The all-name team entering this draft has its latest member on our list as Slater Koekkoek is a very highly thought of prospect coming out of the Peterborough Petes program of the Ontario League. Koekkoek was the stud member a very undermanned blueline and could very well be as good as any defender to come out of this draft.
Despite a bad shoulder injury which cut his 2011-12 season short, Koekkoek is a horse for the Petes when he’s healthy and proved his worth at the U17 and U18 level for Canada in 2011 after a successful prep school career with Notre Dame based out of Saskatchewan. He’s a very useful player at both ends of the rink coming off the blueline.
Born: February 18, 1994
What people in the know know
The Peterborough Petes defenceman is one of the poster boys for the quote, unquote injury draft. He had a lot of deserved hype last year as the OHL’s possible best NHL draft prospect on the blueline before tearing the labrum in his left shoulder. The injury limited him to 26 games before he decided he needed surgery. He spent the last few months rebuilding strength in the ligament at Carleton University in Ottawa before taking part in the whole NHL Scouting Combine.
“All 26 teams I talked to asked how my shoulder is — how much of the testing I was doing,” Koekkoek said. That was a big thing, to do everything. Bench presses, push-ups, those were a big thing. I met with a quite a few doctors of teams and they examined it and said it was good.
“They’re just looking for work ethic, how much you put into this, For me, I think it was how my shoulder is and how much I can do right now.
Before his injury, Koekkoek was clocking 30-minute nights for the Petes. His strong two-way, smooth-skating style that is accentuated by a 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame boosted Peterborough into the middle of the pack in their conference. Once he was lost, so was the season. Peterborough later dealt captain Austin Watson to the eventual league champion London Knights and missed the playoffs.
On potential alone, Koekkoek is on the shortlist of the best defencemen in a draft that is deeper on the back end than up front. The independent scouting service Hockey Prospect has him as a top-15 pick in the NHL draft on June 22, but NHL Central Scouting put him 23rd among North American skaters. Koekkoek might have been out of sight and consequentially out of mind to media and fans and perhaps a few teams. At the very least, he’s got dealing with a major injury out of the way.
Koekkoek has a tremendous package of size, skill, and potential which could be a home-run in a few years…..Koekkoek is a great skater and does a good job of moving the puck and making good decisions. His skating ability allows him to lead rushes and his offensive zone play is very good. He’s still in the progress of filling out his frame and improving his defensive zone play, but the skill-set that Koekkoek brings to the table cannot be overlooked as his ceiling could be as high as any of the defensemen in this draft.
Another graduate of Notre Dame’s excellent prep program in Saskatchewan, Koekkoek was logging serious minutes on an undermanned Petes team before he joined the ranks of the colossally injured. The shoulder was his particular malady.
“Immense upside,” said one scout. “A lot of teams will be looking at his medical file.”
What they’ll find in his hockey file is an all-around blueliner who put up great numbers on a bad team. “He competes very hard, has good size and seemed to add more dimensions to his game every time I saw him play,” the scout said. “The sum of all his parts is going to be very impressive.”
Though he’s listed as a late first-rounder, there is already talk of teams trying to predict where he might go in order to trade up in the draft to get him.
Koekkoek’s rookie season also saw him play big minutes, as the Petes surrounded him with inexperienced blueline mates.
From the horse’s mouth
Koekkoek is currently projected to be a late first round pick, but with so many quality defensemen available in this year’s draft, a run on blueliners early on could throw a wrench in where you slot him. Plenty of teams are aware of his upside and could be compelled to trade up and nab his services.
The injury was a tough break for his NHL projections but teams don’t actively pass on guys with a big frame and developed all-around game. Koekkoek could go anywhere in the first round.