Anaheim DucksArizona CoyotesBoston BruinsBuffalo SabresCalgary FlamesCarolina HurricanesChicago BlackhawksColorado AvalancheColumbus Blue JacketsDallas StarsDetroit Red WingsEdmonton OilersFlorida PanthersLos Angeles KingsMinnesota WildMontréal CanadiensNashville PredatorsNew Jersey DevilsNew York IslandersNew York RangersOttawa SenatorsPhiladelphia FlyersPittsburgh PenguinsSt Louis BluesSan Jose SharksSeattle KrakenTampa Bay LightningToronto Maple LeafsVancouver CanucksVegas Golden KnightsWashington CapitalsWinnipeg Jets

2024 NHL DRAFT: SCOUTING REPORT (VIDEO + GRADES) – Carter Yakemchuk, D, Calgary Hitmen, WHL

CALGARY, AB - DECEMBER 6, 2023: The Calgary Hitmen against the Swift Current Broncos at Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday. (Photo by Jenn Pierce/Calgary Hitmen)
Carter Yakemchuk
2024 NHL Draft Eligible
Position: RD, Shoots: R
H/W: 6’3”, 194 lbs
Date of Birth: 2005-09-29

When scouting NHL Draft eligible prospects, certain players make it easier for scouts to see how a player’s skill set may translate or project to the NHL. This is the case with Carter Yakemchuk. His daring offensive instincts and goal scoring make him one of the most dangerous Defencemen in the WHL.

A quick look at his point totals show a highly offensive defenceman who’s a key part of the Calgary Hitmen attack, and that’s exactly what he’s been all season long. He’s Calgary’s second leading scorer in both goals and points, and always has the green light to attack the opposing team’s net. He can score from pretty much anywhere: in the slot, on the wing on the power play, or from the point with a well placed wrist shot, or booming slap shot. He also leads Calgary in shots and penalty minutes. He truly is a major part of their team.

The only draft eligible player in the top ten of scoring by defencemen in the WHL this season, Yakemchuk also led all defencemen in goals. His 30 goals are the second most by a WHL defenceman in the last five seasons, and he broke the Calgary Hitmen record for goals by a defender. His ability to score from multiple areas of the offensive zone make him very difficult to defend against, and if he isn’t able to find a way to score, his hockey sense and passing in the offensive zone can create chances for his teammates.

All of this would lead one to think that he’s an easy early pick in this summer’s NHL Draft. But there are parts of his game that have given some teams and media outlets reason to slide him down their draft lists. His desire to be an offensive force can often be a detriment to his defensive responsibilities, and there are a lot of goals against Calgary when he is one of the last men back into his own zone. This is partially because of how deep into the offensive zone he tends to skate into, but also a result of being on the ice for as long, and as often, as he is. On a better team, with higher skilled teammates, there’s a likelihood that Yakemchuk wouldn’t be as gassed as often. This would allow him to pick his spots better, and he would likely be better defensively as a result.

Let’s take a look at the elements of Yakemchuk’s game that make him such a dangerous player.


Yakemchuk’s skating is better than perhaps it should be for a defender of his size. While not the fastest straight-line skater, he has good acceleration and can burst into spaces that create opportunities for a scoring chance or a hit in the defensive zone. He also has better than expected edge use and can turn quickly in the offensive zone to take advantage of slow skating or standing defenders, putting them on their heels or behind the play. He has shown decent top speed, but he needs time to build up to it, usually while getting the puck passed to him in stride so he’s not forced to carry it while building momentum.

This first clip shows that short burst and edge use to pinch into the offensive zone, gain control of the puck, and score. Yakemchuk (#26 in white) beats the defender to the puck on the pinch with speed and is already preparing to spin as the defender reaches him. The spin move fools two defenders, leaving them behind Yakemchuk as he glides towards the slot. A third defender skates in to try and stop him but Yakemchuk is moving too quickly and protects the puck as he glides into the slot. The backhand shot to the top of the net beats the goaltender down in the butterfly easily.

