As I begin to take a closer look at this next crop of prospects that are due to be drafted in the 2024 NHL Entry Draft, I’ve noticed that there is a ton of quality defensemen to be had. So much so that if a team wanted to wait until the second or third round of the draft to try and acquire one, they could still find real value on the blue line.
In my mind, one of those prospects mentioned above who would be a value pick in the second round would be a guy named Bryce Pickford. Bryce is a right-hand shot defender who plays for the reigning Western Hockey League’s (WHL’s) Champions, the Seattle Thunderbirds. What makes Pickford so valuable, in my opinion, is that while he currently stands at only 6’0 and 160 pounds, he somehow still manages to play with the kind of grit and determination you would expect to see from a guy who is 6’4 and 225 pounds.
But besides Pickford’s refreshing old-school willingness to drop the gloves to come to the aid of a fellow teammate after the opposition makes a dirty hit, he surprisingly has shown the ability to use his hands for scoring goals as well. A trait that the Thunderbirds roster that’s chalked full of already drafted NHL prospects and his stats from last season might not lead you to believe. For instance, last season Bryce finished the regular season with far more penalty minutes (50) than total points (17). Still, as you’ll see in the video link provided below, Pickford possesses the ability to undress the opposing team’s defense by stick handling unscathed through all five players on the ice just to finish off the play by rocketing it past their goalie.
The only difference between Bryce and some of this impending draft’s top defenders is that Pickford understands that his primary responsibility is to prevent the opposition from scoring (hence his +25 rating from this past season). Then and only then, if the opportunity presents itself, will he jump up into the rush and assist the offense in trying to score a goal. This, my friends, is the sign of a defenseman that just gets it and will probably have a very long and prosperous career in the NHL.
I’ll leave you with this. If you still need an NHL comparison for Bryce, think of Jared Spurgeon if he had Luke Schenn’s grit.