Photo Credit: Jeremy Champagne / Brandon Wheat Kings
Nate Danielson is a 2023 NHL Draft prospect, who hails from Red Deer, Alberta and plays for the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings. Danielson was selected in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft by Brandon and made his WHL debut during the 2020-2021 season. Prior to joining the Wheat Kings, he was playing U18 hockey for the Red Deer Chiefs AAA club and for Northern Alberta X-Treme Prep.
Last season, Danielson was a point per game player with 57 points in 53 games. At the time of writing this report (January 8, 2023), Danielson had tallied 49 points in 38 games. At the midway point in the season, Danielson isn’t far off from matching his point total from last season.
D.O.B – September 27, 2004
Nationality – Canadian
Draft Eligibility – 2023
Weight –185 lbs
Position – Center
Handedness – Right
Danielson’s Style Of Play
When he skates into the zone as the F1 and looks to pass to a teammate in the slot as he is driving along the half-wall, but can’t find a quality lane to use because of pressure, he will look to pass back to the perimeter / point. Sometimes he will wait at the point for a teammate to find open ice at the point and then Danielson will look to complete a lateral feed. When Danielson is skating with the puck along the half-wall and he nets enough separation from the attacker who is covering him and blocking lanes to the slot, Danielson will bring the puck to the corner and look to complete a pass to a teammate closer to net front. Usually Danielson is looking to complete a pass before pressure truly tightens up because he will struggle with stick-handling around pressure in tight situations. Instead, when the attack closes in, he does a good job of utilizing whatever space he has. He will complete passes underneath the attacker’s stick to teammates in the slot or between the attacker’s skates. Danielson isn’t indecisive. As soon as he identifies space to use, he attempts a pass. Doesn’t waste time because he knows that the gap won’t be available for long.
While Danielson struggles to stick-handle around tight pressure, he does a good job of shoveling the puck away from attackers and then utilizing his speed and reach to regain control of the puck quickly. So, in tight loose puck battles at open ice, Danielson can leverage those tools to not only win possession, but then create quite a bit of separation for himself.
When skating behind the rush and looking to create puck disruption, he will look to stop the rush from exiting the zone by lifting his stick. He has excellent reach that he can rely on when lifting his stick, so that he doesn’t always have to be neck and neck with an attacker to cause puck disruption. He can be slightly further back and still manage to dismantle the rush.
When skating after oppositional puck movement deep in the offensive zone, he builds up quite a bit of speed on the forecheck with his crossovers, but then ends up coasting. Coasting limits Danielson’s ability to be physical along the boards. Instead of completing a hip or shoulder check to silence puck movement, the attacker has plenty of time and space to complete an outlet pass. Should the puck carrier look to move laterally behind the red line, Danielson will struggle with aligning himself to the puck carrier and that largely can be attributed to Danielson’s shortened stride length when skating east – west.
In situations in which Danielson doesn’t have possession of the puck but his team is running the cycle, should his defenseman pinch up, he drops back and covers for the defenseman at the point. When his teammates have the puck at the point, Danielson positions himself in the low slot to screen the opposing goaltender and give his teammates a passing option to high danger. Danielson does a good job of constantly moving his feet and finding open ice when they cycle is moving around the offensive zone. He quickly identifies where his teammates are, where the pressure is and re-positions himself into open ice.
Danielson’s shot is well-developed. His shot selection is quite good. He doesn’t usually take shots from low danger unless he has no other option on the table. If he has a passing lane at his fingertips, he doesn’t debate about whether or not he takes it or not. He takes it. Aside from his shot selection, he has had quite a bit of success from range with his wrist shot this season, especially with the attack closing in on him. In situations in which Danielson can’t get a clean shot off right away due to the positioning of the opposing defenseman. He will look to coast towards the corner and manipulate the defenseman’s positioning. The defenseman shifts over and has created a quality shooting lane for Danielson. Danielson knows that he can’t use a wrist shot as the wind-up will delay his shot, so he fires a top shelf shot blocker side (far side). Danielson’s ability to move attackers with his own positioning allows him to be a consistent producer at 5v5 in WHL play.
Danielson also does a good job of tracking oppositional puck movements / outlet passing. He will track the trajectory and skate into passes. Danielson has a few goals this season that have come off of interceptions. Once he has possession of the puck, he will skate to net front and manipulate / shift the goaltender over to create a gap for him to exploit. For example, check out this goal that he scored against Kamloops from back in October.
Here is another goal that he scores after netting the puck via an interception at open ice.
Danielson’s defensive play is a bit inconsistent. There are a lot of shifts in which he is the last skater back into the zone. He will coast back into the defensive zone. But, there are plenty of shifts in which he will be impactful on the back check. The situations in which Danielson is the last skater back into the defensive zone usually happens when Brandon has driven the rush up the ice, cycled the puck in the offensive zone and then turned over possession. Instead of using his straight line speed to hustle back on the back check, he spots that 3-4 teammates are headed back into the defensive zone at a quick pace and then decides to coasts. Danielson doesn’t leave his defensemen in a lurch. If he identifies that teammates are headed back, he shortens his stride and then coasts, but only to put himself in open ice at the defensive zone blue line. By acquiring open ice at the defensive zone blue line, he opens up a passing option for the teammate who captures possession of the puck. Danielson can then grab a hold of the puck and use his straight line speed to carry the puck back up the ice. The shifts in which Danielson is more impactful defensively occurs when his teammates aren’t in position to face the rush. If Danielson is closer to the defensive zone, he will hustle back. When he is facing the rush in the defensive zone, he does a good job of taking away space for attackers at the point to force ill-advised shots, blocked shots and turnovers in possession. Should pucks come loose, Danielson is quick on his feet, he will capture possession and drive the rush up the ice. Danielson also does a good job of taking up space in the slot and force puck carrying attackers to take medium danger shots versus high danger shots when the attackers are in the slot with the puck. He also does job of defending behind the red line and will put pressure on an attacker behind the red line who is trying to corral loose pucks. The attacker is in a rather vulnerable spot given that he doesn’t have a lot of time to secure the puck with Danielson closing in on him.
