Who Do We Have With Cole Candella?
Cole Candella’s draft year was cut far to short for fans of the Hamilton Bulldogs, as the team had come to rely on his two-way game that was developing on an impressively high curve. It was clear very early in the season that Candella’s game had made a monumental leap forward over his rookie season in Belleville. He took on a huge leadership role with the defensive corps while he was active, and really hit his stride once he was paired with newcomer Connor Walters. Together they were possibly the Bulldogs strongest pairing of the season.
- NHL Central Scouting:
- Midterm – #65
- Final – #85
- Future Considerations: #99
- McKeen’s Hockey: #107
- ISS Hockey: #118
- HockeyProspect.com: #141
- DraftAnalyst.com: #153
Cole Candella had a glorious first half of the season, and finished with a points per game average of 0.54 placing him among the top defenders offensively in the OHL. Almost averaging two shots a game, Candella’s cannon of a slap shot was being underused by Burnett on the second power play unit. It is his ability identify when to join the rush that allowed him to be fifth in Primary Points per Game in the OHL. Pro-rated, it’s possible he could have finished the season with approximately 25 primary points, ahead of London’s Victor Mete and Hamilton’s Ben Gleason.
Aside from his strong offensive performance, Candella displayed confidence in his decision making abilities both with and without the puck. Combined with his tendency to play a gritty board game, Candella showcased a very strong foundation for the season that had scouts talking about him climbing the draft rankings.
@RRestraint Candella is a worthwhile mid-round pick. Needs to continue to work on his puck handling and shot.
— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) January 19, 2016
#OHL: Hamilton LHD Cole Candella (Ranked No. 158 in Dec) has 2a in last night’s 6-4 win vs Barrie. He’s got 1-8-9 in his last 13 games.
— Steve Kournianos (@TheDraftAnalyst) January 16, 2016
Love Candella’s game. Valuable in all 3 zones & can play any style. Excellent skater, big shot, can play heavy. https://t.co/nyNJg6hft0
— Reed Duthie (@rcduthie) December 10, 2015
Everytime I see Cole Candella play he impresses me. So mobile, so patient, so skilled & so smart. As you can tell I love his game #NHLDraft
— Mike Mackley (@Macker61) November 22, 2015
- Future Considerations Draft Guide: “Candella is a strong-skating, smart, two-way blueliner who plays in all situations. He displays his offensive side as he skates the puck up ice, fully driving the play for a controlled zone entry before making a pass or taking it in deep on his own. His passes are easy to handle and are sent with purpose, getting through lanes and on the tape in a timely manner. On the power play, Candella moves the puck around the zone well. He has a quick and hard shot that he can get off rather quickly. He shows off some of his smarts on the penalty kill as he positions himself well on the man approaching a loose puck to win control and clear it in a hurry. Candella shows good awareness in retrieval as he senses the time he has to make a play, knowing when the man is about to check him as he gets to puck and dishes it behind the net to keep possession with his team and take the hit. He has no problem taking a hit to make a play and is willing to play physically, even delivering an open-ice check when the opportunity presents itself.“ (Snippet from their scouting report, there are more details in their PDF product)
- Hockey Prospect – The Black Book: “”Candella has decent size on the back end for an offensive minded defender. He displayed a good first pass, but when moving the puck in other situations he can sometimes overthink the play which would result in misplays with the puck. He has a good shot from the point and is very effective putting it on goal. This resulted not only in some goals for Candella, but also helped him rack up some assists on rebounds. He has a good size/skating combination and carries the puck up ice effectively. He can exploit skating lanes and use them effectively. He knows when to pass off, but the accuracy is sometimes hit or miss. In transition he can get ahead of the play leaving his defensive partner on an island and needs to make himself available until the puck starts advancing, unless he is the one carrying it. He struggled in one on one situations. He is a good skater but sometimes when defending he can stop moving his feet and this has gotten him in trouble on multiple occasions.” (Source)
