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2021 NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Zach Dean is a quality stick-handling center

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Can Dean’s fast hands make him a regular NHLer?

NHL Entry Draft Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images/NHLI

We are less than a week away from the 2021 NHL Entry Draft (July 23-24), so it’s time to start researching the prospects likely to be selected in the first round. The Columbus Blue Jackets currently hold three picks in that round: #5, #24, and #31.

Zach Dean

Position: Center
Team: Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)
Date of Birth: January 4, 2003
Birthplace: Grande Prairie, Alberta
Height: 6’ 0”
Weight: 176
Shoots: Left

Rankings

Ranked #32 by CONSOLIDATED RANKING
Ranked #15 by ELITEPROSPECTS.COM
Ranked #23 by FCHOCKEY
Ranked #26 by NEUTRAL ZONE
Ranked #38 by MCKEEN’S HOCKEY
Ranked #22 by TSN/CRAIG BUTTON
Ranked #21 by NHL CENTRAL SCOUTING (NA Skaters)
Ranked #28 by SPORTSNET’S
Ranked #37 by RECRUIT SCOUTING
Ranked #39 by DOBBERPROSPECTS
Ranked #33 by DRAFT PROSPECTS HOCKEY
Ranked #38 by SMAHT SCOUTING
Ranked #32 by TSN/McKenzie

2019-20 Stats

Games Played: 57
Goals: 18
Assists: 28
Points: 46
PIM: 22

2020-21 Stats

Games Played: 23
Goals: 10
Assists: 10
Points: 20
PIM: 20

Zach Dean will likely be a late first round to early second round pick. He’s a center with a lot to like about his game - a high compete level, good hands, and good transitional play. He likes to make things happen with his stick and shows a lot of skill in backhanded passing and shooting.

As with most prospects ranked outside the top 15, there is significant criticism of Dean’s play. He can tend to under commit defensively and be out of position away from the puck. In addition, he’ll skate away from defensive pressure while possessing the puck, instead of attacking the defender and using his puck handling skills to open up the ice. The biggest question for a player like Dean is whether or not he’ll be able to overcome the mental mistakes he makes on the ice and learn to better utilize his natural skill to improve his game.

It’s no secret the Blue Jackets want to draft centers. Zach Dean could potentially fit the bill of a naturally skilled center with drive and playmaking ability. I could see Jarmo taking him at pick #24 or #31, but there’s no telling where Dean lives on Columbus’ list. If the Blue Jackets do pick Dean, don’t expect to see him in Union Blue anytime soon. The player could end up being a solid NHLer, but he has several more years of development in front of him.

Scouting Reports

It’s impossible to dislike the way Dean plays hockey. He works his tail off, he’s always applying pressure without the puck defensively, he’s always in motion with or without the puck offensively, he plays on the inside of the ice, and he can be trusted in all situations. That’s his foundation. Then on top of that, he’s got fast hands, he’s one of the better puck transporters through the neutral zone in the draft, he’s a fluid skater, and he likes to drive a line. I’m not sure how high his ceiling is but he makes things happen and there are a lot of people in the sport who think he’s going to be a good NHLer. - Scott Wheeler, The Athletic

One of the areas that needs further development is his decision-making. Sometimes Dean will see three teammates battling in the corner of the defensive zone for the puck and instead of planting himself at center ice to eliminate a potential open lane, he will join the party which could lead to his opposition scoring should they win the puck battle and find a teammate in the slot. Dean also faces challenges with quick thinking. If a defenseman slides in front of him, he stumbles and carries the puck towards low danger instead of using his stick-handling skills to evade the defender and skate towards the doorstep. - Smaht Scouting

Highlights