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Isaiah George: 2022 NHL Draft Prospect Profile | A Mobile Defensive Defenseman with Two-Way Potential and Mid-Pairing Upside

Isaiah George is a defenseman with some size, speed, and great overall mobility on his skates, despite some relatively limited scoring in his career up to this point. Does he have the tools to develop into an effective all-around defenseman at the NHL level?

London Knights v Kitchener Rangers Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images

Who is Isaiah George?

Isaiah George is a smooth-skating defenseman from Oakville, Ontario who is currently with the London Knights of the OHL. George missed out on the opportunity to play in the 2020-21 OHL season due to the pandemic, so his draft season for London also doubled as his OHL rookie season. Even for a defenseman, George's stats aren't necessarily striking, but he is regarded more for his defense and steady presence on the blue line than dynamic offense. His stats from Elite Prospects can be seen below.

Isaiah George is listed at 6'-1" and 194 pounds, giving him pretty good size. His February birthday puts him right in the middle of the age range for this draft class. As a player, there are two things in the reports on him that seem to stand out most: his skating which is described as effortless, allowing him the stamina and speed to keep up with the players he is defending as well as evade opposing players when he has the puck, and then his positioning, which allows him to be in the right place at the right time to cut off opposing opportunities. On the flip side, his offense is a work in progress, with some flashes of ability but a lack of decisiveness limiting his output. Overall, if he pans out, he seems to be destined to be a player you describe as “reliable” on the blue line—not a flashy player but someone who is in the right spots and has enough ability to handle some tough assignments on defense and keep the play moving on offense.

Where is Isaiah George Ranked?

Isaiah George seems to project as a player with “solid middle-pairing” upside, which puts him comfortably in the consensus top 100 of prospects for this draft but also keeps him largely outside of any first round conversations. He seems likely to go somewhere from the mid-second to mid-third round based on his rankings.

What Others Say About Isaiah George

Isaiah George is the type of prospect that doesn’t light up the scoresheet but definitely has a certain appeal, particularly if you root for a team that regularly gives up what feels like one million goals. Here’s what Dominic Tiano over at OHL Writers had to say about George’s game in his own end:

In his own zone, George is an example of being in the right place at the right time. He reads and anticipates the play so well that he is almost always there to snub an opponents attempt. His angles are good and his mobility allows him to keep opponents to the outside. He also holds his blue line and is very efficient at breaking up the rush. He’s very good at retrieving pucks and leading the transition the other way with a good pass.

George comes across as a smart player in most of his profiles, a guy who is always considering options and trying to make every move count to his advantage. Conversely, he may be overthinking things a bit on the offensive side of the puck. Josh Tessler over at Smaht Scouting has a thorough look at George’s game and has this to say about his offense in his projection for him:

Isaiah George has second pairing upside at the NHL level, but in order to get that point, he needs to push play more and more in the offensive zone. When pressure seems to be building up, George needs to use his mobility to buy himself separation and skate towards the slot. Sometimes he does it. Sometimes he doesn’t and instead opts to put a low danger shot on net. NHL teams are going to want more offensive creativity and he has the tools to give them the creativity that they desire. Ideally, we will see George continue to become confident in his ability to push play and run the cycle even more so in his DY+1.

His defense is solid both in his own end and in transition, according to Tessler, with the only real ding against him being a need to modify his defensive approach on 2-on-1s. On his positioning:

George’s defensive positioning is quite good. When defending down low against non puck carrying attackers who are looking to net open ice in high and medium danger, he does a good job of staying aligned and standing in front of the attacker to ensure that a teammate behind the red line can’t pass to the attacker. He is a smart interior defender.

And on his transition defense:

When defending against the rush, George uses an active stick to take away space for the puck carrying attacker and force the attacker to dump the puck into the London zone. Yet, he doesn’t just use an active stick to take away space for puck carrying attackers. George will use his active stick to take away an opponent as a potential target for an opponent who has possession for the puck to pass towards. So, when he has to defend against multiple attackers in the neutral zone, he is well-aligned with the non-puck carrying attacker and puts pressure on him from the get-go. He also has an eye on the puck carrying attacker but he knows that the presence of his defensive partner will be enough to force the puck carrying attacker to dump the puck.

Over at Dobber Prospects, this report from Hadi Kalakeche builds on the assessments of his skating and positioning seen elsewhere:

A technically refined skater with great off-puck habits, especially in his own zone, George has the smarts to absorb forecheckers and free up a teammate for an easy breakout while also showing an understanding of when to jump into the rush.

The conclusion on George is that he has potential as an effective jack-of-all-trades defenseman:

At 6-foot-1 and 194 pounds, George has a solid frame as it is, and doesn’t look like he’s done maturing physically. He could become a Swiss-army knife blue-liner who can chip in on both special team units down the line and hold down a role on a team’s top-four fairly soon.

Finally, we’ll look over at this profile from Colin Newby at The Hockey Writers, who has a nice summary of his skating ability and what makes it so attractive:

His “effortless” ability as a skater is only one element of the tremendous athleticism that helps him as a mobile defenseman who can cover a lot of territory on the ice. Rob Simpson, London’s associate general manager, spoke about George’s ability to close gaps in the neutral zone as a key trait that the Knights valued when they drafted him. He is a strong two-way defenseman with good puck retrieval skills and success in the transition game.

Good skating can cover over a lot of things and it seems with the right development, he could be a really strong all-around defenseman for someone down the road.

A Little Video

Here’s a video from the OHL that pairs George speaking about his own game with some of his highlights from the OHL season. He is clearly not without skill and is capable of jumping into a rush for sure with a few nice finishes along the way.

An Opinion of Sorts

Isaiah George strikes me as a solid-enough defensive prospect. The skating and athleticism are there, and that can take a player a long way with the right development. He also seems to have a good mind for the game and puts himself in the right places to succeed when he doesn’t have the puck. There is certainly an element of dynamism that seems to be missing from his game, though, which gives me some pause, and at least keeps me away from wanting him as high as the Devils’ second-round pick. Scoring numbers aren’t everything, especially for defensemen, but the low output against OHL competition raises an eyebrow at the very least, and his production at lower levels is similarly not eye-catching.

I think George has more value than the basic counting stats suggest, so I think he could be a solid mid-round pick. I think he probably projects more realistically as a mobile, puck-moving defensive defenseman than a real ‘two-way’ guy, though, given the lack of output at lower levels. A guy who can score a goal here and there and is far from a grenade-handler but just has a better feel for the game in his own end. That type of guy certainly has value in the modern NHL, making him a decent option in the third round range, even if my sense is that the offensive upside is limited. If the Devils go with forwards with their earlier picks, I could definitely see them taking a hard look at a guy like George when they get to the third round.

Your Take

What are your thoughts on Isaiah George? What kind of player do you think he projects to be at the next level, based on what you’ve read? Are you concerned with the modest scoring production or does that not worry you for a defenseman with his profile? Leave your thoughts below and thanks for reading.