Defenseman, Grand Rapids(MN) HS/Fargo Force(USHL)
5’11” 186 lbs.
Final NHL Central Scouting Rank: 27th among North American Skaters
Jack Peart was this year’s Minnesota Mr. Hockey winner, given to the state’s top senior high school hockey player. But as is so often the case with the award, which values overall talent and skill over in-season high school performance, it was what Peart did outside of high school hockey that really earned him the award. Playing at Grand Rapids High School, it was obvious that Peart was an extremely talented player. But it wasn’t until Peart played in the USHL this season that it became clear that he was going to be a top NHL Draft prospect.
A strong performance with the Fargo Force of the USHL before and after his high school season drew the attention of NHL scouts, and has him in position to be selected very early in the 2021 Draft.
What I Like
-Great USHL performance
Usually when we talk about draft prospects out of the Minnesota high school ranks, it comes with the major caveat that most haven’t seen significant time playing high level junior hockey, so it’s not as clear if their game will translate against better competition. And if they do get play in the USHL, it’s usually for just a small handful of games where they don’t get a ton of ice time.
That’s not the case with Peart, who played with Fargo before and after his high school season and was a clear top pairing defenseman for a very good Force team. Peart played big minutes including power play and penalty kill. There’s a real maturity to his game that you don’t often see in players that young. Here’s an example where he makes a simple little play to spin away from pressure and then make a breakout pass. That’s something he does consistently.
It’s the same story in the offensive zone. He looks off defenders twice in this play to create something offensively. He has the ability to slow the game down and play at his own pace rather than rushing and forcing things.
That was especially important for a player like Peart who is a little smaller and plays a skill-based game to show that he is capable of translating his game to a higher level of competition.
-Balance, Skating Ability
Peart is an excellent skater. He does a great job of keeping his feet underneath himself and in position to make a play. Here’s an example of him using his feet to evade a shot blocker and get a shot through. Everything is very smooth and strong. That skating ability helps make up for the fact that he’s not huge because not only is he quick and have great escapability, but he is also very strong on his skates which allows him to fight for position and maintain control of the puck in tight-checking situations.
Peart handles the puck really well for a defenseman. He can handle difficult passes and create offense out of difficult situations. Here is a play where he bats the puck out of the air on the rush to create a scoring chance. Peart makes a lot of crafty plays like that, and does it consistently enough that it’s not by accident. He’s involved in the offense a lot and puts up pretty decent scoring numbers because of it.
What I Don’t Like
This has been an issue for just about every defenseman in the draft, so it’s not a huge deal, and I think he’s probably a little better than some of the other smaller defensemen available in the draft, but Peart could improve his play in the defensive zone. He’ll need to improve his D-zone coverage and compete a little harder for position in front of his own net going forward. It’s not a huge issue, but is definitely an area where he will need to improve.
Peart is somewhere in the range of late first round to early second round, depending on whose set of rankings you want to look at. Unless one team really likes him, the safest bet is that he slips outside of the first round but doesn’t last long into the second round. There are a lot of really good, smaller defensemen available in that range in the draft—players like Sean Behrens and Ryan Ufko among the Americans ranks—and a lot is going to come down to personal preference of the teams drafting in that range.
Peart projects as a steady offensive defenseman capable of playing consistent minutes including contributing on the power play. He probably doesn’t have top pairing upside, which is what will keep him on the fringes of the first round, but he certainly has a ceiling as a very steady NHL regular.
Peart is headed to play for St. Cloud State University next season, where he should be able to step in and make an almost immediate impact on their line-up. It may take him a little time to acclimate to the college game, but I would expect Peart to see significant ice time, especially on the power play almost right away. It’s unlikely he’s a one-and-done player with the Huskies, but if he continues to play like he has, he could potentially be ready to sign a pro contract after his sophomore season.