This next clip shows Yakemchuk’s ability to build speed through the defensive zone, gain entry into the offensive zone with possession of the puck, and create a scoring chance for himself. From the dump into the defensive zone and seeing the goaltender pass the puck up the boards, Yakemchuk has an opportunity to build speed through his crossovers and makes himself a passing option. Moving his feet through the neutral zone, he gains the offensive blueline and crosses over the defenders, creating space for himself to drive the net for a scoring chance.

This clip is another example of Yakemchuk’s ability to create zone exits and entries using his skating. A fortunate pick by a teammate in the defensive zone allows Yakemchuk to gain proper control of the puck and accelerate through the neutral zone, blowing by the first defender, and gaining the offensive zone while pushing defenders back to create space for teammates.

Grade: 55


To say that Yakemchuk can score from anywhere in the offensive zone sounds like hyperbole, but it’s not. He can score in close to the crease on his forehand or backhand, with ability not usually seen from a defenceman. He shifts over to the left side wing on the PP for one-timer or wrist shot opportunities regularly. His wrist and slap shots from the blue line get through traffic and are accurate. While he will be unlikely to have the same scoring chances and frequency in the pro game, his shooting is his most pro-ready attribute.

This is just a beautiful goal from Yakemchuk. The shuffle step hesitation followed by deke on the defender at the point creates space while getting him closer to the net. From there he waits for traffic to pass in front of the goaltender, taking away his eyes, and loads up on an accurate wrist shot for a goal.

This next clip shows the type of goal that Yakemchuk will be capable of scoring at the pro level. Skating in from the blue line he is able to corral the bouncing puck and turns toward the net to get in close for a chance. He uses his puck handling to protect the puck as well as get the goaltender moving. He flashes forehand at the crease to make the goaltender make a decision and then goes backhand into the open net.

This is also a goal that Yakemchuk will be able to score at the pro level. He usually starts power plays up at the blue line but will shift down to the left faceoff circle as player movement allows. From there he’s capable of loading up his wrist shot and scoring as seen here. In this clip he’s able to get the shot past the sliding defender which hinders the goaltenders ability to see the puck as it’s shot.

This clip features Yakemchuk’s slap shot, which is hard and accurate. This is a skill that he will continue to develop over time. In terms of his goal scoring abilities, this is one of the more ordinary options, which says a lot about his skills closer to the net.

The last clip in this section is a nice backhand goal at the top of the crease. Yakemchuk enters the zone with decent speed and makes sure to keep his momentum with a few strides to get past the first defender. From there he enters a wide stance glide for puck handling and puck protection. As the remaining defenders have to cover Yakemchuk’s teammates, he has an open lane to the slot at the top of the crease, and scores a nice backhand goal. He has scored this type of goal multiple times this season but it will likely be harder to accomplish at the pro level.

Grade: 60


Yakemchuk’s ability to create offense comes not just from his shooting abilities, but also from his passing and puck handling. He’s a consistent passer, especially creating zone exits and entries, and he’s able to stretch passes as well. He can use his puck handling to create time and space for himself. He also uses his puck handling to draw opposition players to him, creating time and space for his teammates to become passing options. He creates opportunities for himself and his teammates by working the puck into opposition players' triangles, forcing them to move their feet or stick into advantageous positions.

This first clip in this section has Yakemchuk in control of the puck as he wheels from behind the net after a faceoff win. He looks at the passing option on the right wing but sees that his teammate is covered. As he surveys his options he slides himself over to the boards, creating an inviting target for the opposition forecheckers. They both bite on this move, with the further of the two forecheckers opening up passing lanes after leaving the center of the ice. Once that happens, Yakemchuk can see a long stretch pass available and goes for it. Unfortunately, the pass is a touch off, but otherwise it’s an easy zone entry.