- Andrew Forbes, The Hockey Writers: “At only 18, Candella still has a lot of time to develop his skills further. However, the 6’1” defenceman has the all-around skill and physicality to be a solid shutdown blueliner. While he’s not one of the top defensemen in the draft, Candella should have his name tossed around early in the fourth round.” (Source)
- Brock Otten, OHL Prospects: “He’s just a very solid two-way defender. Early on in the season he was thrust into the role of Hamilton’s #1 defender thanks to injuries and he did well to be the leader of a young blueline (in only his second year). But unfortunately, he too succumbed to the injury bug after fracturing his wrist. This caused him to miss the rest of the season. So we’ve got to base our assessment on what we saw in the first half. Candella has good size, moves well, defends well, and makes a good first pass. A defender without a lot of flaws.” (Source)
- Steve Kournianos – The Draft Analyst: “It was Candella who distinguished himself as the reliable option, using sound one-on-one technique and a quick transition game to earn the trust of the coaching staff with an expanded role. He can unload a very hard shot, so he played plenty on the power play. We were able to absolve him of any wrongdoing on almost all the goals scored against his squad while he was on the ice, which makes us think he would have been assessed differently had he played with a stronger supporting cast.” (Source)
- Dominic Tiano – OHL Writers: “Defensively, he has an ability to draw the opposition towards him and then use his skating abilities to close the gap and end the play there. He plays calm under pressure and makes a very good outlet pass, but is capable of skating it out on his own. He has good size and isn’t afraid of the dirty areas. Offensively, Candella is more than capable of jumping into the play and is able to elude the opposition and be the trailer on the play. He sees the ice very well and can find open space as well as lanes to the net and passing lanes. He’s also shown an ability to quarterback the powerplay and has a powerful shot from the point.” (Source)
- Mike Mackley – Prospects Hockey: “Candella boasts impressive physical attributes (6’1-185), fluid mobility and the ability to effective the game in all three zones. Candella shows an ability to make a crisp outlet pass along with an effectiveness as a puck carrying defender. A player who makes strong decisions in possession, Candella’s hockey sense is very impressive. Candella closes gaps effectively, takes away the middle of the ice and holds the line with effectiveness. A player who can create offensive from the blue line, Candella effectively creates shooting lanes, boasts a deceptively strong point shot and shows impressive vision. While he will engage physically, the two-way defender is more of a stick on puck, positional defender.” (Source)
Cole Candella was arguably the hardest player for opposition teams to play against because of his ability to really build up speed in the neutral zone and seamlessly join the rush. This became the team’s strongest asset in overtime and really won them a few games, as he was able to unleash hard slap shots with brilliant accuracy despite flying at full tilt. I was a bit shocked he wasn’t given an invitation to attend the draft combine, I figured scouts would want to see how his off-season recovery has been going and how he stacks up in the physical routines compared to the potential top picks. From what could be seen above the ice, Candella is physically a challenging player to skate against; he has great balance and upper body strength, giving him an advantage in the corners and clearing the crease.
Where will he go?
NHL Central Scouting dropped Candella to No. 85 out of the North American Skaters, which must really be an effect of “what have you done for me lately”. In the Future Consideration’s Draft Guide, Daniel Deschenes (who was seen scouting at a few Bulldogs games) writes about “Recency Bias” in scouting. Candella had the opportunity early to impress scouts, enough so that he’s probably circled on quite a few draft boards, but earmarked for later rounds as a sleeper pick. That being said, his early season work was impressive enough that we could see him go much earlier if there is a scout who was really impressed with his game and pushes for his selection in the middle of the draft. Candella has a real opportunity to be a top pairing defender on a OHL team that is aspiring for deep playoff runs during his junior career.
The 2016 NHL Draft Series
- Who Do We Have With Ben Gleason
- 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: Brandon Taylor / Hamilton Bulldogs