Who is Antonio Stranges?
Antonio Stranges is a forward out of the OHL who has played his last two seasons with the London Knights, splitting time between center and wing. Stranges was born February 5, 2002 in Plymouth, Michigan, making him an American-born OHLer and putting him in the middle of the age range for first-year eligible draftees. Stranges is on the smaller side, listed at 5’-10” and 170 pounds, though his game of speed, agility, and a great shot doesn’t necessarily require size as a prerequisite. He is a bit of a tough prospect to figure, as his offensive skills come highly touted by a lot of reports on him but that hasn’t quite translated to the score sheet. He is a highlight machine, but his 40 points in 61 OHL games as a forward slots him into a range more akin to the middle rounds. He was getting some serious first round buzz as recently as the first half of this season and still sits in the top 31 for a couple of scouting services, but his stock has slid significantly on the heels of a disappointing stretch run. His career stats from Elite Prospects are shown below.
Stranges had a very promising rookie season in 2018-19, putting up over a half point per game in his first year in the OHL with 34 points in 66 games. That had him on a lot of peoples radars heading into this season. In 2019-20, he got out of gate well enough, but by the time the season came to its truncated conclusion, the results were rather disappointing for a prospect whose calling card is squarely on the offside of the puck. After starting with 24 points in his opening 25 games, Stranges put up only 16 points over the remaining 36 games (and only one multi-point game in his final 37), far away from a pace one would expect from a first-rounder, and particularly one with major question marks surrounding his defensive game.
In spite of those numbers, though, Stranges has the kind of ability to wow that can get teams to take a chance on a guy with the hope of landing a diamond in the rough. His skating is reportedly top-notch and he can handle the puck extremely well. On top of that, he has a great shot, giving him a formidable set of skills to wreak havoc in the offensive zone. The highlights and descriptions of him show that there are undeniably flashes of elite ability in his game, the question is whether he can translate that into a consistently effective game at the pro level. He’s an intriguing prospect, but one that’s tough to determine how much draft capital makes sense to spend on him.
Where is Stranges Ranked?
I’ve seen profiles from earlier in the season that were talking up Stranges as a potential top-20 or top-15 pick. The situation today indicates that Stranges going that high would be a bit of a shocker at this point. There are still a couple rankings that have him in the first round, though one of those is a midseason ranking that doesn’t account for his underwhelming finish, but other rankings have him drifting out of the first round, and perhaps even the second round now. If you believe in the tools he has, he might be worth a selection higher than the current consensus, but it’s clear that a lot of scouts now see him as more of a project than an upper-tier prospect.
#56 — NHL Central Scouting - NA Skaters (Final)
#26 — McKeen’s Hockey (Midseason)
#25 — Future Considerations (March)
#97 — The Draft Analyst (March)
#56 — TSN-MacKenzie (Midseason)
NR — EliteProspects.com (February)
NR (Top 62) — TSN-Button (March)
NR (Top 31) — HockeyProspect.com (January)
NR (Top 31) — ISS Hockey (March)
What Others are Saying About Antonio Stranges
Stranges is the kind of prospect who will produce a lot of widely varying profiles on a player, and it seems like a scouts opinion of him is likely to vary widely depending on the night he saw Stanges play. First, we’ll go to The Puck Authority, which notes the highs of his offensive game and the lows of, well, the rest. Some excerpts:
A truly dynamic skating phenom with offensive prowess, Antonio Stranges can definitely shoot the puck with authority. Bar none the greatest attribute in his arsenal is his skating ability
While his offensive game is well noticed, he can literally be invisible on the backcheck while seen similarly when contributing on defence.
The word ‘project’ is used in this profile, and Stranges seems like the exact type of player worthy of that label. The potential to be something at the next level is clearly there, but it will take a bit of work to round that into an effective package.
To illustrate how rough of a year it was for Stranges’ draft stock, we go to Dobber Prospects, which has two profile blurbs on him from November 2019 and February 2020. First, the November report:
Stranges has elite-level skating talent in just about every facet of the skill. His agility and edgework are exceptional, his speed is impressive, to say the least, and his use of the ’10-2′ technique to generate speed through the neutral zone is special to watch as he opens himself up to make a variety of plays. Stranges pairs his elite skating with high-end puck skills and the ability to put the puck on a string at times.
Stranges has shown top-15 ability at times but consistency will be a key factor on whether or not he realizes his potential during his draft-eligible season.
Then, later this season in February:
His game has stayed to the outside as it was last season and the effort to get into more dangerous spots is far too infrequent. His flashy skating and high-end pucks skills are enough to intrigue but he is slowly working his way out of the first-round conversation.
