Owen Pickering — 2022 NHL Draft Prospect Profile

Owen Pickering

2021-22 Team: Swift Current Broncos
Date of Birth: Jan. 27, 2004
Place of Birth: St. Adolphe, MB, CAN
Ht: 6-foot-4 Wt: 179 Pounds
Shoots: Left
Position: Defense
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2022 first-year eligible

Rankings

Owen Pickering wasn’t considered a top-two-round pick by many before the season and has since flown up draft boards to be ranked a first-round pick by many. A late-first, early second-round pick on most draft rankings, Pickering will likely climb closer to the late-middle first-round before draft day.

A towering defenseman at 6-foot-4, Pickering has excellent feet for a player his size and noticeable offensive upside. He effectively carries the puck out of his own zone, acting as a one-man breakout at times, and is very good at carrying it through the neutral zone. Still a raw talent, there are consistency issues in his game, but his talent is undeniable.

Owen Pickering Swift Current Broncos
Owen Pickering, Swift Current Broncos (Candice Ward / Swift Current Broncos)

A defenseman with Pickering’s blend of size, skating ability, and skill is impressive. He hasn’t put up massive numbers in the Western Hockey League (WHL) this season, but his puck carrying and high-end playmaking skills leave me confident that the numbers will come.

He can make crisp breakout passes and often opts for the safer option with the puck but has shown the ability to pass through seams and make home-run style stretch passes. Unfortunately, he’s prone to turnovers, as his inconsistent passing can get him in trouble. On one shift, he’ll throw a saucer pass across two zones tape-to-tape before messing up a 10-foot breakout pass on the next shift. These inconsistencies concern some scouts, but I think he will overcome them with time as the talent is there. He also possesses a big shot from the point, making him a good option on the power play.

There’s also a lot to like in Pickering’s defensive game, and some things to dislike. He has a high hockey IQ and an active stick but leaves a lot to be desired physically, especially for his size. In his defense, he was late to grow and is still getting used to his frame. Listed just shy of 180 pounds, there’s no question that he needs to put on weight. He loses far too many battles in front of the net and along the boards, but this will likely be fixed with added muscle. He almost always looks to make the right play defensively, but he can struggle with the execution at times.

Other THW Draft Profiles

Owen Pickering — NHL Draft Projection

It’s difficult to project where Pickering will be drafted, as he’s been climbing rankings for a while now. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a team in the 10-15 range take a shot on him, as his raw tools are very enticing. As of now, he’s probably a safe bet to go somewhere in the 15-25 range, as teams with higher picks might be put off by his inconsistencies. He also projects to have a long development path, which could see teams higher in the draft pass on him.

Quotables

“Pickering’s tools are evident to anyone who watches a game or two. He’s a 6-foot-4 defenseman who skates quite well for his size and has offense. He can carry through the neutral zone to create controlled exits/entries and is good on retrievals. He can also pull up to make a good outlet or seam pass in the o-zone. He can use his size and feet to close on checks efficiently. Pickering’s ascent has been quick, and thus there are some raw aspects with his play with the puck and overall consistency. He projects as a second-pair defenseman.” – Corey Pronman (from, ‘The 2022 NHL Draft ranking: Juraj Slafkovsky rises in Pronman’s updated list,’ The Athletic, March 29, 2022)

“Still, it’s unfair to talk about the bad aspects of Pickering’s game without also acknowledging that most, if not all of these areas are teachable. Pickering can be molded into a top-four defenseman capable of seeing time on a power-play unit and, with enough development, maybe even the penalty kill. I mentioned at the beginning of this report that Pickering was one of the biggest ‘what if’ players in this draft class, and it’s true. What if he becomes a better passer? What if he becomes a dominant force in transition? What if Pickering becomes an elite two-way defender? All of these are possible when you look at his current skill set. It’s going to take the right team and the right development path for Pickering to get to that point, though.” – Matthew Somma, Smaht Scouting

“Projection as a top-3 defenceman is based on his upside as a late-blooming player with raw tools.” – Sam Cosentino, Sportsnet

“Everything in Owen Pickering’s game, all I see is development. All he needs is time. I don’t see any inherent weaknesses in that kid’s game.” – Craig Button, TSN

Strengths

  • Hockey IQ
  • Size
  • Skating
  • Shooting

Under Construction — Improvements to Make

  • Physicality/Strength
  • Consistency with the puck

NHL Potential

Pickering’s tools give him top-four defenseman upside in the NHL. He can either complement a true number one on the top-pairing or take the reigns on a second pairing while quarterbacking the second power-play unit. It will take a lot of development before he reaches this point, as I mentioned earlier, and he needs to get more comfortable in his body and add a lot of strength. He also needs to iron out his inconsistencies with the puck and cut out the high number of turnovers he commits. If he can do these things, he’ll be an excellent top-four defenseman who can play big minutes and provide 35-50 points consistently, depending on power-play usage.

Risk-Reward Analysis

Risk — 3/5, Reward — 4/5

Fantasy Hockey Potential

Offense — 5/10, Defense 7/10

Owen Pickering Statistics

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