Will Skahan’s size and snarl make him an intriguing blue line bet in 2024 NHL Draft
Will Skahan is a 6-foot-4, 212-pound defenceman and 2024 NHL Draft prospect who plays for the USNTDP U18 squad. He's every bit as punishing and intimidating as his profile would suggest, but that's not where the story ends with this player.
You also need legitimate skill and cross a threshold of puck-moving ability to make it to the NHL these days, and Skahan certainly brings that to the table. The proof is that he's able to keep pace with some truly elite players.
Take his time at Shattuck St. Mary's, for example. Skahan was regularly taking the ice at the same time as Macklin Celebrini and Cole Eiserman, and even if he wasn't quite at their level, he didn't drag them down either. It also meant having front-row seats to two of the brightest young players in the sport.
“I believe I did see it. Just seeing the numbers, they put up and. It all translated from practice. Going against those guys,” Skahan told EP Rinkside. “It was the hardest thing you had to do every day. They are so skilled. They both play defence. They both play well in positioning.”
In those days, Skahan put more of a dent on the scoresheet; these days, he's putting dents in the boards with his bone-crushing checks.
“Yes, I still have the hands and the shot. I still need to implement it. I still think I can become a two-way defenceman this year. Last year I wasn’t as confident as that,” Skahan admitted. “Stepping into a role that I can shut down a team’s top lines, and also put some points on the board, and help us win, It would be awesome for me if I can do that.”
One of the questions for prospective bidders in next June's draft is going to be whether Skahan can not only add that in his time with the program but whether it will scale up with him to the NHL level. That can be the difference of 10-plus spots in draft position. Make no mistake though – he's going to be a draft pick, and a relatively early one.
Coaches count on Skahan late in games. Every team needs a reliable defenceman who can help keep the puck out of the net in tough situations. Especially late in the game when you’re trying to preserve a one-goal lead.
“Yeah, the penalty kill and 5-on-3, Also when we’re up a goal at the end of the game. You don’t want the puck in your net. You want someone you can put on the ice and feel safe and rely on,” Skahan mentioned.
He's already played some pretty interesting hockey games to this point in his draft year. Enough so that you'd be hard-pressed to find a scout who isn't already intrigued by his game, ready to keep tabs for the balance of the season.
“I’m adapting to the college pace. The skill level at that level has helped us. I think this will help us a lot before we go overseas to play against other countries,” Skahan said, talking about international tournaments. “It’s a much tougher level. Playing Western Michigan right away, which I like to say, was one of the hardest games I've ever played in. Just going from the USHL to the college pace.
“It’s a big difference, and I think it’s been helping us. We’re off to a good start. We beat BU the other day. We have to put two games together on the weekend. We can’t just go one and done. We are working on that right now.”
The fact that he is playing very physically in the college games? Teams are going to like that.
“There’s not as many toe drags, it’s more systematic and more predictable. I still believe I can be physical In those college games as compared to the USHL,” said Skahan.
“I’m hard to play against and physical. Intimidation can be a key, but I go into the corner with anybody,” he said confidently. "I’m not scared. I was raised to be tough. Playing against older guys is going to help with that.”
Looking ahead to the draft this is what an NHL scout told me.
“Skahan will be drafted late first or early second. He’s prototypical in many ways, similar to the defenseman we saw win a cup with Vegas. He’s a huge tree on the backend. Tall, strong, heavy, and long. He skates very well for that size. He’s extremely tough and physical. He’s hard to play against. He projects as a shutdown D 5-on-5 that you can match to against other team’s top lines and PK. There isn’t any offence here, so he’s going to have to prove he’s puck capable in terms of defensive zone puck touches and making that important first touch in transition.”
NHL teams covet size if the player can skate and play solid defence. As Skahan has been talking to teams, that message has been coming through.
“I’d say so. A good example of that has to be Vegas. Just winning the Cup and they have a big d-core,” Skahan pointed out. “Being a mobile and quick defenceman could be a good talent for teams I’d have to say.”
When he watches the NHL, he does see himself playing similarly to a few players.
Fathers can have a great impact on their children’s lives and Skahan is no different. His dad, Sean, worked for the Anaheim Ducks, Minnesota Wild, and BU Terriers.
“My dad was a strength coach in the NHL. Growing up with him, he always said you can’t be soft. You have to have an edge,” Skahan reminisced. “You need to have that over somebody. He told me you can’t be 6-foot-4 and not have that edge. You have to have physical dominance.”
This talented rearguard will attend the University of Wisconsin. The program has changed, and he likes what they’re doing.
“I visited it there a year and a half ago, and I loved it there. The campus was awesome. I believe in what they’re building there right now. I’m just excited for it,” Skahan said.
Skahan has a lot of season left for everyone to figure out his draft position. His hard work on the ice and calm demeanour off it will certainly endear himself to more than a fair share of teams.