I think this dynamic is probably present in a lot of the analyses of Stranges season. He seems to have the goods on offense but on some level, the results eventually matter.
Production isn’t the be-all end-all for prospects, but at the junior level you are expected to make things happen consistently on the scoresheet if you want to get drafted in the top couple rounds, let alone the first. Stranges wasn’t necessarily just snakebitten, either, as he wasn’t particularly prolific shooter of the puck for his level (about 2.5 shots/game). The Knights were a pretty stacked team, but it still isn’t overly impressive for a offensive-minded prospect to finish 8th in points and 7th in goals on his junior team.
To get a deeper look at the things that make Stranges so intriguing as a prospect, there is a very thorough look at Stranges at draftgeek.ca from Brandon Holmes back in the fall. The report includes video and goes through each facet of Stranges’ game and is definitely worth a read. I’ll excerpt a few bits here, but there is a lot to go through in the profile.
On his skating:
Stranges is able to build good speed off his stride, but the secret sauce of his skating ability is clearly his agility and elusiveness. Angling his body and skating off his inside edges often affords him the luxury of slipping through gaps that most normal skaters would normally get held up in, as defenders often have difficulty checking him due to the awkward body positioning that Stranges forces them into.
On his stick handling (including a clip of a thoroughly insane shootout goal):
Stranges is an absolute wizard with the puck on his stick, and from what I’ve seen is the best puck handler in the 2020 class. He’s slick, elusive, talented, and above all else, fantastically creative with the puck on his stick, which makes him a very difficult player to defend.
On his passing:
Off the rush is where I find Stranges makes his best reads and passes, as he’s often able to finish off odd-man rushes with a perfectly placed pass either before the defenseman is able to properly cover the passing lane or after the defender has overcommitted to his side of the ice.
The best part of his shot is his deceptive release; he’s able to get the puck off of his stick in a hurry while generating good power and accuracy, and he is particularly good at getting his shot on goal off the rush. Stranges can shoot the puck while in full stride, which, in conjunction with his quick release, can catch netminders off guard
This piece is an admittedly generous evaluation of Stranges (it concludes by stating he has a good chance to go top-10 by year’s end) but the clips do show a player with very obvious high-end skill. Some of the plays he is making in the clips are things I’m not so sure he’d get away with at the pro level, but with some coaching, the potential is obvious. He has a ceiling higher than his numbers suggest for sure, but he is a project, nonetheless. The question teams will have to answer is at what point in the draft is he a project worth taking on.
Last, we go to Will at Scouching for a take from November that acted as a sort of rebuttal to the profiles in the fall that looked more like the one above. It proved to be a bit prescient, at least as it relates to the way the rest of Stranges’ season went:
Trust me, everyone. I see your Antonio Stranges gifs, and I’ve tracked a game of his that was comically lopsided in his favor, but there’s something about his game and his data that just... doesn’t feel right. He’s an effective offensive player, but he’s nearly invisible defensively at times, and his skating when not 10-2’ing around is... fine? Maybe I need to just watch more, but I have a hard time bumping him into my 1st round.
This kind of gets at my gut feeling based on what I’ve read. For all the talent, the results and overall package just don’t quite seem to stack up, at least not for now.
A Little Video
Stranges is a highlight machine for sure, and he can undeniably do some awesome stuff with the puck. That is on display in these videos.
And I’d be remiss to not include this insane shootout move:
An Opinion of Sorts
Antonio Stranges is the type of prospect who will inevitably make some subset of people feel stupid. Either he will bust out and make the people who jumped off his bandwagon when he had so much skill look foolish or he will fizzle and the ones who touted his elite talent will seem like they were blinded by some flashy moves despite underwhelming results on the scoresheet. He comes across as a classic boom or bust pick in this regard, the question is: where does it make sense to take a chance on him?
For me, I think there are too many more complete players with plenty of skill and better likely outcomes around in the first round of the draft to select him that high. Stranges could be a very good player, but given what we know at this point, it will be a project to get him there. I think he’s way too much of a question mark to take with any of the Devils’ potential first-round picks. If he slides through the second round, though, and is still available when the Devils come up again in the third round, that is when I think it makes a lot of sense to take a guy like Stranges. I’m a proponent of swinging for the fences when you can outside of the first couple rounds and Stranges fits that mold for sure. He has abilities that not a lot of players can say they have, but a lot of work seemingly needs to be done to round him into a forward that can make an impact at the NHL level.
What do you think of Stranges as a player? At what point in the draft does the skill he has become too much to pass on? Would you consider taking him in the late first, say if the Devils hypothetically traded down? What’s the earliest you would take him? Sound off with your thoughts below and thanks for reading.