2021-22 Team: USNTDP Juniors (USHL)
Date of Birth: Feb 27, 2004
Place of Birth: Mahtomedi, MN, USA
Ht: 6-feet Wt: 194 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2022 first-year eligible
- NHL Central Scouting: 22nd (among NA skaters)
- FC Hockey: 18th
- Peter Baracchini’s March Rankings: 28th
- Andrew Forbes’ March Rankings: 23rd
- Matthew Zator’s February Rankings: 20th
- SMAHT Scouting: 26th
- Bob McKenzie’s Mid-Season Rankings: 18th
- Dobber Prospects Mid-Season Rankings: 30th
- Recruit Scouting: 33rd
The USA U18 program has done a fantastic job of developing prospects for the NHL Entry Draft over the years. The 2022 draft class from that team could be added to the list as there are a number of promising players to be had in the first round. Defenseman Ryan Chesley is one of those players who could hear his name called on the first day.
Related: THW 2022 NHL Draft Guide
Chesley is a very strong and reliable two-way defender with great hockey sense. He has a great work ethic but his bread and butter is his defensive play, as he possesses great instincts in his own end or in the neutral zone. He’s extremely confident and excels in one-on-one situations, as he does a fantastic job of closing the gap on the puck carrier. He uses his size to his advantage to keep them to the outside and negate any chance of getting to the middle of the ice.
Chesley has great strength and has great body positioning to gain that edge and separate the player from the puck. Even though he has average speed, he has a very smooth skating stride as he manages to stay with his assignments and maintain positioning. He isn’t afraid to bring the physical play and use that to his advantage in battles along the boards and make a timely hit. He’s also great at clearing bodies in front of the net and tying up his opponents to make sure there are no second chance opportunities.
Chelsey has no problem getting into the shooting lanes and sacrificing the body. What I really like about him is that he also has a very active stick and the awareness to step up and break up plays. This is noticeable in penalty kill situations, but also at even strength when defending against the rush. He’s extremely effective at using his long reach to stick check and break up a play, regain control and quickly transition the other way by carrying or passing the puck off.
The biggest question mark regarding Chesley is his lack of offensive production and if it can translate at the NHL level. He posted 34 points in 37 games with the U17 team in 2020-21 but hasn’t quite matched that kind of production at the U18 level as it has been underwhelming.
Chesley does possess a good shot with power behind his release. He puts himself in a good spot to open himself for those shooting opportunities or place the puck in a good spot with his shot from the point. Although he may not join the rush as often like teammate Seamus Casey, when he does, he can be a real threat in transition. Chesley does an excellent job at protecting the puck when exiting the zone and to jump start an attack with poise. Even if he may not have a clear entry, he chips the puck in effectively for his teammates to go in and attack with speed. Chesley also has great control and can make moves in tight spaces even dealing with pressure.
Even if the production isn’t there, he does have that untapped potential as there are things to like about his offensive game.
Other THW Draft Profiles
Ryan Chesley- NHL Draft Projection
Chesley doesn’t possess the wow factor compared to other defenders in this draft class as he plays a safer style of play. However, that shouldn’t put teams off who are looking for a reliable right-hand defender. Most of the scouting outlets do project him as a mid to late first round pick, with him being as high as 18th. However, there’s the possibility that someone may draft him earlier than expected.
“The defender has a powerful stride, complemented by his booming physical presence. He shows an excellent, consistent ability to separate attackers from the puck. He defends the rush very well and looks very strong in his decision-making, even under pressure. His upside might not be as high as teammate Casey’s, but they’re very close right now and Chesley’s game should translate very well to the NHL level.”– Josh Bell, FC Hockey
“While he shows a knack for the offensive side of the game, he doesn’t show any glaring deficiencies on defense. He positions himself well while using his stick to maintain gaps and fights hard along the boards to tie up opponents. He is not afraid to use his body to block a shot or to throw a big hit. When playing with a more offensive-minded partner, he is capable of assuming the defensive role on the pairing and establishing his physical presence.”– Alexander Annun, Dobber Prospects
“The puck skill Chesley shows while scanning for breakout options and baiting neutral zone defenders before evading pressure is a ton of fun. He’s a solid forwards skater who can penetrate into the offensive zone, but the points just haven’t been there. He can throw his weight around, and while I’m not entirely sure what projects to the NHL just yet with him, I believe there could be a good minutes-eater who can at least chip in at both ends.”– Will Scouch, McKeen’s Hockey
- Defensive play
- Active stick
- Physical presence
- Great poise
- Transitional game
Under Construction- Improvements to Make
- Average speed
- Offensive production
Even with the lack of offense, Chesley has the ability to be a very reliable, two-way defender. The safe bet is for him to be a top-four defender, but the potential for him to even be on the top-pair remains. He would be in great demand as a right-handed shot and already has the defensive game down pat and can play in all situations. If he’s able to provide average offense, his stock as prospect will be that much higher as he could have a long and successful career in the NHL.
Risk- Reward Analysis
Risk- 1/5, Reward 4/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offense- 6/10, Defense 8/10
Chesley won a silver medal for Team USA at the Youth Olympic Games in 2019-20. He was also a member of the U18 team that finished fifth in 2020-21.
Ryan Chesley Statistics
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Peter is in his third year with The Hockey Writers, covering the Toronto Maple Leafs and heading the Draft and Prospects section. He has previously interned at The Hockey News and worked on Toronto Marlies broadcasts for Rogers TV. He currently is the co-host of the podcast Sticks in the 6ix and a frequent guest on Maple Leafs Lounge. Aside from hockey, he also enjoys drumming, animation and impressions/ voices.