Photo Credit: Tyson Gray Photography
Cole Huckins is a 2021 NHL Draft eligible forward prospect, who plays for the QMJHL’s Acadie-Bathurst Titan.
Huckins grew up in Fredericton, New Brunswick and holds dual citizenship from the United States and Canada.
Prior to the QMJHL, Huckins played bantam hockey for the Fredericton Blues and prep school hockey for Stanstead College in Stanstead, Quebec. Huckins’ father, Phil Huckins had played for Stanstead when he was a youngster and was captain of the team.
Huckins was drafted 16th overall in the 2019 QMJHL Entry Draft by Acadie-Bathurst. Since joining the Titan, he has recorded 21 goals and 41 assists in a combined 87 games (Over the course of two seasons of play. Data as of March 29, 2021).
Hockey is in his DNA. We mentioned his father, Phil earlier, but Huckins has more family members who have played competitive hockey. Both of his uncles, Greg Malone and Jim Malone were drafted. Greg played several seasons in the NHL for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Hartford Whalers and Quebec Nordiques. In addition, his cousins have also played professionally and/or in the junior ranks. Brad Malone is in the Edmonton Oilers system, Brett Malone played for Moncton and Saint John in the QMJHL, Mark Malone played in the ECHL and collegiate hockey, Ryan Malone played eleven seasons in the NHL (Pittsburgh, Tampa and the New York Rangers) and Justin Moir played a few seasons in the AJHL and most recently played in the NCHL-AB.
D.O.B – May 14, 2003
Nationality – Canada
Draft Eligibility – 2021
Weight –201 lbs
Position – Center/Right Wing/Left Wing
Handedness – Left
Huckins’ Style Of Play
Throughout the season, Huckins has been playing on the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. Often, he has been paired with fellow 2021 NHL Draft eligible forward David Doucet. The third forward on the line seems to change rather consistently due to injuries. With that being said, there have been a few games where Titan head coach Mario Durocher has bumped Huckins up to his second line alongside another 2021 NHL Draft eligible forward Riley Kidney.
Aside from line placement, we have seen Huckins switch from center to wing and he’s been quite versatile with his wing placement. There are games where he lines up on the left side and games where he is on the right side. If you’ve watched quite a bit of QMJHL hockey this year, you’ll notice that his versatility is very similar to that of Robert Orr of the Halifax Mooseheads.
Huckins has power forward instincts and is often seen aggressively hunting after the puck on the forecheck. When going after loose pucks in the offensive zone, Huckins deploys a lengthy stride to gather speed and uses it to hustle after the puck. Given his size, if he loses the initial chase to the puck, he can put up a solid battle immediately after to trap the defender.
While I wouldn’t say that Huckins’ puck manipulation is one of the best in the 2021 class, it is important to note that he is good at drawing attackers in. He will tempt them into coming closer to him and will use that to his advantage. In a game against the Saint John Sea Dogs, I noticed Huckins playing the puck out towards Sea Dogs defenseman Charlie DesRoches. He drew DesRoches in and thus opened up ice for Huckins’ winger. Huckins fed a backhand pass to the winger. DesRoches moved over to the wing and that allowed Huckins to free up and move towards the net without pressure. At this point, the winger feeds a pass back to Huckins and now Huckins is net front with absolutely no pressure. DesRoches is tied up with the winger and it’s just Huckins and the opposing goaltender. Not only does Huckins use puck manipulation to key up a give-and-go, but he will also sell the opposition on him moving the puck through the slot, but instead he buys himself room and skates up the boards to the net. By using puck manipulation, he buys himself time and space from the defender.
From an offensive production perspective, Huckins isn’t a playmaker. Given his power forward tendencies, he fights hard for the puck, but isn’t someone who will thread the needle with intricate passes in tight lanes. However, his passing ability is strong and if need be can fire a saucer diagonal pass from perimeter/point to the other side of the zone. On the power play, he tends to push play closer to the net and will often be seen passing the puck up the boards. In his eight primary assists this season, only two of them have been tape-to-tape feeds. Below is an example of one of Huckins’ primary assists, which led to a rebound goal for Ben Allison.
