2020-21 Team: Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
Date of Birth: April 9, 2003
Place of Birth: Edmonton, Alberta
Ht: 6-foot-0 Wt: 174 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2021 first-year eligible
- NHL Central Scouting: 93rd (North American Skaters)
- FC Hockey: 98th
- Elite Prospects: 38th
- Draft Prospects Hockey: 84th
- Matthew Zator, THW: 122nd
Sometimes, it feels as though everything is working against you. For Kyle Masters, that feeling has to ring home to some degree. He joined the Red Deer Rebels as a 16-year-old in 2019-20 as the future of the team’s blueline. He was their first-round pick in the Bantam Draft after putting up 20 points in 35 games for his Edmonton-based prep team. With the Rebels lacking a dominant offensive defenseman ever since the departure of Alexander Alexeyev in 2018-19, Masters was expected to be the heir of that role.
Masters had a slow start in his junior career, with the offensive defender going the first 10 games without a point, but his fundamentals were strong enough that he was added to Team Canada Red at the 2019 U17 World Hockey Challenge. There, he was able to demonstrate more of what made him such a high pick, putting up three assists in four games with some of the best junior players in the world.
However, in that fourth game, Masters went down with a nasty lower-body injury that would end up keeping him off the ice for three months. That’s a lot of time for any player to miss, let alone a rookie. He finally returned to the Rebels in February 2020, where the 16-year-old suddenly was thrust into a top-line role thanks to a trade that sent away the team’s captain, but he made the most of it. In his first 10 games that season, he had just 10 shots, yet in the six games after his injury, he matched that pace and recorded both his first point and first goal in that span. He was growing into a top defender for Red Deer and looked to be ready to take on a huge part of their blueline.
And then the COVID-19 pandemic forced the WHL to cancel the remainder of its season. Master finished his first year with two goals and one assist in 24 games played. However, it wasn’t a total loss as he was selected to join Canada’s U18 World Championship team, a high honour for any junior player, although that too was cancelled due to the pandemic.
Still, Masters looked poised to become the Rebels’ top defenseman for the 2020-21 season. Hope was high, even though at 17 years old, he was one of the oldest of a very young defence corps, and one of the most offensively gifted on a weak team. But the pandemic once again ruined his opportunity to play a full season, forcing the WHL to delay their planned start date back to February 2021 and limiting the schedule to just 23 games. He still managed to lead the team’s defensemen in scoring, but he did so with no goals and just 10 assists in 20 games.
It’s been a trying career for the young defender already, with injuries and inconsistency wreaking havoc on his time with the Rebels. That’s not going to make him a candidate to be a high pick at the 2021 NHL Draft, but observant scouts will notice that Masters has a lot of valuable skills NHL teams love. He’s an excellent skater, displaying edgework and deceptive movements far above his age group. He also has a great nose for the net, using his speed to blow past opponents and drive the play. This season, he also demonstrated that he can be a reliable defensive defender with the strong positioning and patience necessary to break up plays. He also owns a highly-coveted right-handed shot, always a plus in young defensemen.
Related: 2021 NHL Draft Guide
Yet the delays in his career thus far have hindered his development. He’s not the greatest puck handler at this point in his career, which hinders his ability to play the puck-rushing style he’s known for, and he sometimes lacks the confidence to execute risky plays, likely from his lack of experience. He’s learned a lot already from being thrown into the deep end, so to speak, but he still has a long way to go to hone his raw skill into a top prospect. The potential is there, but with everything else that’s happened, he hasn’t been able to properly show it off.
Other THW Draft Profiles:
Kyle Masters – NHL Draft Projection
If you look at Masters’ potential, he could be a second-round pick, which is where Elite Prospects has placed him on their list. However, others are more conservative, placing him solidly in the third or fourth rounds. He has grown an inch and added almost 15 pounds since last season, which is very promising, but without the depth of footage and viewings that other prospects have had, scouts will be more hesitant to take that risk. This year’s draft will be filled with surprises, but the Rebels’ defenseman will still likely find himself going in the 80-100 range.
“When he keeps the game simple, he’s very very effective. He makes some high-risk plays, but that’s part of the way he plays as well. It’s learning when and how to use that skill set.” Brad Flynn, Rebels Assistant Coach (from ‘Kyle Masters stays positive through trying rookie WHL season’, Red Deer Advocate – 2/20/20)
“The 16th overall pick in the 2018 WHL draft, Masters is an offensive-minded defenseman who quarterbacked Red Deer’s power play thanks to his quick feet and soft hands. He’s still growing into his role, but one thing that Masters doesn’t lack is confidence with the puck. He’s more than capable of spinning or darting past pressure while staying in complete control with his head up.” Steve Kournianos, The Draft Analyst
“He’s a play-planner, moving the puck, not to the most obvious target, but the one that creates the most favourable situation up the rink. He activates into the rush by filling space on the weak side, as the trailer, or becoming a forward — in every situation, he sprints past his man, establishing body positioning if necessary, and adjusts his route and speed to become a passing option.” Elite Prospects
“Not only has he been taxed with huge, all situations minutes right out of the gate, but he’s learning rapidly and applying lessons to each ensuing situation he’s put in. Masters projects as a puck rushing catalyst who uses his elite skating ability and deceptive puck skill to make plays out from under pressure and allow play continuity. He’s dynamic with movement and extremely agile with masterful edge work which allows him to manipulate opposition routes and create space with a combination of heel-to-heel mohawk maneuvers and linear crossovers. He doesn’t seem to under handle pucks but can change the angle of flow with quick handles and moving pucks from exposed areas to be hidden on his hip so he can make a quick pass or find a shot lane while making the play through weight shift.” Justin Froese, FC Hockey
- Offensive instincts
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
- Raw skill
- Injury concerns
- Hockey IQ
Masters is part of the new wave of smooth-skating, offensive-minded defensemen taking the NHL by storm. While he doesn’t have the puck-handling skills necessary to be a top force in that group, he still projects to be a middle-pairing defenseman in the best-case scenario. Whether he gets there, though, will take a lot of patience and development to make up for the lost 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons.
Risk – 4/5, Reward – 3/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offence – 7.5/10, Defence – 6/10
Masters was part of Team Alberta at the 2019 Canada Winter Games, where he had six points in six games, the highest total among all defensemen on the team and tied for sixth among defensemen at the tournament. He also dressed for Team Canada Red in the 2019 U17 World Hockey Challenge and joined the U18 Development Camp at the end of the 2019-20 season before it was cancelled.
Kyle Masters Statistics
An elementary teacher by day and an avid hockey fan, Dayton joined The Hockey Writers in 2019 and currently covers the Ottawa Senators, World Juniors, and NHL Entry Draft.