Photo Credit: Rena Laverty
Scouting Report written by Austin Garrett
Fast becoming one of the more polarizing players in the public scouting sphere: Seamus Casey serves as a prime example of the NHL’s goal to expand hockey into the American Southeast. Hailing from Miami, Florida and playing his last year before the NTDP for the Florida Alliance u16 team: Casey has been a much hyped defenseman for the better part of three years. He has committed to play for the University of Michigan with an expected enrollment in the 2022-23 year.
Playing for the USNTDP certainly has its perks as a NHL draft prospect including high-end coaching, development, and training facilities. Players get to play against USHL teams but also against some of the best NCAA teams, as well as represent the United States in international tournaments culminating in the IIHF u18 championships. Not to mention that their teammates are widely regarded as the best players in the United States in their age group.
It also has some drawbacks when evaluating players for the NHL draft. The NTDP, being a developmental program, spreads out the minutes of their players pretty evenly across all situations. Lines and defensive pairings are often scrambled throughout the season with roles and situations having to be adjusted to for developmental purposes. Casey has had multiple different defensive partners in my viewings. He primarily played on his strong side with Tyler Duke, but he also spent periods of time with Lane Hutson, and played on his off-hand side playing with Charlie Leddy for a game.
Compared to most top defensemen in North America playing for teams outside the NTDP: Casey’s minutes are much less than the top defensemen playing in the CHL. Compared to most of the top defensemen that Casey will be compared to in this class in North America he is averaging just over 16 minutes a game and just under a minute and forty seconds of power play time a game this season according to InStat. Of the North American defensemen I’ve been watching who could warrant a first round pick, this is about 6 minutes less of ice time and a minute less of power play time per game that Casey gets on average, with some of the CHL defensemen receiving anywhere from 24-30 minutes a night.
This isn’t to excuse Seamus Casey from any point production metrics, but rather to put into context the developmental system and program he currently plays in rather than a “playing for a championship” type of team in the CHL/USHL.
D.O.B – January 8, 2004
Nationality – USA
Draft Eligibility – 2022
Weight –161 lbs
Handedness – Right
Casey’s Style of Play
Seamus Casey possesses three skills that are truly, if not the best, then one of the best in this draft class for a defenseman. He has exceptional edges, pivots, and deception techniques, he is one of the best at scanning and identifying plays before they happen at both ends of the ice, and his puck handling is of an elite nature. Given these three skills it would seem that Casey would have no problem generating offense from the backend, and that he would be a very aggressive and puck-dominant force in transition. However, Casey is surprisingly passive in the offensive zone and defers to passing, and not carrying, the puck in transition and especially in offensive zone entries.
In the offensive zone Casey typically stays high at the blue line and will, occasionally, dive or scissor into the play when a forward comes up the wall on his side. When the puck is down low on his side he will position himself as an outlet high on the blueline, but when the puck is on the opposite side and below the goal line he will make himself an option at between the faceoff dots if the opportunity arises.
When receiving pucks at the blue line Casey does a few things very well. For one he is always scanning the offensive zone, and when players are open and with a clear passing lane Casey is great at hitting them in both low and dangerous areas of the ice.
When he chooses to activate off the blue line is where Casey’s offensive game can take you out of your chair. He has an elite ability to be both deceptive and laterally explosive to beat an oncoming defender with his puck skill and footwork with his edges. Once he gets around that defender his head is up and he realizes odd-man advantages around the ice to make optimal plays. When he scissors (like in the play below) or dives into the zone he is equally just as dangerous. His quick Gretzky turns create ample space for him to find passing lanes or enough space for him to stick handle into the dangerous parts of the ice.
On the power play Casey facilitates well from the top of the NTDP’s 1-3-1 structure. There isn’t much movement that the NTDP utilizes when he is on the power play and thus he serves as a facilitator at the point. His passing is both accurate and deceptive. He shifts his body and eyes one way and quickly moves the defense before reversing the puck to the opposite direction. He is excellent at keeping the puck in the zone when opposing players try to clear as he is often two steps ahead of opposing penalty killers on where they’re trying to ice the puck.
Casey’s offensive issues almost all center around a lack of lack of separation speed and his pension for passing the puck into areas that will lead to an uncontrolled entry/exit or low danger shot. The clip below is just a minor example of Casey preemptively deciding to take a low danger shot instead of identifying #19 as a target for an open, medium danger scoring chance.
Perhaps a saucer pass is too dangerous in this situation, but a quick deceptive fake with his puck skill to signal to the opposing player that he may try to utilize the space along the wall would most likely open up the passing lane for him to make a safe pass.
The clip below is another example this time with a potential exit opportunity. He scans and identifies #19 twice during this sequence with white #77 at first hesitating and then committing to putting pressure on Casey. It’s a riskier pass to hit the #19 and he opts to passing to a player along the boards who is covered by two defenders and turns the puck over. Even if the pass is too risky, you can see his defensive partner moving into the open space right as he makes the pass which could’ve been another option to maintain control for an exit.
The strength of Casey’s offensive transition game centers around when he has the opportunity to attack the oncoming forechecker who is bearing down from in front of him. It is rare that when Casey gets his momentum moving up ice that an a forechecker coming down on him has any chance of stopping him. Utilizing lateral movements he’s able to shift, spin out of, or dangle his way past the initial pressure and utilize open space and find the odd-man advantage going up the ice.
