Photo Credit: Robert Lefebvre/OHL Images
Scouting Report written by Jordan Malette
Paul Ludwinski is a 2022 NHL draft-eligible prospect who plays for the Kingston Frontenacs in the Ontario Hockey League. Ludwinski and fellow draft-eligible teammate Shane Wright have combined to make Kingston a must-watch team for those interested in the NHL draft. At times throughout the season, they have even been paired up as linemates forming a high-end duo of draft-aged prospects for those in the scouting world to enjoy.
If you’re looking for a mix of high energy and puck skills, you’ve come to the right place as Paul Ludwinski is all gas, no brakes. His non-stop energy sets him apart from the pack as he’s constantly motoring around the ice every shift. He applies relentless pursuit and routinely catches the puck carrier, forces a turnover, and begins the transition in the other direction. Ludwinski also has solid puck skills and a strong ability to detect open space and time into that opening as a passing option. His work rate and skills make him an intriguing prospect that offers a safe floor and the upside to be more than just an energy player.
D.O.B – April 23, 2004
Nationality – Canada
Draft Eligibility – 2022
Weight –183 lbs
Position – Center/Left Wing
Handedness – Left
Style of Play
Every shift, game after game, the re-occurring theme with Ludwinski is non-stop energy. He’s constantly applying pressure to puck carriers to take away time and space all over the ice. You will often notice Ludwinski as the F1 on the forecheck, causing problems for the opposition attempting to regroup and exit their defensive zone. You will also quickly see how often he completes a back check and deny opportunities from materializing for the opposition. He isn’t one to throw a devastating hit, but he certainly isn’t afraid to use his body which works in tandem with his relentless pressure to dispossess opponents. Some nights it can even be tiring to watch him zip around the ice endlessly.
At the root of his effectiveness in this department is his skating. Ludwinski has a quick first few steps that allow him to gain separation from defenders or close down gaps between the puck carrier in no time. He can reach and maintain high speeds while appearing almost effortless. I don’t rely much on in-person viewings, but my one key takeaway from a live viewing this year of Ludwinski was just how quick he was. He was the fastest player on the ice every shift, and at times it can be tough to decipher just how fast he was relative to other people through video viewings, so this in-person viewing truly put things into perspective.
Unfortunately, with many players who fit the description of a good skater and high work rate, the list of what else they bring to the table can be limited. Relying on speed and an up-tempo play style is not attractive enough to be considered a high-end prospect in and of itself. As players progress to higher levels, the speed that was once a tremendous asset will slowly be less valuable as the competition will now be faster as you climb the hockey ladder. Fortunately, Ludwinski has a set of tools that stack on top of his constant work rate and skating ability that all work together to make him an intriguing prospect.
Ludwinski isn’t a flashy player by any means, but he possesses practical puck skills that he frequently uses to beat a defender or open up a passing lane to exploit. In addition, his hands and speed cause him to be a difficult player to defend off the rush and in one-on-one situations. This skill set allows him to be effective off a turnover on the forecheck and in small areas to corral a loose puck and make a play with the puck.
Ludwinski’s ability to find open space and be a target for a dangerous pass is one of his many noteworthy traits. He constantly rotates into space during offensive zone possessions to be a passing outlet for a teammate. This understanding of rotations allows him to be a positive contributor off the cycle and keep the possession alive for his team as he is putting himself in the right spots to be an option for a teammate under trouble. On rush sequences, he is exceptional at timing his routes to maintain a passing angle and put himself in a threatening shooting position. He’ll frequently come to a complete stop to find the soft spot in the defense and catch a defender off guard who thinks he’s going to drive the net.
The cherry on top is his versatility. Ludwinski is a player any coach would love to have on their bench as an option for any game situation, which is evident in his usage this season. Throughout the season, he has played center and wing, power play and penalty kill, defending a lead and when they need a goal. For example, midway through games where they were trailing, you could count on Ludwinski to be called to move up the lineup onto Wright’s wing in an attempt to score a late equalizer. Of course, a coach’s usage of a player isn’t always an accurate representation of their talent level, but it conveys how they view that player. In Ludwinski’s case, this sentiment towards Ludwinski is most definitely unanimous among anyone who has or will coach him. When Ludwinski jumps over the boards, a coach knows what they will get from him every shift.
If you were to watch one of Ludwinski’s games, you might think he was snake-bitten that night as he was buzzing around the offensive zone and had multiple scoring chances but no results. Every game, he has numerous high-danger opportunities that he can’t seem to find the back of the net. The more you watch him play, the more it becomes a re-occurring theme that his ability to finish the high-danger chances may be a genuine concern.
There certainly is a risk of a bias at play here. As noted above, Ludwinski is exceptional at finding open space and putting himself in a prime position for a high-danger pass resulting in a scoring opportunity. However, the sheer amount of high-danger shots he creates for himself may work against him in that even if he converts on them at the same rate as other prospects, this will result in the “wasted” opportunities to add up. With the data available in the CHL, it is challenging to decipher whether it is a valid concern or noise that we should ignore. Regardless of whether it’s a bias or his finishing talent is suspect, Ludwinski creates so many chances through his awareness that there is an opportunity for him to rack up the goals if he can convert on the chances he gets.
A reasonable projection for Paul Ludwinski is a middle-six winger who can fill the puck retriever / F1 role on a line with more offensive-leaning players. He excels at applying pressure, creating turnovers, and retrieving/maintaining puck possession. In addition, he has solid puck skills and a good sense of spacing in the offensive zone that will allow him to find holes and be available for a high-danger pass. This combination of skills and habits makes him a great candidate to complement the game and generate excellent results paired with highly skilled players.
He could fill a depth center role as he is defensively engaged and a strong transition player. However, this complimentary winger archetype described above will likely be the role that allows him to offer the best value to his team. Whether he is used as a winger or center regularly, he is a player that can be called upon to move up or around the lineup when injuries happen or the game state changes. He truly is a Swiss army knife type of player that offers plenty of options to his team.
June 12, 2022
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Jordan Malette. If you would like to follow Jordan on Twitter, his handle is @jordanmalette.
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