2020-21 Team: Tri-City Storm (USHL)
Date of Birth: Nov. 13, 2002
Place of Birth: Anchorage, AK, USA
Ht: 5-foot-11 Wt: 183 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2021 first-year eligible
- NHL Central Scouting: 55th (amongst NA skaters)
- EliteProspects: 106th
- FC Hockey: 141th
- McKeen’s Hockey: 126th
Hunter Strand is an average-framed center for the Tri-City Storm in the United States Hockey League (USHL), whose high-octane motor and positional awareness are standout tools that allow him to chip in on both sides on the ice. He was their most prolific point-producer with 49 points (20 goals, 29 assists) in 51 games, and was utilized on both special team units as well as in defensive zone faceoff situations at five-on-five.
His offensive touch is decent, as his point totals suggest, but not outstanding; he boasts an impressive release and can distribute the puck in small spaces with ease, although his vision to play pucks across seams and locate teammates quickly is inconsistent. He scored six of his 20 goals on the power-play and added three short-handed tallies (via Pick224), indicating that this is a player who mostly thrives when playing at even-strength. If he can work on scanning the ice more and threading pucks through opponents instead of playing around them, Strand’s offensive output should skyrocket in his next years of development.
His skating is not as polished as other forward prospects in the 2021 NHL Draft, but he compensates for average mechanics by always being in motion, and never watching the play from a semi-standstill. He does not glide in either direction, always keeping his feet moving and looking for the next spot he should assume within the Storm’s various offensive and defensive formations. He could be more reactive in his decisions, as he is sometimes caught a stick too late when backchecking or when attempting to block a zone exit.
However, when the play slows down at both ends and he begins to focus on coverage and breaking free of checks, Strand is at his best. Although he is not the largest, he holds his own in puck battles, initiates contact when pressured, and keeps his stick available for a pass or a tip. He works the bumper spot on the Storm’s power-play, often weaving up and down, left and right, to remain in a position to contribute to the play. He is not the worst in transition either, often helping his defenders deep in his zone to play the puck out of trouble. He will still show the occasional cheat on zone exits, but it is far from a regular habit.
Related: THW’s 2021 NHL Draft Guide
Related THW Draft Profiles
Hunter Strand – NHL Draft Projection
Strand is on very, very few draft boards; he is entirely absent from Baracchini’s top 130 and Forbes’ top 128, and only earned an honorable mention in Zator’s rankings. Where he shows up, he is projected after the 100th pick, with no exception to date. The scouting sphere seems pretty low on Strand, even though he seems to have a decent set of tools to build upon. This is likely because although his game is already quite mature, it is unclear how much more room there is for growth in his case, especially since he is on the older end of first-year draft-eligibles; with his November birthday, he was only two months shy of being eligible for last year’s selections. Expect to see him as high as the third round if a team likes what they see, but Strand’s name will likely be called in the fourth to seventh rounds.
“Unlike off-puck players who engage defenders around the slot, Strand’s constantly standing between them. He perfectly manages the distance between defenders to maximize his shooting window, simultaneously adjusting his positioning to decrease the difficulty of the pass required to connect with him. He’s patient, waiting for lanes to open before connecting with a spin around or backhand pass through pressure.” – Joey Padmanabhan, EliteProspects
“The left shooting centre will need to polish his skating before he is considered a legitimate NHL prospect but as a long term developmental guy his committing to the University of Notre Dame will give him time to do which will add constituency to his impact in his matches. Takes short choppy steps and it takes him time to get going. Has good hockey smarts and has shown he can produce offensively. ” Bill Płaczek, Lines.com
- Positional awareness
- Scoring touch
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
- Offensive vision
Strand’s well-rounded toolkit makes him a player whose development could go in any direction from now on; he could become a dual-threat top-six forward, a penalty-killer with defensive zone responsibilities, a gritty fourth-line forechecker, or any other role that exists for forwards in the NHL. This is mainly due to his standout tools being his positioning and high motor, two assets that can be useful in almost any situation. The main need for Strand is to polish up his skating, his reactions but most of all his vision in the offensive half of the ice, if he wishes to stick to an NHL lineup eventually.
If a team with time to build blocks atop his foundations gets a hold of him in later rounds, he could be left in the NCAA for four years to develop and work on his weaknesses, and possibly come out of Notre-Dame University a much more NHL-ready prospect.
Risk – 3/5, Reward – 3.5/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offense – 6/10, Defense – 8/10
Strand has no awards or achievements of note to date.
Hunter Strand EliteProspects profile