The NHL Draft is less than 18 days away…can you feel the excitement? The Leafs won’t be landing Taylor Hall, but it doesn’t mean they can’t grab another talented young forward from the Windsor Spitfires, today’s feature player: Justin Shugg. Justin’s a local kid from Niagara Falls who has been a key cog in for the most powerful offense in Canadian Major Junior, enjoying a 39 goal, 79 point breakout season in the Ontario Hockey League. Word around the scouting circles is that the Leafs are deeply interested in his services, as are the Atlanta Thrashers.
Strengths: Justin is described as a very solid all-around player who works hard, plays at both ends of the ice, and possesses good hands and above average offensive instincts. After being selected in the first round of the OHL draft, he struggled to establish himself in the league and was quickly dealt to the Spitfires. Shugg began to show flashes of considerable upside sporadically throughout last season, but finally put it all together this year. He’s improved by leaps and bounds in virtually every aspect of his game, and has the work ethic and character to continue that trend during his ascent to the pro ranks. Those of you who followed the London-Windsor series may remember him as the kid who battled valiantly in front of the London net and created all sorts of trouble for the Knights’ defense, despite being undersized.
Weaknesses: Like I mentioned above, yes this is unfortunately another kid who’s just a bit on the small end of the measuring tape. He stands at roughly 5’11 and 185 lbs, but this is a 2 inch improvement from early last season. The size could be a potential concern, but he is quite strong on his skates and plays with a low center of gravity, especially when parking himself in front of the net. The other issue here is a bit of an awkward skating stride which limits his ability to accelerate quickly, but the top end speed likely grades out as average.
Long-Term Upside: There’s a lot to like about Shugg’s game as he contributes in many ways all over the ice. He consistently puts in 110% every night, so it’s a fairly safe bet that he’ll be able to reach his ceiling as a hardworking two-way player with underrated offensive ability. The ceiling itself isn’t particularly high because Justin doesn’t possess any standout skills or intriguing long-term physical projection, especially when you factor in the late birthday, but this is one of those players that forms the heart and soul of a championship calibre team.
Draft Day: NHL Central Scouting currently has Shugg pegged as the 53rd best North American skater in the draft, projecting him to go somewhere in the 3rd round. However, even E.J. Mcguire himself has noted that Justin’s impressive Memorial Cup run for Windsor may have elevated his stock considerably enough that he may hear his name called somewhere in the 2nd round. If the Leafs try to move up a little, this could be the kid they target.