As mentioned earlier, Danielson does a great job of establishing open ice to create outlet passing lanes. Once he has possession of the puck and traffic picks up, he does a good job of shaking out of pressure by pivoting quickly.
But, he doesn’t just look to pivot away from pressure. If he has pressure closing in on him and he spots a teammate who is further up in the defensive zone and open then he will look to complete an outlet pass to them. Danielson doesn’t have the handling to shake free, so he makes up for that with well-timed passes to his teammates using whatever space he has in front of him. But, Danielson doesn’t just look to pass when dealing with traffic. If pressure is a bit more relaxed and he spots an open teammate closer to the blue line, he will attempt a pass to that teammate.
If the pressure is rather relaxed and teammates are skating aligned to Danielson’s positioning, that’s when he breaks out his lengthy straight line extensions and drives the puck out of the zone.
While he does struggle with handling in close quarters, Danielson does do a good job of securing the puck when pressure is skating towards him. He shifts the puck to his backhand or forehand (depending on if the attacker is approaching on the left side or the right side) and doesn’t expose the puck to the attacker. Should pressure close in on him head on, Danielson does identifies space that he can use to pass to an open teammate (underneath the stick of the attacker or between the attacker’s skates) and completes the pass which open space is present. Danielson is quick with his decision making and as mentioned earlier he doesn’t dilly dally.
From a defensive perspective, when it appears that there is an odd man rush brewing, he uses his straight line skate extensions to put himself in position to cover an open attacker. But, in particular, the open attacker who is closer to the slot.
If Danielson is at the point and an oppositional rush breaks out, he quickly puts himself in gear to skate back into the neutral zone so he can face the rush head on. Also, in situations in which one of Danielson’s defensemen coughs up possession of the puck at the point and he is slightly further in the offensive zone, he will use his speed to put himself in a position to cover for his defenseman.
But, in general, as we discussed in the defensive section, Danielson doesn’t always skate back into the neutral zone at speed. He will look to be the last skater back into the defensive zone and provide his defensemen with a passing lane to exploit in order to get the puck back into the neutral zone quickly.
Danielson crossovers allow him to generate great activation. When driving the rush down the half-wall, he will us his crossovers to generate separation for himself down low. He will also use his crossovers to carve out open ice for himself when the F1 is looking to complete a pass to the slot. Danielson’s crossovers provide him with enough speed to skate by puck watching attackers, catch them off guard and create passing lanes to the backdoor. After activating his speed, he uses lengthy skate extensions to maintain his speed and that comes in handy when he is looking to fly through the neutral zone with possession of the puck.
While Danielson does have a lengthy stride extension that he can use to maintain speed, there are plenty of times in which he fails to deploy those extensions and ends up coasting. By coasting, he loses all of his speed and has to activate once again. Sometimes that works to his benefit as he can delay puck movement to confuse the attack, but it does hurt him on the forecheck from a physicality perspective. Occasionally, he will end up coasting off puck after deploying crossovers at open ice and that makes it difficult for his teammates to gauge whether or not they can hit Danielson in stride with a well-timed pass.
The last thing that I wanted to touch on from a skating perspective is a habit that I’ve seen Danielson use frequently. When keeping himself aligned with his teammate to keep a passing lane alive in transition, sometimes he will keep his skate extended too long to slow himself down because he is scared about picking up too much speed and losing the alignment / lateral passing lane. If his teammate were to deliver a pass to him while Danielson is holding his non-plant foot in place for too long, it could lead to either Danielson falling forward and / or lead to Danielson struggling to use his reach effectively to capture possession of the puck. It also hurts his ability to quickly activate speed once he captures possession of the puck.
While Danielson’s development is still in progress, he brings quite a bit of quality tools to the table like his ability to generate quality speed in transition, his manipulation tactics to open up space for himself and quick decision making under pressure. Those tools allow him extremely effective at the WHL level and are going to come in handy once again at the NHL level. I have no doubt that Danielson is going to be an effective NHLer in a middle six role. The vision that Danielson has is going to lead to a lot of quality scoring chances in NHL play. He is going to be able to put pucks into high danger areas consistently because of how quick he is to identify space to use when traffic becomes daunting. Should he run out of options, he has a lethal shot that he can use from range.
At the end of the day, whoever takes Danielson is getting a player with an extremely safe floor and a second line ceiling.
January 9, 2023
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Josh Tessler. If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @JoshTessler_.
Looking for other scouting reports? Check out the Prospects tab for our other scouting reports.
Need a scouting report on a particular prospect, contact us today!