With the Nashville Predators eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs, our focus turns to the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, which is just under two months away. The Predators will be picking in the late teens of the first round where there isn’t a consensus glut of players that should be prioritized.
That said, Sean Behrens—a defender for the U.S. National Team Development Program—is rapidly risen up draft rankings in 2021 and may have played himself into the late first-round conversation despite his generously-listed 5’10” stature.
Sean Behrens — D
U.S. NTDP [USHL] — 18 — Barrington, Illinois
Behrens, a University of Denver commit, has been a steady presence on USA Hockey’s blue line during his U17 and U18 seasons. In 46 games with the program this year, he recorded seven goals and 35 points—second among all U.S. defenders behind only to Aidan Hreschuk. At the U18 World Junior Championship (WJC), Behrens also finished second on the team’s blue line in scoring with four points in five contests.
Behrens logged heavy minutes this season, averaging 20:14 of ice time per night, including over three minutes per game on the power play and over two minutes per game on the penalty kill. His 0.217 even-strength, primary points per game rank him ninth among draft-eligible USHL defenders.
Behrens’ Scouting Report
|Slick with the puck and likes to activate low in the zone to create scoring opportunities||He has no noticeable separating gear so pivots can be beat with speed from attackers|
|Overall a sound skater with good lateral moves, pivot mechanics, and a quick first step||Can play a physical style game but will be worn down more at higher levels at his size|
|Solid rush defender, retrieves pucks well, and can jumpstart breakouts with feet or pass||Runs into decision-making trouble at times when not making quicker puck touches or passes|
Behrens is often hailed as a modern-day defender, but he’s not particularly dominant on the offensive side of the puck. He can excel in transition and turn mitigated rush chances into quick breakouts, but he doesn’t project as a dynamic scoring threat on a team’s top pair. Regardless, he still can be a puzzle to opposing defenders.
Behrens (#2, blue) moves well for someone his size, especially with the puck on his stick. In transition, you’ll notice his head is up, and he’s corralling the puck in a position to cut to either side of the opposing forward. His skating is somewhat hampered by a shorter leg extension, and his crossover steps don’t generate much speed, but you wouldn’t consider him worse than an average NHL skater. Behrens displays his notable lateral agility when the play returns his way, using powerful crossover steps to get back into position and ultimately close a gap to the shooter.
Other times in transition, Behrens can skate himself into a dead end. On this zone exit, he’s able to quickly recover the loose puck from Russia’s scoring chance but drives straight into pressure along the wall and fails to connect with his teammates to stretch the neutral zone laterally.
In the offensive zone, Behrens isn’t afraid to drop beneath the hash marks. He likes to stay mobile and stretch the ice, forcing opponents to monitor him and his teammates rotating down from the point. You’ll notice he may not be the most tenacious in puck pursuit, but he’s almost always mapped out a precise pass or puck touch before he gets to a loose puck and often executes on them, too.
At the start of this shift, you’ll see another example of those pre-puck movements and check-downs Behrens demonstrates so well as he eyes his partner over the shoulder while under forechecking pressure. He caps things off with a nice display of his shooting talent.
On defense, Behrens can be exposed with speed at times, but ultimately defends against the rush well, challenging shooters to cross him to the inside. Here he has to catch up to the opposing forward where you’ll notice excellent knee bend and stride recovery, but his lack of depth still limits speed. Behrens recovers and, wisely, instead of lunging with his stick, waits until he’s in a more dominant gap position to play the body and end the play.
When play is established in the offensive zone, Behrens covers the ice well despite some bad floating habits here and there. He has a good understanding of his place between his assignment and the net, but his reaction speed to puck battles is concerning at times, and you’ll notice how his size can be a disadvantage.
Behrens, in one word, is efficient with his defensive attacks. In this clip, he quickly snuffs out a zone entry and moves in transition forward. Most defenders would rush to center ice and dump the puck in, but Behrens isn’t afraid to move side-to-side with the puck when pressured.
When Chicago returns to the zone with the puck, Behrens cancels the crashing forward with simple positioning between him and the net. As the Steel cycle the puck, Behrens is mobile but stays vigilant in the slot, putting himself in a great position to stick check another forward crashing to score on a rebound chance.
All in all, Behrens is sound at both ends of the ice. He covers space well, challenges opponents when the puck is on his stick, and sees his passing and shooting lanes expertly—all qualities that will help him overcome his size and speed disadvantage at the pro level.
Expected Pick Range
Bob McKenzie: #57 — 2nd Round
Elite Prospects: #22 — 1st Round
We’ve hashed this argument out many times before, but the reality is there still is some bias towards size in the NHL. As a defender, Behrens will have his critics who don’t think he can succeed one-on-one at the pro level due to his frame, and I think that’s what will ultimately keep his name off the board until the 35 to 50 range of the draft.