Photo from Aaron Bell/CHL, Terry Wilson/OHL Images
A lot can change in three years.
In 2017-18, Cuylle was highly regarded as a powerhouse forward in the GTHL. Every time he hit the ice with the Toronto Marlboros, Cuylle was an immediate scoring threat, leading the OHL Cup with 12 points to beat out the likes of Cole Perfetti, Jamie Drysdale and Quinton Byfield. Peterborough selected Cuylle third overall despite heavy rumors that he wouldn’t commit to the franchise, and that was the case. The Petes shipped him out to Windsor for a whopping nine draft picks to help set them Peterborough up for the future, while Cuylle was set to lead the Spitfires back to glory.
That never happened. Cuylle’s career started well with 26 goals and 41 points as a rookie, , good to earn him a spot on the OHL’s second all-rookie team. Cuylle then had an impactful performance at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup last August, further adding to the belief that Cuylle’s sophomore effort was going to be a smash hit and push him into first-round consideration. Instead, Cuylle couldn’t regain his scoring magic in Windsor, didn’t see much improvement in the scoring department, falling to 22 goals but improving to 42 points in 62 games, with a full-season projection placing him around 45-46. His 0.42 primary points-per-60 at even strength was 20th among draft-eligible OHL prospects with at least 30 games played, per Pick22 – not spectacular from a prospect once seen as one of the most gifted prospects from the 2002-birth year.
D.O.B – February 5, 2002
Nationality – Canada
Draft Eligibility – 2020
Weight –201 lbs
Position – Left Wing
Handedness – Left
Cuylle’s Style Of Play
The team that selects Cuylle is getting a tough power-forward that likes to shoot and isn’t afraid to get frisky to help his team out. There are still a lot of raw aspects to his game and his lack of overall improvement in his second OHL season left a lot to be desired, but if he can tap in and round out the deficiencies in his game while working on his game-to-game consistency, Cuylle could be a steal in the third round as long as the team is willing to be patient and give him every opportunity to succeed. Let’s take a deeper look at the on-ice stylings of Cuylle’s game:
Cuylle’ Style Of Play
So why were scouts so enamored in Cuylle’s game from an early age? It all traces back to his lethal shot, one that already had a major junior-caliber trait before he ever skated in the OHL. This far along in his development, the term “NHL shot” is now being used to describe his game, but what does that mean? In Cuylle’s case, it’s how he exemplifies power and accuracy while playing at a high speed. The term “effortless” is often overused to describe a strong shooter, but he doesn’t need much time or space with a release to achieve a desirable result. Cuylle’s sweet spot has been in the mid-slot, though, likely due to the extra distance to the net that allows for his wrist shot to truly flourish and hit max velocity.
In my opinion, to have an “NHL-quality shot”, you need to be able to A) be proficient with different shot types (wrist, slap, snap, etc.), B) be quick, deceptive and powerful. That’s how I’d describe Cuylle’s ability to shoot pucks, and that’s one of the reasons why scouts love to see him have the puck.
Of his 200 shots this season, Cuylle’s 167 even-strength attacks was good for third among draft-year OHL players behind noted goal-scorers James Hardie and Cole Perfetti, but his 8.98 shooting percentage placed him in 54th among skaters with at least 30 games played. His overall shooting percentage of 11 percent was good for 44th, so while his shot is considered a strength of his, converting on it hasn’t been a successful aspect of his game, and a big reason why scouts have been disappointed about his overall development after falling from 26 goals as a rookie to 22 as a sophomore. That would be one thing if the Spitfires struggled this season, but in six fewer games than last year, Windsor had nine more victories and 40 more goals, so you can see why the dip in goals is concerning to many, especially with a stout playmaker in Jean-Luc Foudy down the middle.
A big rising aspect of Cuylle’s game is his willingness to play a physical game, and given that his offensive consistency has been an issue, that’s a positive for a player who might fit better in a bottom-sox role. He’s always been considered a power forward and has a good frame at 6-foot-3 and 204 pounds, but he truly found a way to refine his physicality in the past year. When he hits, he hits to make an impact, and does a splendid job giving his team momentum with a crushing blow to an opponent. Cuylle is no stranger to dropping the gloves, but his fight against Donovan Sebrango – someone he tangled with in the past – at the CHL Top Prospects Game showed how quick he can be when landing punches.
Will Cuylle is a great power forward prospect. Look at these three hits.— Josh Tessler (@JoshTessler_) January 24, 2020
🎥 – @Sportsnet#2020NHLDraft | @FCHockey pic.twitter.com/SfIssiGX42
Cuylle is a competent skater that uses his strong legs to hit his top speed quickly, which is important for a bigger prospect. His top speed isn’t anything worth getting excited about, but in quick spurts, Cuylle can handle his own. In fact, his overall skating build is miles ahead of what it was even a year ago, but that’s because it was a hinderance at the time. The positive, though, is that he showed enough improvement this year to the point where, by the time he has a shot at the pro game, it could end up being a strength of his.
If you’re looking for someone to drive the action – and not ever prospect is capable of that – Cuylle is not your guy. It was often that you’d find Cuylle playing a more passive game compared to Foudy on the ice, waiting around for a pass instead of trying to make further opportunities for himself. When he’s on his game, Cuylle does a good job of putting himself into a scoring position and drawing defenders out of position, but you’d like to see a more constant effort to build consisttency. Since he’s not the most active puck mover on the ice, he’s seen more as a complentary forward and won’t be someone that’s going to change a game for you. Again, that’s fine – you don’t typically have three players on a line that are all considered to be line-drivers, but there are too many nights where you forget he ever hit the ice. That was especially apparent when he had just one goal in the first 13 games and highlighted further by his seven-game pointless drought in February – he needs to ensure that he’s willing to win every puck battle all the time.
Defensively, Cuylle holds his own quite well. Since he likes to get physical, he can win the battles along the boards to get the puck out of his zone and is one of the more effective stick-lifters I’ve followed this season. Since he’s got good strength to play with, he doesn’t allow his opponents to spend too much time with the puck because Cuylle will find a way to retrieve it. Again, game-to-game consistency is still a need for improvement, but it’s not a downside of his overall game.
Tom Wilson, RW, Washington Capitals
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