On the rush in the offensive zone, Huckins will occasionally struggle with over-powering the last defender. But, he does have good use of the body to outmuscle attackers to gain puck possession. Ultimately, he needs to work on his upper body strength and hone in on how he needs to exert his strength to push past defenders.
When it comes to his shot, he is most successful at net-front. You will see Huckins try shooting from distance, but a decent percentage of his shots from medium danger and low danger tend to miss the mark. Given his power forward playing style, it makes a lot of sense that Huckins likes to attack the net. The majority of his goals have been deflection/tip-in and rebound goals.
Below is a screenshot from InStat Hockey of Cole Huckins’ goal map. As we mentioned above, his success his come at net-front and he has only scored one goal outside of high danger this season.
Defensively, Huckins’ strongest attribute is his grit. He plays a strong physical game along the boards and in the corners. He doesn’t shy away from open ice hits to generate turnovers/defensive recoveries. While he is quite physical, it should be noted that his poke-checking ability is strong too. Huckins has good reach with his stick and can catch you off guard by coming behind the puck carrier and stealing the puck from him. He will also use his poke-checking and good reach to his advantage in the neutral zone by stealing pucks off the rush.
Even though Huckins, is quite sound from a turnover perspective, when you watch Titans games, you will notice that due to the versatility of Huckins that he sometimes tries to be all over the defensive zone. Also, he has a tendency to the be the last forward back into the defensive zone. Given some of his defensive struggles and his physical style of play, I would highly recommend using him at wing in the future. If you plug him in at wing, he has far less to concern himself with in the defensive zone. He has to patrol the boards and keep pucks in low danger using his physicality. If you overcomplicate where you want him to be, that will cause his defensive development to slow down a tad.
From a transitional perspective, Huckins prefers to pass the puck to complete zone entries/exits. He is not someone who completes a lot of controlled zone-to-zone entries. Instead, as mentioned above, he loves passing the puck in transition and will lean on his backhand passing especially when facing pressure from an attacker. Huckins will shift the puck from forehand to backhand and find an open teammate. He will also use stretch passing to drive the transition, but sometimes he’s a little inconsistent when completing a stretch pass. When Huckins has control of the puck right at the blue-line, don’t be surprised if he dumps the puck in. He has an affinity for dumping the puck in and then chasing after the puck against the opposing defender.
Huckins’ stick-handling is an area that needs further development. There are moments where he struggles to hold onto the puck and will play the puck too far in front of him. Huckins just needs to be mindful of how far out he plays the puck as it could lead to vulnerable situations if it pops up in the defensive or neutral zone.
His puck control will improve when he shortens the distance of the puck from his body and when he rounds out development on his reach when carrying the puck. I like his reachability when he doesn’t have control of the puck, but with it, he will struggle at times.
Huckins’ skating can be strong at times. When chasing after the puck in the offensive zone, you will see him use a lengthier stride initially to accelerate. But, his skating stride length isn’t always consistent. There are times where Huckins won’t complete a full stride. It’s somewhere between Huckins coasting and a stride. If you want to compare it another prospect, his skating reminds me of New Jersey Devils prospect Dawson Mercer. Both, Mercer and Huckins have shown inconsistency in stride length. There are moments where they start off with two lengthy strides to generate speed and shorten up on the stride once they have the necessary acceleration. But, there are moments, where they don’t complete a full stride and extend their skate a little bit outwards when on the hunt.
The other skating issue for Huckins is that he has a bit of a heavy foot. This means that he is less agile on his feet and edges/crossovers can be challenging at times. For instance, sometimes, you will see Huckins use his edges and/or crossovers to complete a turn, but once he has completed the turn and wants to come to a full stop, he will sometimes use the boards to push off of to keep him upright.
While there are some areas to work on with his skating, with proper development, I’m not concerned about his ability to improve his stride. We have seen instances where he can light up his skates and skate fast to the puck. It’s just consistency that is an issue.
Jason Chimera, Left Wing, Retired (Played for the Washington Capitals, Columbus Blue Jackets, New York Islanders, Edmonton Oilers and Anaheim Ducks)
Like Jason Chimera, Huckins is a strong power forward with good physicality and someone who can can generate speed easily when hunting for the puck. Also, a lot of Chimera’s offensive production came at net-front. From 2015 to 2018, all but one of Chimera’s goals came in high danger situations.
Bottom Six NHL Forward
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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