Who Do We Have With Benjamin Gleason?
Benjamin Gleason is the highest ranked draft eligible player Hamilton Bulldogs as we approach the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. In a few short weeks he should be selected by an NHL team, making him the first player in the organization’s short history to don an NHL sweater. Gleason is the only Bulldog who received an invitation to the Draft Combine in Buffalo this week, where he will endure a barrage of physical tests and several face-to-face interviews with a combination of general managers and scouting staff. Based on his interactions with the media here in Hamilton, expect teams to come away impressed with his humble but confident personality.
- NHL Central Scouting:
- Midterm – #53
- Final – #58
- Future Considerations: #64
- HockeyProspect.com: #90
- DraftAnalyst.com: #101
- ISS Hockey: #111
- McKeen’s Hockey: #129
Gleason blossomed early in Hamilton, as he was immediately trusted by Burnett’s coaching staff with excessive minutes. Sadly the OHL does not provide fans with ice time statistics, but there was several nights where Gleason saw above 30 minutes on the ice (@3Hayden2 estimates his time on ice at 18:35, but it is much more likely to be around the 25 minute mark). His ghastly plus/minus of -31 is a result of being the go-to minute munching machine for a team that had a -63 goal differential. His offensive output had a tiny dip after the first half, but this is a result of his concerted effort to limit scoring opportunities against. This likely contributed to his slight dip on Central Scouting’s rankings, but the fact that he is within the top 60 and attending the combine are both strong indicators that he’s going to be drafted.
- Al Jensen, NHL Central Scouting: “So much confidence! He’s a phenomenal skater, he’s got great wheels. He’s not afraid to make a play because if he does make a mistake he’s got the ability to get back and cover for himself. He’s got great agility and he’s got great hands. He’s one of those guys who just took off, he’s got huge upside. He’s a good two-way defender, great offensive instincts and potential, and he’s good on the back end. He’s not the most physical guy, but he can use his body to defend well for the one-on-ones. You can see it when he’s got the puck on his stick, he’s thinking ahead, and can join the rush. He’s smart in those areas [transition through the neutral zone]. His style suits that of a lot of defensemen in the NHL right now.” (Interview on Bulldogs Banter Podcast)
- David Burstyn, McKeen’s Hockey: “A swift and agile skater, he is able to rush the puck up ice with ease – exploiting good athleticism and a strong acceleration gear. One attractive trait about his puck rushing is that he does not slow down with the puck in possession. However, he is not blessed with an overly imposing frame at 6-0, 170 which tends to hamper his defensive game. Too often he gets danced around in his own zone and, as he offers very little in terms of physical ‘push back’, he can be rather easy to play against. Steadily gaining confidence in utilizing his shot more assertively – has scored an impressive seven goals, albeit none in his last 18 games. Projecting his NHL chances, he ranks as a long-shot given his size, physical play, and offensive sizzle.” (Source – Subscription)
- Future Considerations Draft Guide: “has good footwork to escape trouble with the puck, taking quick steps to generate some speed and get away from the check. He is not afraid to throw his weight around and can lay a big check when warranted. He gets his stick in the way of passes in order to break up plays. Gleason puts in the effort to catch the puckcarrier after the puck gets transitioned by the opposition, quickly gaining good position on the attacker. He sees the ice very well in transition and anticipates lanes developing, seaming excellent neutral-zone passes on the tape of his target. His pinches are typically timed correctly and are effective, showing his offensive mindset as he picks his spots to jump into the play and make an offensive impact”. (Snippet from their scouting report, there are more details in their PDF product)
- Brock Otten, OHL Prospects: “Gleason’s best quality is his mobility. He’s a very smooth skater who does a good job of starting the breakout and began to limit his turnovers as the season went on. I also felt like his positioning defensively really improved over the year, using his mobility to stay ahead of the play. He exhibited more patience rather than chasing the play. Also saw him trying to play more physical and I think that’s a component to his game that will be key to his development. Offensively, the hockey sense is a work in progress (picking his spots to pinch/activate, working the point of the powerplay), but the underlying skills are there (puck skill, shot, etc). Overall, Gleason most definitely possesses potential to be a solid two-way defender.” (Source)
- Steve Kournianos – The Draft Analyst: “Steady, physical defender who’s beginning to shift towards being permanently labeled a stay-at-home type because that’s what he’s best at…He can skate fairly well and has excellent balance, his decision making with the puck can be somewhat telegraphed. In a fast-paced tournament like the Hlinka, Team USA will need a reliable defender like Gleason to play in late-game situations and help protect leads.” (Source)
- Mike Mackley – Prospects Hockey: “The two-way defenseman shows fluid mobility, impressive speed and strong puck skills that allow him to be effective as a puck carrying defenseman. Gleason shows an ability to create from the blue line, however his decision making in possession could improve. Defensively Gleason shows a willingness to engage physically, however his attention to detail in his own zone could stand to improve.” (Source)
Gleason is a very gifted player who can control the play both as an offensive quarterback, but especially during 5×5 hockey. Gleason has very smooth lateral skating ability, and can seamlessly transition the direction of his stride. There are very few OHL defenders who have his ability to instantly switch from cruising with the play offensively to rushing backwards without missing a step. Not only does he have a high level of agility, but possesses a brilliant top gear, both with and without the puck. Gleason was sixth in the OHL among 2016 draft eligible defenders to record primary points 5×5 (Source). Using simply his boxcars there is a very strong comparable with Victor Mete of the London Knights. This is a little ironic as Mete was essentially acquired to replace Gleason with the Knights back in September; Hamilton probably wouldn’t have been able to acquire Gleason if not for that transaction.
While I am a huge Mete fan and believe he will be selected in the draft, I think that Gleason is more valuable because he has a higher offensive ceiling as well as stronger defensive capabilities. Gleason spent the second half of the season reigning in his wanton ways of flying as quickly as possible out of his defensive zone, favouring the rush. Likely encouraged by both the coaching staff and his agent to clean up his resume when it comes to the element of chaos his defensive game contained, there was ample amounts of evidence of Gleason utilizing his body more in the last twenty games. There was a general push from the team to own the neutral zone in the back half of the season to limit being hemmed in their own zone, and Gleason has shown growth in the gap between the rushing forward and the wall at his own blueline.
Where will he go?
NHL Central Scouting ranked Gleason No. 58 out of North American Skaters. His positives are far more attractive than his flaws; teams will see a cerebral, offensive asset with soft skills that are difficult to hone. He is exactly the type of project that a development coach wants to work with, someone who needs to shore up his defensive game along with adding to his frame. Considering that Hamilton is a team on the rise, who will likely compete for home ice advantage in the first round in the 2017 post season, with Gleason leading the way as the team’s number one defender, he’s probably going to be picked up in the third round.
The 2016 NHL Draft Series
- Who Do We Have With Cole Candella
- Who Do We Have With Ondrej Kachyna
- Who Do We Have With Brandon Saigeon
- Who Do We Have With Luke Kutkevicius
- Who Do We Have With Matt Luff
- Who Do We Have With Trent Fox
- Who Do We Have With Connor Hicks
Feature Image: Barry Gray / The Hamilton Spectator