2022-23 Team: Tri-City Americans
Date of Birth: Apr. 25, 2005
Place of Birth: Richmond, B.C.
Height: 6-foot-2, Weight: 190 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2023 first-year eligible
- NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters): 18th
- The Hockey Writers (Baracchini): 31st
- The Hockey Writers (Horn): 32nd
- SMAHT Scouting: 36th
- Elite Prospects: 36th
- DobberProspects: 51st
- FC Hockey: 59th
The top-ranked North American defensive prospect for the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, Lukas Dragicevic, has all the attributes teams are looking for in a modern-day defenceman. He can be relied upon in his own zone, transition the puck with a crisp first pass or strong skating, and can quarterback a power play. A confident player, his play is even more impressive, considering he only started playing defence full-time during his Western Hockey League (WHL) draft year in 2020.
When watching Dragicevic, one part of his game that sticks out is his passing. Starting off in the transition game, he can make a tape-to-tape pass from his own zone, hitting teammates in stride, which can create odd-man rushes entering the offensive zone. Once his team has possession in the offensive zone, the play usually goes through him at the point or wherever he has moved down to. This is a player who loves to have the puck on his stick as he always has his head up, looking for a way to create a scoring chance.
Dragicevic’s skating is another reason why he is so dangerous, as he can carry the puck into the offensive zone with ease if no passing options present themselves. He also has the confidence to carry the puck down the boards and below the goal line in the offensive zone in order to draw defenders in and open up space for his teammates. While his skating mechanics do need some work overall, he has shown that he is consistently strong on his skates, has good speed, and can change directions quickly if needed.
Related: 2023 NHL Draft Guide
The 2022-23 campaign was a busy one for Dragicevic as not only did he play all 68 regular season games plus six playoff games with Tri-City, but he also participated in the Top Prospects Game and recently helped Canada win bronze at the U18s. During the tournament, he averaged over 23 minutes a game and led all skaters in ice time during the Bronze Medal Game, playing 32:30. One thing is clear from watching him play this season, he is durable, which is a trait organizations pay attention to, especially when it comes to defencemen who play heavy minutes.
While Dragicevic is an exciting player, one of the concerns around his game is that he takes too many chances. He often gets caught up ice which leads to odd man rushes against and will try to force dangerous passes that are easily intercepted. He is a high-risk, high-reward player that will need to work on his timeliness and zone reads over the next few seasons before making the jump to the NHL.
Other THW Profiles
Lukas Dragicevic – NHL Draft Projection
Dragicevic has all the traits needed to be a first-round pick, but he very well may drop to the second round because of his overall defensive play. There is no question he is one of, if not the most skilled, defenseman in this draft class, but the debate organizations will have is whether or not his offensive game is strong enough to mask his defensive flaws at the NHL level. Expect him to be picked somewhere between 30th and 40th, with potentially a team trading up in order to select him.
“Aggressive offensive blueliner with great mobility and a heavy shot. Needs to continue to develop defensively but possesses top-four potential at the NHL level.” – Nick Richard, DobberProspects
“Dragicevic loves joining in on the attack and getting involved in the play any way he can. There aren’t many draft-eligible defenders that can set plays up like him, using as much available time as possible to make the correct play. He needs to work on his foot speed if he’s going to excel in the NHL.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
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“Dragicevic is an incredibly mobile defenseman that possess the tools to lead a defensive unit offensively. He’s got prompt first strides and exceptional edgework, which gives him high-end mobility in all directions and the ability to stop on a dime easily.” – Joey Fortin Boulay, FC Hockey.
- Mobility with the puck
- Ability to run a power play
Under Construction – Improvements to Make
- Play in the defensive zone
- Shot placement
If Dragicevic can polish up his defensive game, there is no doubt that he can be an effective top-four defender at the NHL level. He will also be looked upon to run a team’s power play and could produce 40-plus points per season if his development continues the way it has. This is a prospect that has the potential to be an impact player at the NHL level, but he has to go to the right organization that will let him develop his game and won’t rush him into their lineup.
Risk – 3.5/5, Reward – 4.5/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offense – 9/10, Defense – 5/10
Achievements & Awards
- 2022-23 WHL (US) First All-Star Team
- 2023 U18 WJC Bronze Medal