Photo Credit – Olympiques de Gatineau
Zach Dean is a 2021 NHL Draft eligible prospect and plays for the QMJHL’s Gatineau Olympiques. He was born in Grand Prairie, Alberta (northwest of Edmonton and roughly an hour and a half drive time from Dawson Creek, British Columbia).
Eventually, the Dean family moved to Mount Pearl, Newfoundland and Dean played youth hockey for Mount Pearl MHA. After his time with Mount Pearl MHA, he played for Tri Com Bantam of the NLBAAAHL and the GTHL’s Toronto Nationals U16 AAA.
He was selected fourth overall in the QMJHL Entry Draft by Gatineau and completed his QMJHL debut season last year (2019-2020). In 57 games played, he tallied 18 goals and 28 assists.
This past season, Dean has played in 20 games for Gatineau and has recorded ten goals and ten assists. He missed four games at the beginning of the season due to a wrist injury.
D.O.B – January 4, 2003
Nationality – Canada
Draft Eligibility – 2021
Weight –176 lbs
Position – Center
Handedness – Left
Dean’s Style Of Play
Dean is a playmaker with strong stick-handling skills, a good power stride and a solid backhand shot.
When you watch Dean’s game-tape, you will notice immediately that he is a quality stick-handler and can complete windmill stick-handling with ease. He will often utilize his stick-handling each and every shift. In the offensive zone, Dean will use his stick-handling in anticipation of complete a tape-to-tape pass, in medium danger situations where he is trying to cut past the last defender to get into a high danger situation and to frustrate the opposing goaltender and catch him off guard. With that being said, his reach when stick-handling is limited and if he tries to push the puck further out he will have puck security issues. Also, if Dean tries to get a little fancy and flashy with his stick-handling, he will cough up the puck. There have been instances where Dean will attempt to dangle through his legs, but will fail to recapture the puck afterwards due to his limitations with his reach.
Given his affinity for stick-handling, it makes a lot of sense that Dean tends to favor backhand shooting and backhand passing. In fact, most of his shots from down low are backhand shots. Dean has range on his backhand and he can get backhands shots from medium danger on net. Prior to shooting, you will see Dean complete a windmill, get the puck on his backhand and then try his luck. Earlier on in the 2020-2021 season, we saw Dean use multiple windmills against the Shawinigan Cataractes to throw the goaltender off and the find the five hole for a backhand shot goal. While he does take a lot of backhand shots from the perimeter towards the low slot, he does opt to take plenty of wrist and snap shots from low danger. At low danger, he will take plenty of wrist and snap shots, but his selection is far from perfect. He often will choose moments in which he is facing tough pressure and should pivot out or button hook, but instead he will take an ill-advised shot. The majority of his low danger shots don’t get a ton of elevation and the goaltender can make a clean stop.
One of the areas that needs further development is his decision-making. Sometimes Dean will see three teammates battling in the corner of the defensive zone for the puck and instead of planting himself at center ice to eliminate a potential open lane, he will join the party which could lead to his opposition scoring should they win the puck battle and find a teammate in the slot. Dean also faces challenges with quick thinking. If a defenseman slides in front of him, he stumbles and carries the puck towards low danger instead of using his stick-handling skills to evade the defender and skate towards the doorstep.
When it comes to his transitional game, it’s pretty solid. Given Dean’s power stride and crossovers, it typically takes three lengthy extensions for him to generate top speed. So, if Dean is not facing a tremendous amount of pressure in the neutral zone, he can navigate through with ease. But, when facing tighter pressure, he will struggle. He will test his reach and motion the puck further out to stick-handle around traffic, but due to puck security he has challenges with keeping possession. Dean will also have challenges with his edges, especially when using his inside edge to make a quick pivot and turn. Aside from his edges, Dean does struggle on the rush when facing pressure from a defender who is bigger than him. He will struggle to out-muscle the defender and lose possession of the puck along the boards. The goal should be for Dean to work on his upper body strength and further develop his reach. If he does, his stick-handling skill-set will only lead to plenty of successful rushes.
His defensive game is another area that needs further development. He will struggle at executing pressure and often will give up too much room for his opposition to take advantage. Dean needs to exert more pressure in the neutral zone and defensive zone. If not, it will only lead to many scoring chances for his opponents.
From a passing perspective, as I noted above, he will use his stick-handling as part of his wind-up in tape-to-tape passes. But, on occasion, you will see Dean approach a pass as if he is completing a snap shot. He will extend the leg and gather power, but will over-shoot the intended target. But for the most past, his passing is pretty crisp and will sometimes look to utilize his backhand in transition. He will look to make quick backhand zone exit passes.
In the offensive zone, he is quick to puck battles and can hold his own in battles against players with a similar frame. But, when in control of the puck, he likes to carry the puck around the back of the net, go to the right ride, drop a well-timed pass and shift back to the left side of the offensive zone. Given Dean’s stick-handling ability and speed, once he gains some upper-body strength and adds to his reach, he could be a handful on the cycle.
Ryan Spooner, Center/Left Wing, Dinamo Minsk, Played for four NHL clubs (Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks)
Spooner and Dean are very similar in size. During his junior hockey days, it was evident that Spooner needed to beef up his strength, but he came in clutch with his backhand shot and stick-handling. While a Spooner comparison might seem to be an eye-opener given that he is now playing in the KHL, it shouldn’t be. Spooner had the necessary fundamentals to be a successful top nine forward in the NHL, but concussions changed the way that Spooner approached the game. I just want to be very transparent as I’m not saying that Dean’s NHL career will be as short as Spooner’s.
Top Nine Center (NHL).
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Josh Tessler. If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @JoshTessler_.
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