However when Casey is pressured from down low in the defensive zone he lacks the three-step agility to separate off the blocks from the oncoming forecheck. While he is excellent at scanning and adapting to pressure before receiving the puck; he can oftentimes pass pucks to covered forwards in exits which results in failed controlled attempts or forwards chipping pucks into the neutral zone as they don’t have space to create the outlet pass. If this was just a problem of mobility it would be one thing, but he will also not utilize open space in front of him at times and instead opt for riskier outlet passes to forwards who aren’t open.
Similarly, when Casey is crossing the redline for a controlled entry into the offensive zone Casey will oftentimes not draw in opposing pressure from his potential outlets and instead pass the puck to the setter on the wall who is covered which results in an uncontrolled chip into the zone or a dump-and-chase scenario.
While Casey is passive in a lot of his approaches to his offensive game; he is hyper-aware and hyper-aggressive in the way he plays defense. In the offensive zone he scans constantly and is always looking to take away any outlet pass along the wall or in his general vicinity in the offensive zone. He will pick up forwards at the faceoff circle and force the defenseman to chip it out since he’s taken away their outlet, or create a turnover himself as they try to force the pass. He is hyper-aware of where the play is going to go and also where there is coverage and where there is not coverage with his team’s own defensive structure. His risks never seem like risks because he’s never leaving a player out to dry if he reads a play wrong.
If an opposing team is able to get through the forecheck Casey will pick up the opposing forward as soon as possible, most of the time on the opponents own defensive blueline. To use a cross-sport analogy: Casey plays defense like a point guard in basketball would play if they were going to pick up the player in a full court press. His goal is to turn the player to the boards and then use his amazing ability to separate players from the puck with his stick to create turnovers.
This does lead to a bit of a high-risk/high-reward type of style if a player is able to beat Casey. There are time when opposing forwards are able to beat Casey with minimal deception and with just pure speed/force, but not enough for me to consider it a weakness or a problem in his defensive game.
He plays very similarly when tasked at defending the defensive blue line and utilizes his stick check or will rub a player out along the boards if he can drive them there as well. Simply put: Casey suffocates space. With less space and time he forces a lot of turnovers before opponents ever get near the blue line.
In the zone there is no denying that Casey has physical limitations given his size and weight, but positionally he is exceptional at getting into passing lanes and being able to take proper inside position on players to keep them boxed out of scoring areas off the puck. He gives excellent puck support and uses positional awareness to mitigate any size/speed concerns.
I’m going to start by saying that if you are drafting Seamus Casey for the player he is right now, then I believe the player he is right now is worth a late-first to early-second round pick with a player profile or player comparison similar to Henri Jokiharju.
The three game sample I tracked (one USHL game and two against NCAA D1 programs) yielded promising results. He’s completing 76% of his passes, mitigating defensive transitions, and successful in about 70% of his offensive transitions in total. I defer to those in the public sphere with deeper analytical microstat analysis, but from my own data he’s tracking pretty well, minus his medium/high danger passing and shot attempts.
The way I view the prospect of drafting Seamus Casey is to take a step back and view Seamus Casey on where he could be in three years with proper development. When taking this approach then I, personally, think he could be the best defensemen to come out of the 2022 draft.
A lot of what Seamus Casey needs to improve on is more procedural and flipping a switch to tell Casey to be more aggressive, if not selfish, in his offensive approach to the game. To use his skill to manipulate defenders more often at the blue line in the offensive zone so that he is able to find passing lanes in dangerous parts of the ice or to get a shot off. To activate more from the blue line off the puck to receive passes or to dive/scissor down more instead of moving laterally on the blue line when a teammate is coming up the boards. To carry the puck and eat up more space with the puck on his stick, and to identify the proper read in a transition and use his skill to make the pass for a controlled exit/entry instead of opting for an uncontrolled chip out or dump in. He’s rarely joining rushes and I’d like to see him both try to lead and join the rush as a trailing option.
I love his defensive game, but if he can unlock the potential in his offensive approach and utilize the high-end skills he has: he goes from projecting as a middle-pair defensemen to being a top-pair defenseman with PP1 potential.
It’s been touched on a little bit in this report already, but Seamus Casey’s biggest development of skill that needs to be worked on is another gear in his three-step agility and his north/south speed. His edges and lateral mobility are top end, but his inability to generate quick speed or utilize crossovers to generate speed limits his separation coming out from pressure. He is able to mitigate his backwards mobility by having elite pivots to go from surfing a defender coming into the defensive zone and then pivoting when the opposing forward tries to manipulate their speed by slowing down to cut inside. Being able to move north/south at an above NHL-level speed would do wonders for his game as well.
I lean towards taking Casey as one of the first defenders off the board in the 2022 draft for these developmental reasons. There’s so much to work with from his skill, intelligence, and ability to use lateral and deceptive motions to create space and get by defenders. With Casey going to Michigan in 2022 and the graduation of Blankenburg and the exodus of Owen Power it’s going to open up a PP2 role behind Luke Hughes. Given Mel Pearson’s history of leaning into the strengths of is defenders and Casey getting 2-3 years of developing in a system that will adhere to his strengths: Casey is poised to flourish.
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Austin Garrett. If you would like to follow Austin on Twitter, his handle is @BMaster716.
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