Continuing down the rabbit hole that is the 2017 NHL Draft, we find our next draft prospect, Gabriel Vilardi.
For the previous prospect, Nico Hischier, click here.
Gabriel Vilardi plays with the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League. He is a right-shooting center/winger finishing his second season with the Spitfires.
Vilardi is 6’3″ and 201 lbs., and is the fourth-ranked North American skater according to NHL Central Scouting. Even though Vilardi is ranked #4, he is currently the third overall pick in pretty much every mock draft out there.
Vilardi has a lot to like about his game. He’s a big body and uses his size to his advantage. Whether he is protecting the puck to maintain possession or outworking his man against the boards, Vilardi knows how to use his size. He has outstanding offensive instincts, sees the ice well, and has a great release to his shots. He’s not the best skater out there, but that can always be improved and he has the hockey IQ to overcome this. Here’s what the scouts say.
A dynamic and often brilliant offensive attacker…has skilled hands and outstanding awareness…looks to set up his linemates with timely passes, but can also finish off the play when the opportunity is there…has nice size and uses it to protect the puck…has a quick jump and agility on his feet, but is not really a speed demon screaming up the ice…plays aggressively both when his team does and does not have the puck; often hunting it down and stripping it from his opponent…has a bag of tricks he uses to shake defenders and get his hard, accurate wrist shot off or dish a soft pass…very difficult to knock off the puck and is able to dangle in very tight spaces while under heaps of defensive pressure…a toolsy center who is just scratching the surface of his potential…a constant threat in the offensive zone…has the look of a future offensive catalyst at the NHL level.
Big solid centre-forward who can score. Has come back from injuries and was a top player in the World Junior U-17s. Displays a two-way game, great skills, and uses his body to make space. Best player in the OHL. Smart, strong, and strong on the puck. Strong on the cycle, makes terrific feeds to his teammates, and dominates when pucks are in contention. can come of the edge with truly strong power moves to the front. He has shown true goal scoring abilities and projects as at very least, top six scorer if the trends continue to improve.
— ISS Hockey (@ISShockey) February 6, 2017
Versatile forward has played on the wing for most of the season but may be asked to fill a top-two center role due to his vision, reach and all-around puck skills and playmaking abilities. He also has goal-scoring talent, which makes him a second-line forward prospect or better with improved mobility.
The enhanced stats tell us [Vilardi] is the engine on this team because whoever plays with him, their Corsi numbers go straight up and are increased,” Thompson (Windsor head coach) said. “Without him, they drop significantly. We’ve had a ton of injuries this year so it’s been a revolving door with our lines but the one common theme has been Vilardi’s ability to make the players with him even better.
Should the Avalanche Draft Him?
Once again, this will entirely depend on where the Avalanche end up after the draft lottery. Since the Avalanche could end up anywhere from first to fourth overall it’s hard to answer. If the Avalanche select first or second, then they will almost definitely go with Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier. If the Avalanche are third or fourth, then they will have to wait and see who is selected before them.
At third or fourth, you have to like Vilardi as an option. The guy is always dangerous on the ice and he works hard. He’s not the fastest guy out there, but he creates and has all the right instincts to be dangerous for a team that has lacked scoring in a bad way. Not many people in this year’s draft are likely to make a team next year, but Vilardi seems like he wouldn’t be a really big project. Grow into his big frame a bit more and work on his skating and this kid could come in after a year ready to surprise.