Ryan O’Rourke – 2020 NHL Draft Prospect Profile

Ryan O’Rourke

The Hockey Writers 2020 NHL Entry Draft Guide

2019-20 Team: Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds (#21)
Date of Birth: May 16, 2002
Place of Birth: Pickering, Ontario, Canada
Ht: 6-foot-2 Wt: 181-pounds
Shoots: Left
Position: Defense
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2020 first-year eligible


Solid, two-way defenders who wreak havoc on their opponents defensively while creating opportunities offensively. That’s the name of the game for defenders in today’s game and Ryan O’Rourke has done a good job at modeling his game to fit that description perfectly.

A 6-foot-2 skater who has the ability to make life miserable for the opposition, O’Rourke has all the makings of a good puck-moving defender who has the awareness to adjust and adapt as a play goes on. That isn’t something that can be said about a lot of young defensive talent at the age of 18 years old, but for O’Rourke, it’s almost second-nature.

Ryan O'Rourke Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Ryan O’Rourke of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. (Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

There’s a fine-line that teams have to walk when evaluating young defenders because on the one hand, offensive upside and the ability to be a game-breaker is so important in a league that emphasizes speed and mobility. On the other hand, teams are also looking at well-rounded, defensively-capable players at all positions who can be responsible and effective in all three zones.

Few players fit both sides of that coin well and it’s hard to evaluate players at 18 years old to see if they can excel at one side while possessing the ability to develop the other side. For O’Rourke, the skill-set already reflects a very capable and effective three-zone player who knows how to play tough in his own zone.

At the same time, he has the offensive instincts necessary to be more than a pure defensive-defender at the next level; even if he’s unlikely to put up 60-points with regularity from the back-end. He scored eight goals and 22 points in 62 games as a rookie and would score seven goals and 37 points in 54 games this past season.

He may not possess an elite-shot or have the high-end speed that teams covet in top defenders in the draft, but he certainly has the ability to position himself correctly, adjust to a situation and play hard on the puck in true, old-school fashion.

Related: 2020 NHL Draft Guide

More than anything, though, O’Rourke shows a natural-born leadership on and off the ice that teams absolutely love to see in young players. The drive that he has and the ability to lead by example for his teammates is impressive not just for someone his age, but in general too.

He was named the captain of Sault Ste. Marie at 17 years old, making him just the second player in the history of the franchise to be named a captain at that age, joining Craig Hartsburg who was named captain heading into the 1976-77 season; for general managers and scouting departments across the NHL, that means something.

In general, O’Rourke just feels like one of the safer picks that can come out of this draft class given his high-floor.

Other THW Draft Profiles

Ryan O’Rourke – NHL Draft Projection

O’Rourke is a player with first-round talent who could fall into the early stages of the second round. Though he doesn’t play a flashy game, his potential to be a legitimate top-four player in the NHL makes him a very good investment with early capital for teams looking to bolster their defense. A realistic range for him is likely somewhere in the 27 to 36 range, though he’ll probably end up going in the second round.


“O’Rourke is a very mature defender, playing well above his age. He’s able to be used in all situations, shutting down opponents top lines or chipping in offence.” – Josh Bell, The Hockey Writers

“Great self awareness will allow him to adapt. At his worst, he’s a simple, hard-to-play-against, puck-moving defenceman of high character.” – Sam Cosentino, Sportsnet

“Whoever drafts O’Rourke is going to get a dependable defenseman who will have no trouble causing headaches for the opposition. But then if his team has the puck, there’s a good chance he’s involved in the scoring” – Mark Scheig, The Hockey Writers

“It’s pretty clear if you watch him play or meet him off the ice that he’s a born leader, that’s for sure. He knows how to play under stressful situations, how to respond under pressure, which I think is a huge characteristic of a leader.” – Sault Ste. Marie coach John Dean


  • Defensive awareness
  • Leadership ability
  • Mobility
  • Smart passer

Under Construction – Improvements to Make

  • Offensive production

NHL Potential

For O’Rourke, the potential to be a very solid No. 2 defender on a team is within the realm of possibility if he can work on his offensive production. Even if he remains more of a defensive option with the ability to chip in offensively, though, he has the ability to fall into a second-pairing role of a good team.

Risk/Reward Analysis

Risk – 3/5, Reward 4/5

Fantasy Hockey Potential

Offense – 5.5/10, Defense – 8/10


  • HHlinka Gretzky Cup Silver Medal – 2019-20
  • OHL Second All-Rookie Team – 2018-19

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