Haydn Fleury provides an intriguing option for any club looking for help on the blue line in a year or two. Will the Jackets be among those looking?
Current Team: Red Deer Rebels, WHL
Date of Birth: July 8, 1996
Place of Birth: Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Weight: 201 lbs
Yet another top prospect from the WHL this year, Haydn Fleury is regarded by most to be the #2 blue-liner available, following only Aaron Eckblad. While no relation to either Theo or Marc-Andre, Haydn had Brenden Morrow as an early mentor, and clearly intends to establish his own NHL identity. Based upon his numbers and the views of those around him, he should have little trouble making his mark.
In his second season with Red Deer, Fleury saw a significant jump in his numbers, notching 46 point, versus 18 a year earlier. The 38 assists tells you that he prefers to be a playmaker at this point in his career. Most of the commentary on Fleury's game suggests that he has solid offensive upside, but that part of his game has simply not yet matured.
Fleury shines brightest when he is defending his zone and engineering transition to the offensive end. At 6'3" and 200 pounds, he has the size to impose his will at this level, and he is not hesitant to play the physical game. Another 10 pounds on that frame, and he'll be ready for the big time. However, he is equally adroit at using his stick and skating to gain position and make plays. His passing prowess is well-documented, and he has the ability to keep cool under pressure. At only 17 years of age, he wears an "A" for Red Deer, which is some indication of the maturity and poise he brings to the table.
Fleury is ranked 9th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, and 12th by the ISS, with both services having him pegged as the #2 blue liner. That lofty a ranking at this age speaks volumes about both his current ability and his potential. Most analysts agree that Fleury just needs some time to let his game mature, up his offensive production, refine his angles on defense and put the finishing touches on his game necessary to be a top defenseman in the NHL. For most, it is not a question of if it will happen, merely when it will happen.
"I compare him to a Jay Bouwmeester type, since he makes it look so easy in your own end. He can carry it out, or with one pass you're on the transition, and that's what makes him so effective. His points might not be as high as some of the other defensemen on the board, but he just does so many other things well." -- Peter Sullivan, NHL Central Scouting
A Good Fit in Columbus?
This question gets an unqualified "It depends" as an answer. Certainly, this kid has the skills and the potential to be a productive defenseman for a long time. But is there room in Columbus stables for another young defensive thoroughbred?
James Wisniewski is 30, and has three years left on his deal. Fedor Tyutin, who will be 31 when the season starts, and Jack Johnson, 27, each have four years left on their contracts. Nikita Nikitin, 28, and Nick Schultz, 32, are both unrestricted free agents. Nikitin gave the club problems last time, settling on a short term deal as arbitration was about to begin. It would not be shocking to see him bolt to the KHL for the money, but the club's intentions with these two are question marks at the moment.
David Savard,23, and Dalton Prout,24, are both restricted free agents, coming off of their entry level deals. Ditto for a host of defensive prospects, including Cody Goloubef, 24, Tim Erixon, 23, Ilari Melart, 25, and Will Weber, also 25. Of course, Ryan Murray, who will finally be legally allowed to drink in September, is going nowhere.
So, on the one hand, the Blue Jackets look set at defense. But dig a little deeper, and questions arise. What if Nikitin bolts? What does the organization really think about Goloubef, Erixon, et al.? It may all be a moot point, as it will just take two clubs in the top 15 to decide to go defense, and make Fleury unavailable. If he falls to 16, Columbus just might make this pick, all other things being equal. This is one to watch as the first round proceeds.
Fleury in Action