With their 95th overall selection in the 2022 NHL Draft, the Maple Leafs have selected a second consecutive Canadian forward — this time out of the USHL — in 5’10, 170-pound Mississauga native Nicholas Moldenhauer of the Chicago Steel.

Moldenhauer was a first-round draft pick of the Ottawa 67s in 2020 but opted to take the USHL route to play a full schedule within a good development program on one of the best teams in the league in the Chicago Steel. The Maple Leafs‘ history with and ties to the Steel organization are strong through Assistant General Manager Ryan Hardy, who used to manage the Steel in the USHL before joining the fold with the Marlies.

The right-shot winger  — who has played some center, but more safely projects on the wall — tallied more than a point-per-game with 18 goals and 43 points in 41 games. He also added three points in four games for Team Canada at the U18 World Championships.

Moldenhauer managed relatively strong production despite significant health-related adversity to start the year, including a bout of mononucleosis that delayed his start to the season followed by a terrifying freak injury in his first game of the year — he had the right side of his face sliced open by a skate, creating a wound that required surgery, a blood transfusion, and 175 stitches to repair.

The fact that Moldenhauer was starting his season at such a disadvantage in terms of his physical health and game shape makes the numbers — third in points per game among players with at least 20 GP — look more impressive. He posted 24 points in the final 15 games of the season, form he carried over with Team Canada at the U18s, where he played with Steel teammate Adam Fantilli on Canada’s second line.

Tenacity, work ethic, two-way play, and a willingness to play in the hard areas to score are considered strengths of Moldenhauer, who has work to do on his skating to reach the next level.

Moldenhauer is not currently committed to an NCAA program, and according to McKeen’s Hockey, there is the option to end up in the OHL with the Sarnia Sting, who acquired his rights from the 67s last Fall. The OHL would put him on a faster track to potentially joining the AHL Marlies than the NCAA route, but there are also several college programs currently under consideration for Moldenhauer and his family. For 2022-23, it sounds most likely he’ll be returning for another season of development in the USHL with the Steel.

Nicholas Moldenhauer pre-draft rankings:

  • Ranked #53 by ELITEPROSPECTS.COM
  • Ranked #75 by MCKEEN’S HOCKEY
  • Ranked #72 by TSN/CRAIG BUTTON
  • Ranked #39 by NHL CENTRAL SCOUTING (NA Skaters)

Nicholas Moldenhauer Scouting Report

courtesy of the 2022 Blackbook (BUY NOW)

A hardworking winger. A 2020 first-round pick of the Ottawa 67’s (OHL), Nick Moldenhauer put himself in a better position to enjoy a full draft-eligible season by joining the Chicago Steel of the USHL. The move seems to have been a positive one; he gets good minutes on what has been a perennial powerhouse club. He has lined up at both right-wing and center over the course of the season, but it seems pretty clear he ought to be a winger at any level above this.

Moldenhauer isn’t a particularly deft distributor of the puck. His playmaking vision is below average and this is really exacerbated by his timing. He’s just off-beat too often on when to release a pass and when a player would expect to receive a pass. This is all augmented by inconsistent passing accuracy.

On the flip side, even his pass acceptance is below the level of a good pro prospect. He routinely doesn’t seem ready for passes, especially in sudden change and breakout situations.

To his credit, his goal-scoring instincts are stronger. He’s a willing competitor near the net and he also really drives the cage. For a 5’10”, 170-pound winger who isn’t very fast, he finds a way to get corner on defensemen and take it to the hole whenever he can. He has a few really nice goals of this variety where he ends up at the far post.

He has a unique-looking skating stride and mechanics. Moldenhauer has a bit of a wider base and a shorter stride. It doesn’t look very natural, and the power seems to really vary at times. Oddly, it really seems like steps two and three are the power steps in the series. His first-step quickness doesn’t exhibit a lot of explosive capabilities and his speed on the top end (steps four, five, etc.) is average at very best.

The thing that’s really tough to overcome on a player like him is his suspect change of direction skating and turns. A smaller, hard-working player really needs to be crisp on his edges and be able to mirror the movement of his check closely. Nick hasn’t shown that he’s up to the task yet in this regard. His wide turning radius lacks any comfort in terms of getting off of his center line, nor can he effectively cross over through the motion with any confidence.

His lack of change of direction skating shows itself best when he’s monitoring point men in his defensive zone. He over-skates plenty of defensive situations. He commits too hard and gets his upper body way out in front of him, and it takes away from his balance and sudden change-ability.

Moldenhauer does show flashes of some really quick hands in tight. He’s not afraid to challenge players one on one; it doesn’t always work out in his favour, but there’s a willingness. If he had one more element to his game – whether it would be better feet or better hockey sense – it would lead to a lot more success in the deke department.

He does possess one really good move that he relies on a lot. He has a nice little stutter-step move off of pressure. It’s sort of a half-step misdirection with a head and shoulder fake, which then turns into a jab step out the other way, stick-led, with his back to pressure for the getaway. It’s an effective move for getting off the wall if he has to pick the puck up off the kick plate and wants to get back into the interior of the rink.

While he doesn’t have much trouble scoring, it’s not because his shot is overpowering; it’s only about average– maybe a little above — but again, the work ethic helps a lot in this regard.

Unfortunately, the death knell for us in all this is Moldenhauer’s anticipation and read-react ability. We talked about the timing of his passes (passing and receiving) above, but there’s also a big weakness in his spatial awareness. He doesn’t maximize space on either side of the puck. As a result of this, it’s not rare to see him end up in another player’s zone of control following the puck around and then make eye contact with his teammate (or otherwise notice) and realize that this isn’t where he’s supposed to be – or, at least, it’s not his best utilization.

Another area where we see this rear its head is in rush offense situations where he’s not the puck carrier. Attacks should generate width and depth off of a clean entry right away, and the Mississauga native doesn’t always recognize his role in creating that.

As noted, he’s below average in size, but we’d expect a player of his work rate to be more involved physically. He eats far more hits than he dishes out.

GM Kyle Dubas on Nicholas Moldenhauer

We know he is going to be in a good program for a year. Ryan [Hardy] is heavily connected there. It has been a connection that has paid off for us quite well in the past.

He has a huge decision to make with his school. That is a personal decision for Nicholas and his family, but more importantly than the Chicago piece perhaps is that the schools that are involved are all high-end programs. That makes us feel very good about what his options are going to be developmentally over the next number of years.

I don’t know how much of the story he shared with you, but he had a very difficult start to the season with an illness. In the first game back on the second shift, he got one of the more gruesome cuts that you’ll see to a player. I think that impacted his year and his draft slot.

Now it is just about continuing to do the work and get back to the player that he has been, which he showed at the U18 with Canada, in my opinion, and then flying back and playing with Chicago in the playoffs.

Nicholas Moldenhauer Video

Nicholas Moldenhauer Statistics

2018-19Toronto Titans U15 AAAGTHL U15------|
2019-20Toronto Titans U16 AAAGTHL U16332316396-|Playoffs76394-0
Toronto Titans U16 AAAU16 AAA63457712216-|
2020-21North Jersey Avalanche 16U AAAAYHL 16U131518332-|
Chicago SteelUSHL60220-2|Playoffs300000
2021-22Chicago SteelUSHL41182543416|Playoffs31122-2
Canada U18WJC-18412300|
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