given the green light to carry the puck in more often or handle it more than just after a forecheck. That is at least my thinking. Nonetheless, it is another thing for Primeau to consider.

A Little Video

There is nothing specific for Primeau that I could find. So let us move on.

An Opinion of Sorts

A few weeks ago, I wrote a profile on Henrik Rybinski. They are in similar situations with respect to the 2019 NHL Draft. They both thrived after trades within their respective leagues. They are both forwards projected to go late in the 2019 NHL Draft, if at all. Should they be selected, then it is going to be because the scout(s) liked what they saw with their second teams and think they have a future. However, Rybinski is smaller and is a much better skater. Primeau is much larger but seemingly has more to work on with his skating and how he handles pucks.

I consider Primeau to be like a “project pick.” Someone that clearly has some opportunities for improvement in their game but they have a future if those improvements are realized. Primeau is young relative to most of this class as he was 17 throughout his entire 2018-19 season. He can add strength, he can work on making his first step more explosive and quicker, and he keep adding experience to receive passes. He can work to have more carry-in and pass-in entries instead of chipping and chasing. And hopefully this all leads to more: more minutes, more situational play, more shots, and - of course - more goals and points. But a lot has to happen to do that and who knows whether his skills will translate to pro hockey, much less the NHL.

Years ago, I would have said “fine” to someone like this being picked in the sixth or seventh round. It may be considered fine now. But I do not think the Devils should try to work on this project. The skating issues alone are a non-starter. The Devils have actively sought out prospects where skating is one of their strengths. It is certainly not a strength of Primeau. The Devils have looked for players who can project to have a discernible upside. While Primeau improved in North Bay, it is not really clear what he could be in the future other than being a large forward. Making the improvements observed by Otten and Aleong will help Primeau out in the near-future but it does not guarantee a future. He does not fits the type of prospect the Devils have been going for in recent drafts. I do not think the Devils will deviate from their type either.

I am lukewarm about Rybinski being a late pick for the Devils. I would rather go with him and have his issues dealt with rather than the Devils taking a chance on Primeau in the hopes he’ll sort out his issues with more instruction, coaching, perserverence, and a little luck. I think the Devils have the prospect pool to take a few chances, but I do not think Primeau is one for the Devils - even late in this year’s draft.

Your Take

That’s my opinion for Mason Primeau. You may have a different opinion. What do you think of what you have learned about Primeau? What do you think of his performances for North Bay in the OHL? How much of a red flag is the skating? How about his other issues? Do you think he can address both and become a better player for the future for it? If you have seen him play, what did you think of his play? Would you want the Devils to take a chance on him in the late rounds of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Mason Primeau in the comments. Thank you for reading.