2021-22 Team: Mississauga Steelheads (#14)
Date of Birth: Jan 18, 2002
Place of Birth: Innisfil, ON, Canada
Ht: 6-foot Wt: 183 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2022 third-year eligible
- NHL Central Scouting: 148th (amongst North American Skaters)
- Draft Prospects Hockey: 140th
- Peter Baracchini’s May Rankings: 121st
The story of James Hardie is a fascinating one if you look at the journey he’s been on. He was taken eighth overall by the Mississauga Steelheads in the OHL Priority Selection. Big things were expected from him as a result. Unfortunately for him, his rookie season didn’t go as planned.
Related: THW 2022 NHL Draft Guide
While Hardie did finish the 2018-19 season with 15 goals, the season was a struggle for him. Some questions started to come up about if he’d ever reach his potential given his selection in the top-10. Some of it was typical rookie mistakes. But then there were questions about his game especially his skating.
Hardie came back strong in 2019-20 before the pandemic cut the season short. In 59 games, he shot up to 34 goals and 63 points while showing everyone the skill he had finishing shots. His performance caught the eye of the scouting world. Most in the industry had Hardie ranked in a range where he’d hear his name called.
Despite his great season, Hardie went undrafted in 2019-20. Then the OHL didn’t play at all in 2020-21 due to the pandemic. If there was anyone that this directly affected, it was a player like Hardie who now had no chance to prove to everyone what improvements he’s made. He had one chance to show his progression at the Erie Junior Showcase in June 2021. He was one of the better players at the event. He was once again eligible for the draft in 2021. However like in 2020, the draft came and went with Hardie not hearing his name even though some other OHL players got the call.
This season, Hardie went on a mission to prove to everyone he had something to give. He did just that by becoming the Steelheads’ leading scorer with 41 goals and 77 points while not missing a game. He was their most noticeable offensive player on a consistent basis. He averaged over four shots per game for the season. Check out some of these other numbers.
- 36 assists, a new career high.
- 13 power-play goals and two shorthanded goals, showing he was a force on both special team’s units.
- eight game-winning goals, showing a knack to be clutch when needed.
- six playoff goals in 10 games.
Hardie has done everything in his power to show how effective an OHL player he is. The question we now need to consider is what might he become at the next level. That’s where scouts have had their doubts.
On the good side, Hardie can score and score in a variety of ways. His wrist shot is one of his best weapons using it to beat goalies from the circle with consistency. He can use the slap shot to score also when needed. When his opponents play shot, he can setup his teammates. Couple his shot with good hands and you have someone who is an offensive threat.
The two big questions with Hardie are his skating and his defensive play. The skating is a concern but it has improved. You’d like to see another gear for a scorer like him but he was able to keep up most of the time. A team that takes him will need to take his skating to the next level. In addition, he needs to become effective defensively. While he showed some bright spots there, it is a work in progress.
Whoever drafts Hardie is getting an offensive threat who has room for growth in other areas. Time and patience will be needed. But he’s done everything to show that he deserves his chance to hear his name called in Montreal. By that time in the draft, not many players with his offensive upside are available.
Other THW Draft Profiles
James Hardie — NHL Draft Projection
As mentioned above, this is Hardie’s third year of draft eligibility. He continues to put himself in the conversation for consideration. I think he’s shown enough that a team should use a late-round pick on him. He could be passed over again if there are still lingering questions about his skating. But this time, a team will likely scoop him up if he’s still without a team after the draft.
“Hardie is a shot generating machine, firing almost four and a half shots per game. It’s a hard, heavy, accurate shot that he has the utmost confidence in and he’s not afraid to use it. But he’s not always trying to beat goaltenders with it. He does shoot with a purpose, putting the disk in areas that the goaltender has a hard time directing and thus creating second chances. His release is also excellent and it is more noticeable with the man advantage when there is more space.” –Dominic Tiano, OHL Writers
“The production is there. His ability to work along the boards is good when engaged. He is a more than capable passer. The big issue with Hardie’s game is that his skating is quite underwhelming. He is able to outwork his deficiencies as a skater at the junior level but the concern is that if his skating doesn’t improve, he won’t be able to utilize what makes him valuable, his strong shot. When he gets himself into a good position, Hardie’s shot is very good and should be a tool that whoever drafts the Steelheads star should look to build around. His defensive game is a work in progress but improved skating and mobility should go a long way to improving that area of his game as well. He is a high-risk project that will need direct attention from a skating and skills coach. If Hardie can take a step in the skating department, he could become a valuable contributor at the next level.” –Dobber Prospects
“Hardie is an above average skater; he has decent foot speed and balance on his edges but could stand to improve his top-end speed. He is agile and shows the ability to weave through traffic with control of the puck.” –Future Considerations
- Good shot
- Improved playmaker
- Work ethic
Under Construction — Improvements to Make
- Defensive consistency
Hardie’s potential is directly tied to his continued improvement with his skating. He has some intriguing tools that can get him to the NHL. He has to show a marked improvement in the skating or prove his tools can overcome the gap that exists. A scoring role is not out of the question for him assuming continued development.
Risk — 3/5, Reward — 3/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offense — 8/10, Defense — 6/10
Hardie was selected eighth overall in the 2018 OHL Priority Selection. He was named OHL Player of the Week in January 2022 after recording consecutive three-point games.