The Journey: Fastest-Rising Prospect Defencemen

by Brad Phillips on January 20, 2018
  • The Journey
  • The Journey: Fastest-Rising Prospect Defencemen

Adam Fox, CAL – Up to 47 from 66

Excuse me while I gush. Making his debut on the top-50 list is one of my favourites, and he should be one of yours too, Calgary prospect Adam Fox. In his draft season of 2015-16, Fox played for the US National U18 team where he not only had a great season, but a record-setting one. He was third on the team in points with 59 behind first rounders Clayton Keller and Kieffer Bellows and his 50 assists in a year are a program record for a defender. Fox more than doubled the point total of the next highest scoring defender Chad Krys who has 29 points. So why you ask did he slip to the third round? He’s certainly not the biggest guy at 5-10 and his skating isn’t what you’d call McDavid-like, but he gets around the ice fine. In spite of these perceived flaws, all Fox did to follow up a fantastic draft season was to have an even better draft+1 campaign.

Suiting up for the Harvard Crimson, Fox went on to have one of the best offensive seasons ever by a freshman defenseman, and the best since Brian Leetch 30 years ago. He had six goals and 34 assists in 35 games for a point-per-game mark of 1.14, finishing seventh in the nation in assists and led the NCAA in defenseman scoring. Producing at a point-per-game pace is an impressive for an 18-year old freshman forward, let alone a defenseman. He’s a little off the pace he set last year as Fox has amassed 10 assists through 13 games for the Crimson. Harvard is an inferior team to last year’s incarnation, having lost their top two scorers in Tyler Moy and Alex Kerfoot to the pros. On the international stage, Fox has represented the stars and stripes at the last two WJHC. With the gold medal-winning squad of 2017 Fox produced four helpers with three of them coming in the gold medal game and had the primary assist on the game tying goal. In the latest iteration of the tournament he was once again productive leading all American defensemen with five points in seven games.

Just looking at the statistics it’s not hard to decipher the kind of player Fox is; an elite-level playmaker with a high hockey IQ. I’d put my money on him signing with the Flames at the end of the year but given the depth of Calgary’s back end, he’ll be in tough to earn relevant minutes in the near future especially on the power play. He’s got the talent to do it though. When he graduates from this list I predict he’ll be top three, if not number one. Mark my words. If he’s somehow still available in your league stop what you’re doing and go grab him.


Conor Timmins, COL – Up to 41 from 57

Timmins was selected with the first pick of the second round in 2017 by Colorado. Some prognosticators felt he had the talent to sneak into the first round, you can’t come any closer to almost being a first-round pick, and with his recent play it’s easy to see why. A member of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, Timmins had a big draft year, falling just shy of achieving a point-per-game by potting seven goals and had 54 assists in 67 games. His 61 points were fifth best on the team but lead in the assist category. League wide he finished tied for fourth among defensemen scoring and his mark of plus-53 was top-five in the league. In his third OHL campaign, the Greyhounds are running roughshod over the rest of the OHL and Timmins is a big reason why. Through 30 games this season the St. Catharines native has posted six goals and 29 helpers for a scoring rate of 1.17 points-per-game, the third best mark on the team.

If Timmins wasn’t on you radar a month ago, he surely is now after a standout 2018 WJHC. Anyone who watched team Canada noticed Timmins as he was a tower of power every game and was arguably the tournament’s best defenseman. He has a goal and five assists and was a tournament best plus-15. Whatever you think of plus-minus, that’s an impressive number.

He showed off his playmaking ability in the biggest moment of the tournament, setting up Tyler Steenbergen for the golden goal in the final against Sweden. He got injured upon his return to the Sault and on the shelf right now with a ‘week to week’ lower body injury. There have been rumors out there for the last week and a half that he will sign his entry level deal however nothing has happened as of yet. Between him, Samuel Girard and Cale Makar Colorado is building a formidable blue line for the future. Look for Timmins to advance quickly.


Travis Dermott, TOR – Up to 34 from 49

The Maple Leafs selected Dermott in the second round of the 2015 draft where he played three seasons for the powerhouse Erie Otters. Despite playing with collection of high-end talents that include names like McDavid, Strome, and DeBrincat, Dermott was never what you would consider an elite point producer in junior but did improve year over year. In his rookie year in 2013-14 Dermott put up 28 points in 67 games and earned OHL All-Rookie Team honours. His draft year saw his offensive output increase by 61% finding the back of the net eight times and adding 37 helpers in 61 games. Graduating to the pro ranks, Dermott put together a fine rookie campaign registering 24 points in 59 games in his first AHL year and is on he’s on pace to take a 50 percent jump in production on a points per game basis.  He currently sits with a pair of goals and 16 helpers in 28 games but has gone bananas as of late with 14 of his points coming in the last 12 games.

Summoned from the minors just after the calendar flipped, Dermott played in his first NHL games against Vancouver and picked up his first NHL point, an assist, in a 3-2 victory where he saw 12 minutes of ice time. This was the lowest mark for any Leafs defenseman, which is to be expected, but overall the reviews were positive and showed an ability to drive possession. Babcock was recently quoted as saying that if Dermott was a right handed shot he would probably have been on the team all year as he is notoriously fickle about having his defensemen play on their strong side. Having said that Dermott did play over 16 minutes in his second game primarily playing on his off side but then saw a dip back down to 11 in game number three. He’s likely destined to play the AHL-NHL shuffle for the rest of the season before becoming a full-time NHLer next year


That’s all for now. See you back here next week! Give me a follow on Twitter @BradHPhillips.


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