A mobile defender with good size and a reasonable set of offensive tools normally receives more attention than Jake Lee earned this season. The Alberta-native plays a straightforward game that borders on simple. Quick outlets. Hard on the puck. Take the body. As a younger player for this crop and one who flirted with more offensive upside, scouts need to decide whether he’s a potentially impactful two-way rearguard at the next level or just a decent junior player. How much potential is actually buried in there?
- Age/Birthdate: 17 / July 13, 2001
- Birthplace: Sherwood Park, AB, CAN
- Frame: 6-foot 2-inches / 216 lbs
- Position: D
- Handedness: Left
- Draft Year Team: Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
- U16 WCCC Gold Medal
- WHL Champion
2018-19 Stat Rundown
|GP||G||A||P||INV%||5v5 Pr INV%||5v5 ePr60||SEAL||Sh/GP||Sh%||5v5 eTOI||GF%||GF%rel||GD60 rel||XLS%||Top XLS%||XPR|
The 18th overall selection from the 2016 WHL Bantam draft, Lee is a player who has garnered additional attention due to the deployment he received with Seattle this past season. A fast start offensively gave rise to amplified expectations for the 17-year-old. When the production tailed off precipitously, questions began to creep in.
The Thunderbirds rearguard got off to a blistering start, recording two goals, and 14 points in his first 12 contests. He was putting two pucks on net per game. It was the type of start to a draft-eligible campaign that all players dream of. Alas, it was not meant to continue. Over the course of the next 55 games, Lee scored just one goal and added nine assists.
Of his 21 total assists, 14 came via secondary helpers. The remaining seven primary assists were almost exclusively simple plays from the blueline – either passing across to his defense partner who shot and scored, or a shot assist where a shot was either tipped or a rebound was banged home. He rarely demonstrated overtly creative or skillful plays at five-on-five and continued that modus operandi on the man-advantage.
The fact that he spent the first half of the season on the left point on Seattle’s top power-play unit was an interesting and noteworthy point. However, the Thunderbirds lacked a major point-producing back, and so Lee filled the vacuum. When 20-year-old, Canadiens prospect, Jarret Tyszka returned from injury at the end of December, Lee’s power-play minutes shrunk.
Despite that loss in offensive deployment, he averaged over 19 minutes a night and saw action on the team’s penalty killing unit. His game is straightforward enough that it was rare to see him out of position.
The left-shot skater is not completely void of offensive skill, as witnessed during that impressive first five weeks. He can skate the puck well when he decides to. And he has a heavy and accurate wrist shot from the point that he is not afraid to sniff out the top portion of the net.
Additionally, he can flash nice patience with the puck – especially on the man-advantage. He comfortably draws defenders in this clip below, before sending a pass to his defensive partner at the top. He earns a primary assist here.
Here’s another look at him shaking off an opposing forward before getting the shot off.
Despite him not turning 18 until well into July this summer, Lee’s frame boasts a good deal of strength. He can unleash that power into a concise and well-timed one-timer, or gliding slap shot.
The trouble with his shot is that he failed to utilize it much past late-October. After barely putting a single shot on goal per game as a 16-year-old rookie, he followed that up with 1.4 shots per game in 2018-19. However, breaking it down further, Lee produced just 38 shots in the final 33 games dating back to January 1. He accumulated six points in that span. Not exactly the way you want to close out your season before heading into the draft.
Moving forward, things look promising for Lee heading into 2019-20. A recent trade to Kelowna assures him a lengthy draft-plus one season, as the Rockets are hosting the 2020 Memorial Cup. The squad is clearly beginning their load up now by acquiring Lee and Dillon Hamaliuk from Seattle. The trade will also likely facilitate some potential high-end deployment as the left-side in Kelowna is devoid of any tangible talent. Lee should step in as the team’s top left hand defenceman and unless they go out and purchase some more players (a very real possibility), he should see deployment on the top power-play unit as well.
The most likely scenario sees Lee partnered with fellow 2019 draft-eligible defender Kaedan Korczak in all situations. Those two have the potential to move the puck well, chip in some offense while providing a punishing and sound defensive game.
The physical side of the game for Lee is another aspect he regularly brings. He fought twice last season and can more than hold his own.
Lee is a player who also enjoys leaning on opponents along the boards and has the ability to inflict some power into his physical game. He’s not one to actively chase big, open-ice hits. But with more awareness and assertiveness, could add that dimension to his resume.
When comparing Lee to his historical cohorts, the numbers are not overly encouraging. Taking into account his age, size, production, and quality of team, a player of his ilk has an 11.5 percent chance of becoming an NHL player. He has just a 5.7 percent chance of becoming an impact player.
Here’s a closer look at how his predecessors fared in their paths towards the NHL.
While Lee played a sizable role on his WHL squad this past season, his impact wasn’t always positive on his mates. His most-common partner in 2018-19 was Simon Kubicek – a fellow 2019 draft-eligible. Together, their GF% increased. However, it was Kubicek who appeared to bring Lee up and not vice-versa.
Before the season began, I was approached by another scout and told to keep my eye on Lee. This person felt he was going to play an important role in Seattle and produce note-worthy metrics. As mentioned, that production dried up quickly, but it did provide a glimpse into the potential upside of this player. A mobile defender that checks a lot of boxes while failing to be elite in any one category is still an intriguing selection on day two of the draft. With his size, skating ability, and two-way acumen, Lee’s potential could still yet be unlocked.
Ranked as the 146th North American skater by NHL Central Scouting, he’ll appeal to teams looking to add a defender with a reasonable upside that can be had later in the selection process. This is one of those situations where you can comfortably bet on a player taking sizable steps forward after being selected – which is far more palatable in the mid-to-late rounds.
Rolling Season Data
Raw data for the charts used in this article came from eliteprospects.com and WHL.ca.
Some clips were pulled from videos from prospectshifts.com. Check out Jake Lee’s page here (paywall). Other clips were pulled from original broadcasts, with all rights reserved for the original broadcast companies.
Managing Editor, Senior Scout and Canucks’ Writer at DobberProspects. Associate Editor at DobberHockey, Co-Host of Prospect Central on Sportsnet650, and contributor at NextGen Hockey.
Most importantly, I’m a husband, father, terrible (but dedicated) golfer, and curly-haired man of the people.