Player: Dylan Peterson, US National Team Development Program
Measurables: 6’4” 194 lbs., Right Shot
2019-2020 stats: 45 games, 8 goals, 17 assists, 25 points
Seemingly every fall, one of the people who follows this stuff comes out with a breathless tweet or internet post asking if this year’s NTDP U17 team could be the most talented team the program has ever seen. The joke answer is, of course, they all are until they actually start playing games.
Players from all over the country, and in some cases abroad, come to Plymouth after dominating the youth hockey ranks. But there is a big difference between dominating at the youth level, and doing it at the junior level and beyond, where everyone can play and there are no easy shifts. Some players thrive in this environment and go on to big things, but inevitably, for most, it’s near impossible to maintain that level of excellence against a better level of competition.
Dylan Peterson likely falls into the latter category. A native of California, he played youth hockey in the Ottawa area and was a standout. If this draft was held two years ago, Peterson is likely a first round pick, and a high one at that. But after two good, but not necessarily great seasons at the NTDP, that’s likely no longer the case. That said, the tools that made him such an impressive player early on are still there, and it will be up to teams to determine if they can find a way to tap into them for Peterson to develop into an NHL player.
What I Like:
-Physical tools- Peterson is listed at 6’4” and a very solid 194 lbs., but moves like a player that is much smaller. His first step isn’t elite, but he’s a very fast skater once he gets moving, so and has the ability to make plays at that speed. The faster pace of play as he progresses shouldn’t be a huge challenge for him.
-Ability to move the puck- When he was playing at his best, I really liked Peterson’s ability to make skill plays in tight areas, moving the puck effectively to teammates rather than panicking and punting. It didn’t always translate directly into points, but I thought he made a big difference in possession for his team in a way that most prospects in this draft can’t.
What I Don’t Like
Lack of Consistency- My notes on Peterson are some of the most divergent on a game-to-game basis of any prospect I saw this year. He had 25 points in 45 games this season, just a little over .50 pts/game. Some nights, I came away surprised he was only scoring at that rate, and some nights I came away surprised that he was scoring as much as he was. It’s perhaps a bit troubling that some of the weaker games tended to be against better competition—games vs. NCAA—but the again, at a certain point in this draft, probably fairly early, every prospect would have struggled if they had to play NCAA-level competition last year.
Vision and hockey sense-For a guy with soft hands like he has, that can move the puck as well as he does to not have more points is a little concerning. Peterson doesn’t show the same vision and creativity in the offensive zone that some of his teammates with higher point totals showed, which potentially limits his upside as a pro.
Was he trending up or down before *gestures* all of this?
As a bigger kid with good hands that could skate, Peterson hit the radar fairly early. He built a strong reputation playing youth hockey in Ontario before heading to the NTDP, where it looked like he would be one of the top players in his birth year. That never quite happened over his two years in Plymouth. Other players surpassed him and he settled into a role as a second line scoring threat. He’ll definitely be drafted, and fairly early at that, but nearly all talk of him as a potential first round pick has evaporated.
I generally hate player comparisons and this one isn’t perfect because their styles of play are quite different, but Peterson makes me think a bit of Jordan Greenway. Both are big, skilled athletes that came to the NTDP with high expectations out of major programs. Greenway’s stats in his final year at the NTDP were better than Peterson’s, but he still saw his draft stock slip into the second round due to inconsistent play and questions about his hockey sense. But Greenway found a way to re-invent himself while playing NCAA hockey at Boston University—coincidentally, where Peterson is next headed—and has found a way to become a solid NHL player. Peterson is in a similar situation. He has the tools to be a solid winger at the NHL level similar to Greenway, but will need to undergo a similar renaissance to reach that ceiling.
The gamble here is entirely on whether a team believes Peterson will develop the consistency to continue to move forward in his career. At his best, there is no doubt, there is no doubt that he’s an NHL talent, but at this point, that player doesn’t show up often enough to earn that spot. Sometimes that ability can show up in college, often times it does not. It will be interesting to see which team will take the gamble that he can develop, and when. My guess is that Peterson will probably be selected late-second round at best, but more likely in the third round.
Peterson will be a freshman at Boston University this season. Nobody is quite sure what the season will look like this year, but he should be able to get on the ice for at least a few games. The opportunity for prime ice time should be open for him. BU returns an impressive defensive core, but with the loss of top forward scorers Patrick Harper and Trevor Zegras, there is at least the possibility for Peterson to take on a scoring role for the Terriers from day one.
The strange, shortened season means even under the best of circumstances, Peterson is back at BU for 2021-2022, but the ideal timeline is that he uses this season to get adjusted to the college game and then blossoms into a dominating sophomore or junior season before heading to the pros. Because of his physical tools, he’s likely less of a project and going to be a player that makes it quick if he makes it at all.