2022-23 Team: US National U18 Team / USNTDP Program
Date of Birth: Apr 28, 2005
Place of Birth: Pearl River, New York, USA
Height: 6-foot-1, Weight: 170 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: First-year eligible
Whenever you discuss players at the NHL Entry Draft, people typically think of someone who will be able to pile up the points. Oftentimes, defensive responsibility is overlooked by fans, as that simply isn’t the most exciting aspect of the game to talk about. However, that doesn’t mean that you can ignore the selection of a smart, defensively-sound defenseman who understands what it takes to play the game, as those are the later-round picks that often develop into NHL players.
This is where we Drew Fortescue lands coming into the 2023 Draft. He is a big-bodied defenseman who has been cutting his teeth in the US National Team Development Program alongside some of the top players in this class. While he may not be the sexiest name from that group, he has a lot of potential with his NHL-caliber size and solid toolkit.
This season, Fortescue played 62 games U.S. National U18 team, along with 22 games for the USNTDP Juniors. While his time in Juniors showed his solid defensive acumen, he totaled 26 points in those 62 games for the U18 team, along with a monster +34, which was a marked improvement from the 2021-22 season. He also played seven games for Team USA in the 2023 World Junior Ice Hockey Championship 18, where he notched three points.
All of this shows an incredible amount of growth for Fortescue over the last year, which bodes well for his future. Not every player can project to be a star when they enter their draft year, but if they can show steady development of their core toolkit, then they will earn their selection.
It’s also worth noting that he is one of six USNTDP players who are committed to playing for Boston College starting in 2023. This means he will have up to four years to hone his talents alongside a number of his friends at one of the top hockey universities in the USA, which could be the perfect spot for him to blossom into a top defenseman.
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Drew Fortescue – NHL Draft Projection
Over the year, Fortescue has been a steady riser up draft boards. While he may still sit outside the top names, he has crept his way into the top-100 discussion for many.
This means it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Fortescue selected in the mid to late third-round or early fourth-round, somewhere between pick 85 to 100. He has the size and toolkit that can entice general managers, which makes me think he will go sooner than expected.
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However, if he were to fall, I don’t see him being available past Round 4. If he hits the fifth round, then a franchise will have a potential steal of the draft, as he has everything in place to develop into an NHL-caliber defenseman given the time.
Fortescue’s foot-speed is the main thing holding him back from being a strong skater. There just a bit sluggish leading to him not generating the most speed in his first few strides. The offense just wasn’t there this game, and in terms of his toolkit and impact there just was really nothing he did that helped out in that area.
Douglas Larson (from ‘January 21, 2023 Scouting Report of Drew Fortescue,’ FCHockey, January 21, 2023)
- NHL-caliber frame
- Great defensive instincts
- High hockey IQ
- Has shown steady development
Under Construction – Improvements to Make
- Lacks scoring potential
- Mediocre skating
- Still needs a lot of time to develop.
When you look at a prospect like Fortescue, you see someone who has everything to make the NHL one day. Yes, he will need a lot more time to develop his game, but he is already showing the base toolkit needed to take those next steps.
Related: 2023 NHL Draft Guide
If things go well, I could see Fortescue topping out as a second-pairing stay-at-home defenseman that kills penalties and allows his linemate to roam in the offensive zone. Even if he doesn’t reach his full potential, I could still see a long professional career ahead of him as a top American Hockey League defender who gets called up to play in a bottom-six role.
Risk – 2/5, Reward – 3/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offense – 3/10, Defense – 7/10