Photo Credit: Rena Laverty
Scouting Report written by Josh Tessler
Ryan Chesley is a 2022 NHL Draft eligible prospect, who hails from Mahtomedi, Minnesota. He is a right handed defenseman and plays for the USNTDP U18 squad.
Before joining the USNTDP in 2020, he played for 14U AAA and 16U AAA hockey for Shattuck St. Mary’s and 15U AAA hockey for the Minnesota Kings. Throughout his time playing 14U-16U hockey, he played alongside his USNTDP teammate Isaac Howard and a few NHL drafted prospects including Andre Gasseau (Boston Bruins), Liam Gilmartin (San Jose Sharks) and Shai Buium (Detroit Red Wings).
Chesley is a University of Minnesota commit and is scheduled to join the Minnesota Golden Gophers next season (2022-2023). He will be alongside several current USNTDP players including Logan Cooley, Jimmy Snuggerud, Cruz Lucius and Oliver Moore.
D.O.B – February 27, 2004
Nationality – American
Draft Eligibility – 2022
Weight –194 lbs
Position – Defense
Handedness – Right
Chesley’s Style Of Play
Chesley needs to work on shot selection. He will struggle at identifying quality opportunities to shoot. One of the issues with his shot selection is that he can be too quick at times.
He will collect a pass at the perimeter, immediately try to shoot, but he wasn’t observant of where the puck was in proximity to him. He will hold the puck too far out from his body once receiving the puck and his shot will go wide. He needs to work on keeping his stick blade closer towards him when acquiring possession of passes in the offensive zone if he wants to be more consistent with his one-timer opportunities.
Not only will he struggle with one-timer shooting accuracy, but he will struggle with his backhand shooting as well. When attempting shots from low danger with his backhand on the move, he will not get pucks on net and they end up wide right / left. The issue is that he doesn’t have the power in the release to get the puck on net. It’s a light release.
It’s not just being too quick, it’s also about thinking that he has run out of options and then firing a shot from the point. Chesley needs to work on pin-pointing open passing lanes to exploit.
Most of his shots from the point don’t test the goaltender. He ends up shooting at the chest and it allows the goaltender to trap the shot easily. If he is looking to generate high danger rebounds up front or deflections, he needs to work on getting his shots slightly closer to the posts. The goal needs to be get the puck high enough, in which he can either beat the goaltender glove/blocker side or get the puck in the general direction of the glove/blocker so that way a teammate in the slot can re-direct the puck in.
If he has open skating lanes and his teammates are skating up further into the offensive zone, he will pinch up and provide teammates a passing option in medium danger. On the rush, when not all of the forwards are able to get down low fast enough, Chesley will skate to the slot to offer a passing option in high danger.
When controlling the puck, pinching in and facing pressure, he can leverage his upper body strength to push past attackers. He has a big frame and he can use it well to net separation.
When he doesn’t have the puck and is looking to cause disruption, he will pinch up and blind side an attacker when the attacker is along the boards waiting for a pass and staring at the puck carrying teammate. Chesley closes in on him, doesn’t have the speed to make contact but he forces the attacker to dump the puck. In addition, he will try to engage an attacker with the puck when the attacker is close to vacating his own zone. But, he needs to be mindful of his positioning when the attacker is coming towards the blue line with the puck. Once the attacker gets to the perimeter, he needs to fall back into the neutral zone and let his forward group implement pressure. Often he will sit in the offensive zone a bit too long and that leads to odd man rush opportunities for the attack should the attack manage to get the puck out of their own zone.
When it comes to Chesley’s puck control, he has shown that he can be reliable puck carrier. He will do a good job cradling when he is along the half-wall boards and an attacker is coming up from behind him. Chesley will opt to play the puck out in front of him and secure the puck. When Chesley gets clear of the attacker just enough, he will then switch to cradling the puck on the opposite side of the attacker. That comes in handy if he is facing a tight backcheck in the slot and he is aiming to skate to the doorstep.
There are also instances in which he will take a risk and cradle the puck underneath the attacker’s triangle when he has simply ran out of options. That has worked out for him.
When he is moving the puck from side to side, I have noticed some puck security issues that will need to be addressed. When he is going from forehand to backhand to forehand with the puck, he will struggle to cradle the puck cleanly from side to side and that has led to bobbled pucks.
Similarly to his shot, Chesley will put slightly too much power in his passing release. There have been instance in which he complete a zone entry and he will complete a pass off the rush to a forward teammate who is slightly more centered, but the pass has too much power behind it for the receiver to pick it up cleanly. When you look back at my description on his shot, you will also notice that at times Chesley didn’t have enough power in his release and it’s the same situation with his passing ability. There have been occurrences in which his release is too light and thus it doesn’t make its way to the intended target.
In the defensive zone, his positioning is solid. He will alternate with his USTNDP defensive partner Lane Hutson (in most situations it is Lane), who works behind the red for the loose puck while Chesley sits slightly past the red line to provide an outlet. Chesley maintains good presence in the slot when oppositional puck movement is along the opposite boards. He also implements quality defensive support when his defensive partner loses pace with the puck carrier. Chesley shifts over to help trap the puck carrier in the corner.
When implementing pressure on the puck carrier, Chesley has excellent gap control to force the attacker to stay in low danger. On occasion, he tries to initiate contact when his slightly too far away from the puck carrying attacker. It slows him down and can open up sizable gaps for the attacker to exploit. But, in general if Chesley is defending against you in the corner, he doesn’t give you much room to use.
He also does a good job of keeping attackers at bay in the slot. He uses his frame to remove lanes to the net. His frame helps to take away lanes just from his stature alone, but his reach also allows him to extend his stick blade further out from his body to poke check and disrupt the rush. When defending against the puck carrier in his own zone and they are skating towards the perimeter, Chesley will extend his stick blade out and attempt to poke check. That will force the puck carrier to take an ill-advised shot. After using his reach to cause puck disruption, he will quickly cut inside and grab a hold of the puck when covering the man initially along the boards in the corner.
