Draffin has size to go with poise and promise
There’s nothing fancy about Nicholas Draffin, nothing overly evident with the exception of his impressive size and wingspan.
What you see is what you get, and the Red Deer Rebels are hoping they have a defenceman who — sooner than later — will present a rather large problem for Western Hockey League forwards.
“He’s a big, solid guy who can shut down the opposition’s best players,” Rebels assistant GM/director of player personnel Shaun Sutter said Monday, in reference to the club’s 46th overall pick in May’s WHL bantam draft.
“He’s one of those guys who a coach can rely on, a dependable and trustworthy player. For a guy that young of age to be those things . . . not many 15-year-olds have that.
“They have to learn those things, so he’s kind of ahead of the curve. That’s a credit to his coach (of the past two seasons) Mike Dyck for instilling that in him.”
Draffin proved last season he has offensive abilities — scoring twice and adding 26 assists in 36 regular-season games with the major bantam Lethbridge Golden Hawks and accumulating nine points (1-8) in 12 playoff outings — but he is first and foremost a defensive defenceman.
“That’s more my role, just being a good shutdown D-man against big lines . . . playing against some of the bigger and better players,” said Draffin, who has been one of the better rearguards during the ongoing Rebels rookie camp while defending against mostly 2001-born skaters but also a handful of 16-year-olds.
“It’s been a blast, just being with all these guys and having this first experience has been great,” said the Team Grey member. “Going against 2000s has been a good test for me and hopefully I’ll make it to main camp one day and go against the ‘99s and even ‘98s. That would be a great measure for me as to what comes in the future.”
At six-foot-two and 192 pounds, Draffin is already bigger than the average WHL blueliner, yet he’s not depending on his size to give him a head start on making the rather large jump to the major junior ranks next year.
“I can’t make any assumptions. I’ll just work as hard as I can and whatever comes up, comes up,” he said.
The Lethbridge native hopes to play midget AAA hockey this season with his hometown Hurricanes.
“I’m working towards that, but if it doesn’t happen I’ll just always keep on working while playing 15s (minor midget AAA),” he said.
The Rebels would prefer to have Draffin in their lineup as soon as possible, but he won’t be rushed.
“He still has a young look to him, there’s still room for him to grow,” said Sutter. “He’s just a guy who is steady and reliable, skates OK and manages the puck. He’s one of those guys who’s not going to go end to end, but we still think he has some untapped offensive potential.”
Sutter reiterated his belief that Draffin will always be a player who makes life easier for his coaches.
“There’s a scout’s take on a player and a coach’s take and maybe a coach values him more,” he said. “He’s tough to beat, guys don’t get around him. Maybe he’s not elite in any skill-set category, but he is smart, a guy who just defends extremely well.”
Draffin was at school on the day he was drafted.
“All my friends were keeping track of the draft and as soon as I got picked it was a good feeling,” he said.
“It’s good to be not too far from home, like Brandon or somewhere like that. This is also a great organization.”
A mix of main and rookie camp players — along with a few pros preparing for the upcoming season — will combine to form two teams Tuesday and will practise at 8 and 9:15 a.m.
A rookie camp scrimmage will follow from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and a 90-minute main scrimmage will go at 4:30 p.m.
Training camp will conclude with Wednesday’s Black and White intrasquad game at 7 p.m.
The Rebels will host a four-team tournament Friday and Saturday. On Friday, the Prince George Cougars will face the Calgary Hitmen at 3 p.m. and the Rebels will take on the Edmonton Oil Kings at 7 p.m.
Saturday’s action will feature the Cougars and Oil Kings at 3 p.m. and the Rebels and Hitmen at 7 p.m.