Steven Ellis/The Hockey News
A lot can change in two years.
The 2018 OHL draft had quite the group. Quinton Byfield was the cream of the crop, while Jamie Drysdale, Cole Perfetti and a host of other top 2020 NHL draft prospects (and potential 2021 No. 1 pick Owen Power) all went early. The draft had no shortage of high-quality players to choose from, and many have remained top prospects in the following years.
But one name from draft day sticks out: Stephen Halliday. Halliday was selected No. 1 overall by Central Illinois in the USHL draft and subsequently made an early commitment to the NCAA’s University of North Dakota. His USHL rookie season was a struggle, and after 10 goals and 34 points, Halliday found himself moving to the Dubuque Fighting Saints after Central Illinois called it quits at the end of the 2018-19 season. Halliday played on a strong Fighting Saints club, highlighted by twins Ty and Dylan Jackson, but Halliday only improved to 38 points. Among draft-eligible prospects in the USHL, Halliday’s 0.56 primary points-per-game average places him 15th, with his points-per-game average of 0.83 putting him in ninth.
Offensively, there was nothing special about Halliday’s season. But why is he still worth your attention? If anyone is going to rebound and offer tremendous value late in the draft, it’s someone who, within the past few years, was considered one of the best players in the age group. There’s still a long road to the top for Halliday, but some scouts still seem excited about what Halliday brings to the table.
Let’s take a closer look at what makes Halliday intriguing:
D.O.B – July 02, 2002
Nationality – Canada
Draft Eligibility – 2020
Height – 6’4
Weight – 220 lbs
Position – Left Wing
Handedness – Left
Halliday’s Style Of Play
On the surface, Halliday is a prototypical power forward. At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Halliday’s size is intriguing in a middle-six role. Over the past few years, Halliday has honed his ability to use his strength to push players around the boards, but there’s still room for improvement. Physical play isn’t a top trait of Halliday’s game, but he moves the puck at a high rate and is very tough to steal the disk off of – exactly what you’re looking for out of a future third-line forward. A downside of his size is that he’s not a great skater, especially in regards to top speed. He carries a lot of weight around and can lose 1-on-1 battles as a result and instead has to rely on his physicality. Halliday did take some steps to improve his skating, but it’s still a work in progress.
Halliday is an unselfish forward, often looking to set his teammates over taking a shot himself. Halliday drives the play by using his size to intimidate opponents and open up opportunities with his patience. He’d be more effective on a consistent level if his skating could keep up with his desired playstyle, but that’s something he’ll improve as his game evolves – especially when playing against NCAA talent.
Halliday’s offensive game still needs further advancement. He does most of his damage around the net – of his 13 goals, eight of them came just in front of the crease. But that’s a role that Halliday has been stapled to from the get-go. In Central Illinois, Halliday was almost exclusively used in the same vein as Troy Brouwer and David Backes a decade ago – a role that’s been essentially phased out in today’s NHL. Coaches prefer more active styles that allow for creativity around the crease and less of just a big body taking up space.
Image Credit – InStat Hockey
I’d like to see Halliday show more confidence in his shot – it’s impressive when he uses it, but he had just 103 shots throughout the season. But when he shoots, he knows exactly where he wants it to go and can fool goalies with quick shots from tough angles. When he gets moving, Halliday is determined to put the puck in the net at all costs and his strength carrying the disk allows him to capitalize on wrap-around opportunities and win scrambles in front of the crease, which is why he scores so often from in close. You just simply aren’t going to have an easy time defending Halliday in his favorite spot.
If you’re looking for someone that’s flashy and capable of being the best forward on the ice every shift, Halliday is not your man. If you’re looking for someone with untapped talent with a big chance to impress with a late draft selection, you can’t go wrong with Halliday.
Tage Thompson, Right Wing, Buffalo Sabres
Thompson’s NHL career to date has been rocky, whether it be due to getting rushed to the NHL or injuries limiting his action, but Thompson is still someone with value in Buffalo’s bottom six. Thompson has a big frame that allows him to carry the puck for prolonged periods without losing possession and can be an exceptional passer.
Stats from InStat Hockey and Elite Prospects.
This prospect report was written by Steven Ellis. If you would like to follow Steven on Twitter, his handle is @StevenEllisNHL.
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