Player: Luke Martin
Height: 6’2” Weight: 201 lbs.
Team: University of Michigan(Big Ten)
Final NHL Central Scouting Rank: 61st among North American skaters
What I Like
Plays in any situation
Michigan was a disaster on the blue line this past season, which opened up a lot of ice time and opportunity for Martin to play. Martin was a top pairing defenseman at even strength and got special teams opportunities on the second power play and top PK unit for Michigan for much of the season. That’s an impressive workload for a freshman that turned 18 during his first season.
Martin has good size, listed at 6’2” 201 lbs. and is a pretty good skater for his size. He isn’t an elite north-south skater, but moves laterally well enough that he could be an effective defender at the next level.
Ironically, my biggest complaint about Martin when he was a U16 player was his tendency to get caught too far up the ice when his team had the puck, which led to him being caught out of position when the puck came back in transition and either relying on his athleticism to cover for him or giving up odd man rushes.
But whether it was a matter of coaching and development, or just a desire to play more conservatively as a new guy playing at a higher level, I didn’t have any of those same concerns this past year at Michigan. It was usually Martin as the last guy back covering for his defensive partner’s mistakes, rather than the other way around. He played sound, responsible defense where he was effective, even if he wasn’t overly noticeable.
What I Don’t Like
Not only is Martin not particularly creative in the offensive zone, but he sometimes struggles to make a good first outlet pass to lead a breakout, which often leads to extending the amount of time he spends in his own zone. He’s a good defender, but he’d be more effective if he spent less time having to play defense.
Not much production
Martin’s 1-6-7 scoring line in 35 games isn’t all that impressive, even for a very young NCAA freshman, especially when you consider that he was seeing a lot of ice time at even strength and some second unit PP time. He generated 50 shots on goal, which is decent, but at this point, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of offensive upside to his game.
Lacks game-breaking skill
Martin is the type of player that can do a little bit of everything pretty well, but doesn’t have one elite standout skill. He can be solid as a complementary player
Being a late ‘98 birthdate that played for the NTDP program, Martin was one of the first names on the radar for this Draft. Some even had him as a potential first round draft choice early two years ago, though 20+ months away from a Draft, most people’s list of potential draft prospects is rarely longer than 40-50 guys. Since then, Martin has played decent, respectable hockey, but a lot of the younger players in this Draft have caught up to or surpassed him in terms of high-end upside. He’s still a solid prospect, but likely doesn’t have the high-end skill set to be worth taking in the first round. I would expect Martin to be selected somewhere in the second or third round of the Draft, with third round being more likely.
Making player comparisons is always a dangerous game, and something scouts hate to do. But the similarities between Martin and Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Brett Pesce are striking. Both are late birthdates that played their NHL Draft year in the NCAA. Both had good size, were pretty good skaters, and they had almost the exact same relatively unimpressive scoring line— 1-5-6 in 38 games for Pesce, 1-6-7 in 35 games for Martin. It’s easy to envision Martin continuing to follow the same path as Pesce: playing two more years at Michigan were he gradually becomes more comfortable and a bigger offensive contributor, before signing an NHL deal, making the NHL slightly quicker than anticipated, and settling into a role as a good, not great second or third pairing defenseman.