2022-23 Team: Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
Date of Birth: January 19, 2005
Place of Birth: Grand Prairie, Alberta
Height: 5-foot-11, Weight: 165 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: First Year Eligible
- NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters): 42nd
- FC Hockey: 69th
- Smaht Scouting: 22nd
- Elite Prospects: 13th
- The Hockey Writers (Horn): 41st
Gracyn Sawchyn has quickly become one of my favorite players in the 2023 Draft, and I expect he’ll earn a sort of “fan favorite” status for whichever team drafts him in June. He has a very high motor and is constantly skating and making small, smart plays all over the ice. Sawchyn is reliable defensively and is a great forechecker, making him an absolute nuisance for opposing forwards who aren’t likely to get a lot of space when he’s on the ice.
Sawchyn forces turnovers at a remarkable rate, and is good at extending possession for the Thunderbirds with short passes or by driving to the net on his own. His shot and playmaking aren’t anything to write home about but they should serve him well enough in the NHL. The real calling card of Sawchyn’s offensive game is his hands. I could probably count on one hand the number of draft eligible players in the WHL with quicker side-to-side hands than him and he is quite confident using that advantage to blow by or through defenders.
Skating is another positive for Sawchyn whose above-average acceleration pairs wonderfully with his high-end compete level to make him an absolute force in transition on both sides of the puck. The biggest reason that Sawchyn isn’t getting more attention is the depth and strength of the Thunderbirds. In fact, he has spent most of the last few months centering the second or third line behind one or both of Brad Lambert and Colton Dach.
Another reason he hasn’t been talked about more is because he has been injured for about a month and could miss the upcoming playoff run that the Thunderbirds are hoping to go on, and we saw how much a long playoff run can do for a player’s draft stock last year with both Reid Schaefer and Kevin Korchinski rising considerably in the draft following their run with the Thunderbirds in the 2022 WHL playoffs.
Related: 2023 NHL Draft Guide
The fact that Sawchyn has been able to produce so much offense so consistently this season while bouncing around the lineup has been very impressive. When premier NHL prospects like Dylan Guenther and Lambert joined the team, Sawchyn’s minutes decreased significantly, but his point production remained steady.
He finished the regular season with 58 points in 58 games, the seventh most points on his team despite missing roughly 10 games. Sawchyn played for the USA U17 team in the National Team Development Program (NTDP) in the 2021-22 season where he finished the season with 33 points in 52 games, behind only Gabe Perreault, Oliver Moore, and Will Smith who are all considered no doubt first rounders this year.
I feel strongly that Sawchyn will see his offensive counting stats increase significantly next season in a bigger role once some of the team’s top players move on to pro hockey and that combined with his defensive tenacity will make him one of the best two-way players in the entire WHL next season.
Other THW Draft Profiles
Gracyn Sawchyn – NHL Draft Projection
I expect to see Sawchyn drafted in the 25th-40th overall range, though he could go even higher if a team believes that his lack of ice-time is a bit misleading and that he’ll blossom offensively in a larger role. NHL teams love centermen, especially ones with a developing two-way game and a right-handed shot, so I would be shocked if Sawchyn isn’t off the board on day 1 of the draft.
“Gracyn has a high level understanding of space, the flow of play, and despite not having the longest legs or the biggest reach, he accelerates with the best of them “ – Joel Henderson, FC Hockey
“Sawchyn is a forward with tremendous pace and intensity. One of the strongest forecheckers in the WHL already, he’s also able to create upon forcing turnovers.” – Sebastian High, Dobber Prospects
“I think I have been underselling his raw stickhandling skill as he was a problem to deal with all night with his ability to attack the net downhill and make defenders miss.” – Donesh Mazloum, FC Hockey
- Defensive game
- Offense out of board battles
- Puck skills
Under Construction – Improvements to Make
- Ramp up production in bigger role
- Fill out frame a bit
Sawchyn’s success in board battles and his two-way determination makes me quite confident he will become an NHL center someday, and I currently see him as a great middle six center with a good defensive game and the potential to be a legitimate offensive contributor if a few things break the right way in his development.
Risk – 1.5/5, Reward – 3.5/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offense – 7.5/10, Defense – 7.5/10