For their first-round selection, the Dallas Stars may have chosen the best player available – even if he isn’t the elite forward talent many fans were hoping for.
Mississauga Steelheads left-handed defenseman Thomas Harley (no, not Harley Thomas) earned 11 goals and 47 assists in 68 games. At 17 years of age, he’s the Steelheads’ No. 1 defender, and his stock has risen considerably over the past season – from not even getting an invitation to Hockey Canada’s U18 selection camp to logging top minutes in April’s IIHF U18 World Championships.
Defending Big D’s Derek Neumeier enthused at length about Harley’s skill set in a recent draft profile:
When it comes to tools, Harley’s toolbox is overflowing. He’s a gorgeous skater with light feet, good agility, and long, powerful strides. He gets up to speed quickly and can easily gain separation from opponents. To make things more enticing, he also has firm puck control and a knack for receiving passes while in motion, so when you combine those elements with his skating he becomes a major threat at carrying the puck up the ice and through traffic.
Offensively, he displays advanced offensive awareness and passing for a defenseman. He keeps his head up at the blue line and analyzes the situation before making a play, usually with great success. He also likes to roam the offensive zone looking for chances and picks his spots well. His shooting mechanics are well above average for a defender, and they’re only going to get better as he adds more muscle to his frame.
Will Harley’s long-term upside soothe the fractured feelings of fans who wanted more power in the forward corps? GM Jim Nill, and presumably Tom Gaglardi’s dad, left a couple of exciting talents on the board in Ryan Suzuki and Arthur Kaliyev:
The Stars bypassed forwards Ryan Suzuki and Arthur Kaliyev to take Harley and add to a prospect pool of defensemen that needed reinforcements.— Matthew DeFranks (@MDeFranks) June 22, 2019
But Harley’s stellar trajectory over the past season may have made him too good to pass up, especially if they really intend to go all in for speed on the blue line:
Red Line Report had Stars' pick Thomas Harley ranked 11th among all skaters in the draft. Here's a little of what they had to say about him: pic.twitter.com/k6ZpNqyt6r— Mark Stepneski (@StarsInsideEdge) June 22, 2019
His U18 Worlds highlight reel shows a quick skater with great vision and puck control to match. He scored four points in seven games with fourth-place Team Canada. If he continues to develop as a player and smoothes out the rough spots in his defensive game, he should bring a ton of skill to the NHL.
Check out the GIF below for an OHL highlight from this past season.
We’ll have more interviews and content about Harley in the coming days thanks to our staff at the draft in Vancouver.