Chesley isn’t the fastest skater on the ice and it is the most evident when he is skating after defensive recoveries / puck retrievals. He knows that he doesn’t have the speed to beat the attacker, so instead he likes to use his back to bump into attackers when they are vying for the puck. By bumping into attackers when they are aiming to pick up possession, he hopes that the subtle bump deter them and push them forward. If he can push them forward, he can force the attacker to lose control right away. In situations in which he can get solid pace, he will use his upper body strength to push past the attacker to the puck.
When Chesley is in possession of the puck, he does a good job of identifying a passing lane in between two forecheckers who aren’t trying to use their stick blades to limit the amount of space. Those tight passing lanes allow him to evade pressure and feather stretch zone exit pass to teammates in the neutral zone. He does an excellent job of completing tape to tape zone exit feeds to teammates in the neutral zone and the occasional saucer pass above an attacker’s stick to a teammate towards the blue line. In addition, he will at times be deceptive with his puck control. He will use a backhand pass fake to buy him enough separation to get him away from danger and allow him to skate into the neutral zone with possession.
While he does do a good job of finding tight passing lanes to exploit, when he is on the move and turning from behind the net, he can struggle with breakout pass completion. You will notice that when he is on the move that his passes have a tendency to go far wide of the intended target.
In the neutral zone, I love his lateral movements. Chesley has quick hips that allow him to turn in place, quickly grab a hold of a loose puck and dump it back into the offensive zone. In situations in which his defensive partner isn’t covering the defensive zone blue line and Chesley is slightly out of position to defend against the rush, he will use a lateral crossover to get enough acceleration to shift over enough to defend the rush head on.
When defending in the neutral zone, he doesn’t have the power stride to contend with speedy attackers on the rush in the neutral zone. But, he does do a good job of closing the rush off when they get close to the USNTDP defensive zone blue line. He will skate closer and closer towards the boards when the attacker is coming towards the offensive zone. That allows him to quickly cut the attacker off before the perimeter. In situations in which he is facing the puck carrying attacker skate from centered ice to the left side, Chesley lowers his body and sticks out his stick to take away the skating lane. It allows Chesley to trap the attacker and not give him any more room.
When it comes to puck movement in the neutral zone, he usually isn’t the one driving the rush. Generally speaking, you can expect Chesley to complete an outlet pass in his own zone and have his forwards to drive the puck up the ice. In those rare situations where Chesley is carrying the puck from zone to zone, he is efficient at pushing the puck underneath his attacker’s stick when facing pressure and he doesn’t have another skating lane. Chesley will position the puck out in front of him when facing tight pressure, but should he be in situations in the future where he has to carry the rush, I would like him to be slightly more manipulative with his puck control. He should try to use the puck to draw attackers to one side and then quickly cut to the other.
Chesley does a good job with pivoting and deploying his inside and outside edges when staying aligned with a shifty puck carrying attacker along the boards (especially in the corner). If he doesn’t have the speed to skate past an attacker in the defensive zone and runs out of open ice, he will pivot out and complete a pass to his defensive partner. When shifting from side to side along the blue line, he does a good job of leaning on his inside edges to push off and move left.
While he does do a good job pushing off of his edges, I have noticed that he will struggle with stride activation after utilizing his edges. You will lose him traction or not generate enough acceleration off of the turn to keep pace. Ideally, I would like to see him work on going from his edges to crossovers to drive up his speed. Chesley can deploy good crossovers to generate speed, but his stride extensions don’t generate the same level of speed. If he can deploy a few crossovers before going into stride, that will generate far more acceleration since he doesn’t have a lengthy extension. In the clip below, you can check out the speed that Chesley can manufacture on well-timed crossovers. More crossovers and more crossovers with good posture will only improve his acceleration.
Speaking of crossovers, Chesley deploys good lateral crossovers to generate separation from an approaching attacker, dodge traffic and skate into open ice with the puck. It helps in situations where Chesley is driving the rush and pushing the puck up the ice. In the offensive zone, he deploys good lateral crossovers along the blue line to gain separation on the attacker covering him. His crossovers allow to him to net separation and open up lanes.
His straight line skating needs further development. Chesley’s ankle flexion isn’t in the desired spot. He needs to lower his posture and push his knees to the toe of his skates to get the maximum speed in his extensions. As we mentioned before, he doesn’t have the foot speed to beat out attackers to loose pucks. Chesley also needs to further round out his speed when skating backwards. When facing a speedy rush and utilizing his backward skating, he doesn’t have enough acceleration to face the rush. At a point, he has to switch to forward skating to attempt to counter-attack. But, in situations in which the attack is too fast, he isn’t in position to counter.
Chesley and Lane Hutson are an interesting dynamic. Hutson is very creative and mobile. He has good body language and can shift his body to a new lane on a dime. Chesley isn’t as nimble and mobile. That just isn’t his game. Chesley does have the same drive to create high and medium danger chances in the slot, but he is more likely to pinch up the boards with the puck than go into open ice and battle it out against attackers at the perimeter. The good thing is that Chesley seems to have the support of the USNTDP coaching staff to let him play his game. Chesley knows that he has to be somewhat conservative given that Hutson can be far more out-going in the offensive zone. I do think will Chesley will be a solid two-way defender in the NHL level. If he can be slightly more consistent with his drive to create high danger chances, he could be provide nice defensive depth in a second or third pairing role. Chesley will also need to address his acceleration / skating as oppositional speed will only get more and more daunting at the NHL level.
April 6, 2022
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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