With their second fourth-round pick in the 2019 draft (acquired from St. Louis in the Nikita Soshnikov trade), the Toronto Maple Leafs have selected their first overage player of the draft in 5’9, 163-pound forward Nick Abruzzese.

Abruzzese, a 1999-birthdate who has been passed over twice in the 2017 and 2018 drafts, is the third under-sized left-shot forward the Leafs have taken in their first four picks of the 2019 entry draft. Even as a 20-year-old third-time eligible, the New York native is among the more physically slight players in the draft.

A late bloomer who played his full AAA eligibility before joining the North Jersey Avalanche of the T1EHL, Abruzzese lit it up offensively in his second USHL season for the Chicago Steel in 2018-19 with 29 goals and 80 points in 62 games, capturing the USHL scoring title this season. An assistant captain for the Steel, he also led the team in scoring in the playoffs with seven goals and 14 points in 11 games.

The Leafs are taking a shot at the upside and the late-bloomer factor here; NHL Central Scouting moved Abruzzese up 78 spots to #122 among North American skaters from its midterm rankings to the final rankings this Spring. This is a kid that has been very slow to mature physically but has proven himself a highly-skilled, highly-productive playmaker and a capable finisher at the American junior level. A good skater and competitor with a high hockey IQ, he will need to get to work on his training and develop his hockey strength when he joins his Harvard University NCAA program this Fall.


Director of Amateur Scouting John Lilley on Nick Abruzzese

Smart. He is a ’99 who had a breakthrough season playing in Chicago in the USHL. He led the league in scoring. He’s a smart player who is going to Harvard. Obviously, he’s an intelligent human being. Driven. He’s under-developed for a ’99. When you look at him, you’d think he is an ’01. He’s an older kid, but he still has room to grow and mature physically. Again, an intelligent human being and an intelligent hockey player.


Nick Abruzzese Scouting Report

An excerpt from HockeyProspect.com’s 2019 Blackbook:

Abruzzese has above average footwork and directional skating that allows him to play an up-tempo style and excels at making plays with the puck as he enters the offensive zone. Nick is a crafty playmaker that shows good patience and buys time for his forwards to come into the zone and can adjust to what the defense does on the fly… Abruzzese is more of a passer and playmaking center than a goal scorer as his shot isn’t going to beat a lot of NHL goalies one on one right now. Nick scores a lot of his goals in traffic, or in opportunistic odd man situations.

… Away from the puck, Abruzzese shows a good compete level but he still has a ways to go in the strength department. Even as a 99 birthdate, he has a slight frame that keeps him from winning puck battles consistently and he can get pushed around along the walls and in front of the net. Abruzzese has the skill and skating to have a chance to play at the professional level, but much of it will depend on how he develops physically and if he is able to handle the rigors of pro hockey and potentially the NHL night in a night out.


Nick Abruzzese Statistics

STeamLeagueGPGATPPIM+/- POSTGPGATPPIM+/-
2012-13New Jersey Colonials Bantam MinAYMBHL3117294612|
2014-15North Jersey Avalanche 16UAYHL 16U2286148|
Westchester Express 16UEJEPL 16U1555100|
2015-16North Jersey Avalanche 16UAYHL 16U2422133516|Playoffs52680
North Jersey Avalanche U16T1EHL U16321713306|Playoffs52024
2016-17North Jersey Avalanche U18T1EHL U183218254310|Playoffs50330
North Jersey Avalanche 18UAYHL 18U171118296|Playoffs10110
New Jersey Junior TitansNAHL41010-3|
2017-18Chicago SteelUSHL5613233612-4|Playoffs71342-1
2018-19Chicago Steel “A”USHL6229518020-1|Playoffs11771408
2019-20Harvard Univ.NCAA-----|

Nick Abruzzese Video