2018-19 Team: Shattuck-St. Mary’s Prep School (#2)
Date of Birth: January 9, 2001
Place of Birth: Eden Prairie, Minnesota
Ht: 6-foot-2 Wt: 189 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2019 first-year eligible
- The Hockey Writers (Pike’s Picks): 107th (final)
- Future Considerations: 56th (final)
- ISS: outside of first round (April)
- Bob McKenzie: outside of top 15 (April; draft lottery update)
- Craig Button: 49th (June)
Every draft class has a few enigmas, player that are a challenge to place within the rankings because of a few attributes. One of the enigmas in the 2019 NHL Draft class is high school defenseman Jackson LaCombe of Shattuck-St. Mary’s prep school.
Originally an undersized forward, LaCombe was converted to a blueliner early in his prep school tenure – and then he hit a bit of a growth spurt. Based on Central Scouting’s records, he gained a half-inch of height and roughly 15 pounds during this past season alone. As a result, he’s a smooth-skating blueliner who’s confident in jumping into the rush.
At the prep school level, LaCombe has made a ton of progress with his game. As a 16-year-old, he had five goals and 49 points. As a 17-year-old, he had 22 goals and 89 points – blossoming into one of the most imposing offensive players at his level in the entire country.
Related: Our Free NHL Draft Guide
But the challenge with LaCombe is that while he’s been terrorizing the teams he’s been playing against in the prep school circuit, that opposition isn’t much of a representative sample of the draft class. He’s had a very limited window of competition against higher-end talent, and that was an August stint at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup that saw him go pointless. (And then he went on a scoring frenzy for the remainder of the hockey year.)
LaCombe is a smart, talented hockey player. He moves well, he’s smart, and he adapted well enough to playing a new position that he was arguably even more dangerous on the ice than before. There are questions about how good he is because the majority of his games were against other high school teams, but there’s definitely upside to him and value if he’s selected in the right spot.
Jackson LaCombe – NHL Draft Projection
The preceding tweet from Dobber Prospects’ Jokke Nevalainen wasn’t meant derisively. While LaCombe was a B-rated prospect on the early season watch list, he was a dark horse player that a lot of scouts and rankers didn’t have a great handle on. His offensive production has put him firmly on the radar, but there are wide varieties of opinions regarding where he could be drafted.
A team with multiple early picks may take a flyer on him. At the very least, he seems like a player whose potential alone should get him drafted sometime in the third round.
“An intriguing high school who has made the transition for being a forward to a rushing defenseman. After a growth spurt, he has now good size, wheels and offensive instincts that helped him amass 20 goals and 81 points in his 50 game season in his sophomore year of high school. A terrific skater with great stop/starts, good edge work, with good vision and up-ice mobility. A power play quarterback who reads and creates in all phases of the attack. His lack of experience at his position seems a [moot] point as he he shows solid understanding of defensive zone positioning and his responsibilities as a defender. Committed to the University of Minnesota, where he will continue his development.” – Bill Placzek, DraftSite
- Great mobility, able to move confidently in all three zones.
- Strong puck distributor, able to make crisp passes to teammates.
- Strong hockey sense, particularly in the offensive zone.
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
- Needs to keep filling out physically and building up muscle.
- As noted, there’s some question about his ability to translate his offense against higher-level opposition.
Other 2019 NHL Draft Profiles
Based on his production thus far, LaCombe projects as a second pairing defender (and potentially a power play specialist).
Risk – 1.5/5, Reward – 4/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offense 8.5/10, Defense 8/10
LaCombe represented the United States at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. He was named to USA Today’s All-USA Boy’s Hockey First Team, USA Today’s high school all-star team.
Ryan Pike has covered the Calgary Flames and the NHL Draft extensively since 2010 as a Senior Writer for The Hockey Writers and Senior Contributing Editor of FlamesNation.ca. A member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, he lives in Calgary.