2020 NHL Entry Draft Profile: Lukas Cormier

Cormier has the tools to stand out from the QMJHL pack.

News could come this week or next that the 2020 NHL Entry Draft will be moved up to early June in what, in my (unbiased) opinion, would be an awful decision. That said, there’s still plenty of time to deliver more in-depth prospect profiles and other Nashville-specific content to prepare you for the league’s annual event, whenever it may happen.

Draft Scouting - On the Forecheck

As always, the previous installments in this series can be found at the link above. If you didn’t see the April version of my 2020 NHL Entry Draft rankings, you can find that here. That list will be expanded and updated in the coming weeks as I take in more viewings of draft-eligible players.

Now onto a player who didn’t make the initial cut for the top-31 but could find his way near it before his name gets called by an NHL organization.

Lukas Cormier - D

Charlottetown Islanders [QMJHL] - 18 - Ste-Marie-de-Kent, New Brunswick

Cormier is one of several intriguing defense prospects in the QMJHL this season and quite possibly the most skilled. Standing at just 5’10”, Cormier has grown from a diminutive 5’8” since entering the league as the fourth overall pick in the QMJHL draft in 2018.

He exploded on the scene as a rookie, scoring 15 goals and 36 points in 63 games for Charlottetown in 2018-19. Despite staying relatively quiet on the international scene for Team Canada, Cormier improved to 36 points in just 44 games this season, finishing as the top-scoring defender for the Islanders.

Among draft-eligible defenders in the QMJHL this season, Cormier finished fourth in primary points per game (0.4773) and in even-strength primary points per game (0.2273). Additionally, he did so recording the second-worst shooting percentage among the top ten on that scoring list at 3.45%, despite recording nearly four shots on net per game (3.95).

Cormier’s Scouting Report

Has a good skating stride that translates to good speed and great transition playsRelies too much on a backwards crossover step in transition that makes him vulnerable
Can connect passes and make plays at top speed & is quick at reversing play up iceSometimes commits too much to a man in the defensive zone and loses his awareness
Reads odd-man rushes well and is overall sound on defense despite his sizeIs a natural power play quarterback but could work on getting his shots through more often

The strength of Cormier’s game begins, undoubtedly, with his skating stride. He’s effective with his feet and couples that with an excellent ability to make plays at the same pace.

Take this clip above, for example. The Islanders take the puck away on a delayed offside call, and Cormier uses a backwards crossover step to pivot up the ice with the puck. He utilizes that step a lot, and it’s clearly where he likes to generate power from. But I have seen instances where it makes him vulnerable to physical play. Notice how quickly he transitions into the offensive zone with the puck despite all five Titan skaters crowding his side of the ice, too.

This clip is another good example of his transition skills. Once he receives the puck, Cormier takes just one pivot step and then is up the ice; often you’ll see defenders recede back and read what’s in front of him, but he’s good at thinking a few steps ahead. His skating stride may not seem all that fast to you either, but he effectively travels all three zones with good puck protection.

Cormier’s ability to weave through the neutral zone so well is very attractive. For some forecheckers, he just makes decisions too quickly for them to keep up. At the end of this play, you’ll notice his offensive ability, too, when he turns a beautiful move into a backhand just off the crossbar.

Cormier’s skating ability translates to a solid defensive game, too. His pivoting on defense isn’t always perfect, but he’s effective enough with his feet that he can make up ground when caught out of position. In this clip, he isn’t at the perfect point to cut off the zone exit, but his crossover step and angle of attack mitigate any rush by the opponent.

Watch for this positioning again in the clip above. Both Sea Dogs skaters enter the zone out wide, and as they cross center ice, Cormier is closer to the penalty boxes than he is the developing rush. But this is where his awareness shines; he uses a crossover step to get into better position and constantly occupies space between both attackers and the net, thus mitigating any good scoring chance.

His defensive zone play makes him seem like he’s constantly in a spot to start a quick transition. Truthfully, while he does have that skill, he also just makes his decisions with the puck so much quicker. Anytime he’s skating up ice with the puck, he does it with his head looking forward without losing any passing or skating ability. In the clip above, when his teammate gets caught mishandling the puck, Cormier executes a nice move and springs the forward with an excellent pass before he’s even completely out of his pivot.

Cormier is a natural quarterback on the power play but can be an effective even-strength producer, too, with a great shot and good accuracy when he’s deeper in the offensive zone.

I’ve been consistently impressed with how much of his game complements other pieces. His skating ability is obviously effective in transition, but there aren’t many prospects who noticeably think so far ahead like he can. Cormier is rarely caught mishandling a play because he’s so effective at reacting to what develops before him, whether it’s releasing a quick shot on goal off an unsettled puck—like above—or turning a takeaway into an instant offensive rush going the other way.

Expected Pick Range

Colin Cudmore (@CudmoreColin) over at silversevensens.com has done remarkable work compiling draft rankings and establishing an ‘Expected Pick Range’ from a variety of different sources. You can read about his methodology here, track the compiled rankings here, and use his data viz (embedded below) here.

Cormier’s Expected Pick Range: #17 to #34 - 1st to 2nd Round

I think there’s a real temptation to list Cormier as a first-round talent, and it wouldn’t be without merit. I could see some organizations having reservations about his size, and there may be too many good forwards for Cormier to sneak into the top 31. Regardless of where he lands, however, some team will be thrilled with such an excellent skater.

All statistics are courtesy of eliteprospects.com and pick224.com.