Photo Credit: Brianna Homan / Sioux City Musketeers
Scouting Report written by Austin Garrett
Dylan James was a part of the Clark Cup champion Sioux City Musketeers and is currently slated to join the University of North Dakota for the 2022-23 season.
James hails from Calgary, Alberta, Canada and spent the last three seasons playing in the AJHL (with the Okotoks Oilers) before moving over to the USHL this season. James rose to draft ranking consideration for me during Sioux City’s run for the Clark Cup where James excelled in the grinding, slower paced game of playoff hockey.
D.O.B – October 19, 2003
Nationality – Canada
Draft Eligibility – 2022
Weight –181 lbs
Position – Left Wing
Handedness – Left
James’ Style Of Play
Dylan James came onto my radar watching a few games of Sioux City and their top line of Dylan James, Owen McLaughlin, and Bennet Schimek. While McLaughlin did a lot of the heavy lifting in transition; I was always impressed with the role James was able carve out within the Sioux City lineup and how effective he was working within their offensive structure.
However, James proved to be a mystifying enigma scouting and tracking him. He was full of statistical contradictions that were hard to really pin down the causation to them. For example, in the four games I tracked of James he had 6 even strength points including 3 goals and 2 primary assists. In those same four games he completed just 59% of his passes and was successful in his transitions 64% of the time. Most of his transitions were pass receptions or carry-ins/outs without significant defensive pressure.
Take this play for example:
He takes a loose puck with speed into the offensive zone and shows that he has some puck skill doing so. However, as he beats the defender wide he doesn’t protect the puck and puts it into a position to be swatted away easily. The defender spins with a wild stick check and knocks the puck off James’ stick. I like his process here and the effort he used to get around the defender, but he is going to have to be better at the details
Similarly with this play:
James comes in with speed on a drop pass and when he receives the pass at the seven second mark there are a multitude of options. He’s coming from behind the play so you’d hope he had scanned quickly to see what to do with puck. When his teammate turns to pass to him and the puck is on the way I see three options for him:
- Change pace and directions and either a quick pass to the cross ice player or 1-2 strides into a medium danger shot
- A quick move and a feed to the player out front
- Beat the defender oncoming to him and then a quick decision out front or to the safety valve on the wall
He chooses to go by the defender but loses the puck and there isn’t any urgency to recover. He ends up turning the puck over to his teammate on the half wall.
While the overall data and the fact that there were more clips representative of those two I just shared than the ones I’m about to talk about; it’s important to note that when James put it together there were flashes of a very good prospect. This play is perhaps my favorite play of the five games I watched of James:
When he takes the time to scan the ice and know where to go with it with confidence and conviction he’s a very good playmaker. While I never saw him dangle anyone out of their skates; he does attempt to make plays that are pretty high-end. The process of knowing where to go with a puck quickly is there, but James just has to work on the execution.
The bread and butter of James’ game is playing as a power forward and passenger in transition who will beat you with his shot. He shoots a lot for a player that doesn’t have the puck too often coming into the zone, and while he shoots more from low danger areas than I’d like for him, he is always trying to get to those areas.
To summarize James’ offensive game: he’s not going to be a player who carrys the puck in transition for your team, he thrives as power forward role in the offensive zone, he has some skill but execution was not great, but there are moments where he operates with a plan and he looks like a second-third round pick. The best clip I can summarize James with is this:
Dylan James is a fantastic F1 forechecker. He is the first forward on the puck on the forecheck and has a relentless motor to hound puck carriers.
He uses his body extremely well to separate players from the puck and has an active stick in passing lanes. He’s often used in the penalty kill with his ability to win a board battle and constant motor.
As a winger I find him exceptionally versatile as a prospect. His offensive game is going to have to be refined, but I think he could easily play on a team’s fourth line in an energy role where he would be great at grinding out possessions in either zone.
The only real concern I had with him as a defender is that he could be caught puck watching more than I’d like. While there were more instances of it being a cross-ice option that he wasn’t aware was moving behind him: this play you can see the defender activate while James loses track of them.
This has been one of the harder projections to make of the reports I’ve written. There’s a definite need for James to improve his skating. He has heavy feet and his lateral mobility needs to improve as well. I think with a longer development plan going to the NCAA and the motor he possesses shift-to-shift he’ll be able to keep an NHL level pace by the time he transitions out of the University of North Dakota.
However, I don’t know if he’ll ever really develop the skill level to project more than a bottom six winger. I am more optimistic than some because the biggest thing I like about James compared to other players within his archetype is that James’ processing of plays is very good and he’s trying to make higher end plays. If he were just bailing out of situations by dumping pucks into the zone in transition or panic shooting at the net in the offensive zone I’d be more apt to put him as a late round pick.
At the time of the final ranking I would’ve said that James fit to me as a second round pick who I would gladly take in the third round for value. Right now I would say that Dylan James sits as a third round ranking and a 4th round value pick as an option for a team.
Before I saw a more definitive middle-six, transition passenger but with skill and scoring touch. Now I’m less sure about if he possesses the offensive acumen to have that ceiling, and in the third round I’d be happy to get an NHL player if he ends up just being a fourth liner, but also I think there’s a lot more that he could be if things can improve over the course of the next year or two. In our rankings I’d probably move drop him 11 spots to 65.
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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