Towering Haydn Fleury is fourth in team scoring on the offensively challenged Red Deer Rebels, leading all defensemen (63-7-35-42, 9th in the league). The Rebels are the seventh worst team in goal scoring (189) in the WHL and have won only four of the last 15 games, dropping them to a .500 record (30-30-1-4) and a battle for a playoff spot. Fleury has struggled along with the rest of Brent Sutter’s squad in February with a disappointing minus eight on the month (13-1-6-7, - 8), after posting a plus 19 the prior four months. He has cooled offensively since turn of the calendar in January with only two goals (26-2-12-14, -1). He marked an impressive pace to begin the year with a 0.75 points per game on the quiet offensive team (37-5-23-28, +18) with an intriguing package of hockey smarts and size.
The Rebels assistant captain is currently ranked second among defensemen, tenth overall, in McKeen’s Hockey’s 2014 NHL Draft midterm report in January. Fleury played for Team Canada and won gold at the 2013 Ivan Hlinka tournament contributing one goal in five games (5-1-0-1). In a surprisingly slim defensive pool in this years NHL Draft he will draw much scrutiny in the early picks of the first round. Clearly the consensus second choice to highly touted defense prospect, Aaron Eklund, in most expert rankings, edging slightly ahead of fellow WHL defenseman Julius Honka at #12 according to McKeen’s. Notable this season is the clear separation of these top three prospects from the rest of the defensive pack with the fourth ranked defenseman, Brycen Martin, not appearing until the 26th pick overall according to McKeen’s. The dearth of quality high end rearguards may prompt some teams to move more quickly on draft day than anticipated.
Andy Levangie provides a scouting report:
Haydn Fleury, D, 2014, Red Deer Rebels
Already a towering presence at 6, 3”, 200 lbs and quickly becoming a minute eating top pair rearguard for Brent Sutter’s Rebels squad .. a rare opportunity for a 17 year old in the WHL, noted for developing many top NHL defenseman .. rarely found out of position, constantly shifting small distances to cut down angles and disrupt passing plays, especially close to the crease .. intelligent instincts clearly evident .. possesses the physical ability to lean on opposing players and a long reach to protect the puck allowing him to create turnovers and disrupt the oppositions forecheck .. creates calm around his goaltender intelligently chipping pucks or making a short pass to relieve pressure and put a teammate in position to quickly clear the zone .. uses size well in front of the net to control opponents.. always looking to drive the play away from the middle of the ice in his own end .. a punishing force along the wall in his own zone .. .. strong gap control, but can get caught tracking the puck and not the body .. a fluid skater with a strong stride that drives forward and has length to it, quickness needs improvement as do most big young defenseman growing into their frame .. adequate top speed with notable reverse skating evident when tracking attacking offensive players .. rarely beaten to the outside or forced onto his heels .. needs continued work on speed and explosiveness to reach an NHL level .. above average offensive instincts with a quick deceptive wrist shot from the point which springs from his stick with surprising force, rising off the ice, making it elusive to blockers, and finding the top of the net .. a quick wind up creates a strong slap shot .. guards his blueline well on the power play, keeping puck in, rarely remaining static and constantly looking to push pucks low .. stays open and makes himself an option for his teammates, choosing his pinches wisely .. smart instincts provide a good balance between growing offensive skills and his already solid defensive play.