Zach Dean – 2021 NHL Draft Prospect Profile

Zach Dean

2020-21 Team: Gatineau Olympiques
Date of Birth: Jan. 4, 2003
Place of Birth: Grande Prairie, Alberta
Ht: 6-foot-0 Wt: 176 Pounds
Shoots: Left
Position: C
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2021 first-year eligible

Rankings

There will always be a place in hockey for a player who is smart and works hard, two attributes that can be attributed to Gatineau Olympiques’ centre Zach Dean. The former fourth overall pick by the Gatineau Olympiques has spent very little time actually playing hockey when compared to prospects in drafts past, racking up just over a full season of work in the QMJHL.

Related: THW 2021 NHL Draft Guide

When you take a look at the statsheet, you might be wondering why Dean is even considered to be a first-round talent. Coming into a draft, some players will impress you with their point or goal totals like Jack Quinn last year, but others come in and steal the show in a different way. Dean is certainly not the statsheet stuffer like others, but his hockey IQ, skating, and work ethic are very impressive.

Zach Dean Gatineau Olympiques
Zach Dean of the Gatineau Olympiques (Steve Philippe)

After the 2019-20 QMJHL season was cut short due to COVID-19, Dean was named to the league’s all-rookie team alongside fellow 2021 NHL Entry Draft eligibles Zachary L’Heureux and Zachary Bolduc. He also participated in the World U17 Tournament with Team Canada Black in 2020 where he and Shane Wright were tied for the team lead in points.

When Dean is on the ice and the puck is in the offensive zone, things happen. The points aren’t there for him right now (as of this writing), but he is always busy in the opponent’s zone. If there is a loose puck, he is on it. If there is a scoring chance in tight of the net, Dean will be there. If he needs to screen the goalie, he will be there and be very happy to do so. But with all of the good, come drawbacks.

By no means could you consider Dean perfect. If the game was all about offence, he would be projected much higher than he is right now. He has a tendency to float around the defensive zone and fly the zone early, creating opportunities for the other team. These issues could be the thing that causes scouts to raise some red flags. It likely isn’t because of a poor effort, but rather something just not clicking.

Expecting Dean to be elite is probably a little bit unattainable, but you should expect a player who is going to give you everything he has on a night-to-night basis. Even Connor McDavid struggled in his own zone at times in junior hockey, but he has managed to improve upon that as he has gotten older. Dean will certainly be a pest to play against going forward.

Zach Dean – NHL Draft Projection

Most pundits have Dean ranked somewhere towards the end of the first round or early in the second round. Both of these are more than acceptable. His offensive upside, hockey IQ, and physical style of play are fantastic, but his play in his own zone is lacking. He grades out to be one of those players that could become an absolute steal if he can correct these issues.

Quotables

“Comparable to Ridley Greig in that they both come from NHL bloodlines, both play a hard-nosed, old-school style of game and both have undercover skill.” – Sam Cosentino/Sportsnet

“The Gatineau Olympiques’ 16-year-old quickly became a play driving centerman in his rookie campaign in the QMJHL. His early success can be attributed to several mature aspects of his game, including a strong awareness and anticipation of gaps in his opponent’s defense, as well as the availability and readiness of his teammates. Dean owns a favorable first stride that allows him to win loose puck races and create turnovers in all zones. His defensive reactions can be a bit delayed, but he is on the right track to developing an acceptable two-way style.” – Brayden Olafson/DobberProspect

“While the first thing you’ll notice about Dean is his excellent skating, his ability to get through traffic with crisp passes and open up the play for his teammates are what set him apart. He also has extremely fast, nimble hands when the puck is on his stick. That shows up often in games and results in many goals in the shootout.” – Josh Bell/The Hockey Writers

Strengths

  • Offensive awareness
  • Physicality
  • Skating

Under Construction (Improvements to Make)

  • Defensive awareness
  • Finishing ability

NHL Potential

Dean has the potential to be a very important player on the team that he ends up being drafted by, especially come playoff time. With the role of the enforcer gradually being phased out of the game, teams are turning to players like this to fill those boots but also not be a liability on the ice. Dean can absolutely fill that at the next level if he can correct the issues in his game.

Risk/Reward Analysis

Risk – 3/5, Reward – 4/5

Awards/Achievements

Dean isn’t as decorated as some guys might be, but there are still some achievements to be had for him. The vast majority of his hardware comes from before junior hockey including a Telus Cup in 2018-19 with the Toronto Nationals ‘AAA’. Since then, he has played for Team Canada at the World U17 Tournament and was named to the QMJHL All-Rookie team.

Interview

Zach Dean Statistics

Video


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