This next clip shows Yakemchuk’s ability to puck handle through opposition player’s triangles (the triangle created by their two legs and their stick). Right at the beginning of the clip Yakemchuk gets past the first defender by putting the puck through the defender’s legs, all while maintaining his stride. The momentum allows Yakemchuk to be a step ahead of the next defender who tries to poke check the puck. Yakemchuk deftly moves the puck around that player’s stick and sensing a second attempt, goes into a toe drag to keep control of the puck. Once he’s cleared the stick a second time, the opposition defender’s feet are spread apart and Yakemchuk takes advantage, putting the puck through his legs. From there, he finishes the move with a well-placed backhand for a goal.

Another nifty puck protection play here from Yakemchuk. Knowing he’s got defenders on either side of him, he uses his momentum to glide out of that area. The hard part is keeping the puck with two other sticks reaching for it. As he turns, quick forehand to backhand puck touches pull the puck out of danger and into a protected position. From there he skates into the slot drawing the attention of multiple defenders, making the pass to the goalscorer easier.

This last play is a nice pass through two defenders to create time and space for his teammate to skate or pass through the neutral zone. Upon receiving the pass in the defensive zone from his teammate, Yakemchuk surveys his options, and determines that he can make a pass through two defenders to an open teammate in the neutral zone. This creates a zone entry for his team.

Grade: 60


Yakemchuk’s anticipation of where the puck is going is an asset that allows him to make plays at both ends of the ice. On defence this allows him to get into positions to force opposition away from scoring areas, and gives him the ability to create turnovers and get the puck back up the ice quickly. On offence, his anticipation of where the puck is going to be gets him to spots faster than the opposition, creating advantages all over the offensive zone. His defensive Hockey IQ will need to improve as he matures as he takes too many chances at this level and it can leave his team at a disadvantage. He often pushes for offence too hard and can be behind the play as it goes into his zone. Coaching at the next level will help with that as his instincts are good for the most part.

This first clip shows Yakemchuk breaking up an opposition zone entry with a good mix of gap control, anticipation of the pass, and stick work. While it’s a bit of a risky play to try and turn the puck over at his own blue line, these attempts work more often than they don’t, and are part of what makes Yakemchuk more than an average defenceman.

This next play is a nice give and go with Keets Fawcett, one of Calgary’s better forwards (#10 in white). Yakemchuk skates the puck into the neutral zone away from his eventual passing target, looking and skating in the opposite direction. This shifts defensive attention away from where he wants to go with the puck. Once he passes the puck to Fawcett, he continues to skate into the offensive zone to open up a passing option. This creates a nice give and go play and a scoring chance.

This clip starts with a lost defensive faceoff and Yakemchuk has to quickly determine who his check is and where they’re going. He skates himself into position to force the puck carrier to either skate the puck behind the net or take a low danger shot from the corner. As Yakemchuk corrals the loose puck after the shot, he surveys his passing options and finds Olivler Tulk (#37 in white) streaking out of the zone for a quick defensive zone exit and partial breakaway.

In this clip Yakemchuk’s defensive and offensive anticipation are both on display. At the beginning of the clip, Yakemchuk anticipates the pass from the blue line down to the open opposition player, and makes a good play to intercept that pass. From there, he tries a stretch pass that isn’t quite on the mark. While the pass doesn’t work, Yakemchuk sees that his team has maintained possession and enters the offensive zone as a passing option for his teammate. Despite an attempted check by a defender, Yakemchuk still gets a shot on goal, creating a scoring opportunity for his team, and drawing a penalty.

This last clip in this section shows Yakemchuk’s offensive anticipation of the play in front of him. He’s already moving his feet to pinch in for the puck as it makes its way around the corner and up the boards. Once he’s got the puck, he has momentum versus the defenders around him allowing him to glide easily through them with his puck handling skills. Seeing the goaltender overcommit, he takes the puck around the back of the net, and scores.

Grade: 55


While he is one of the leading goal and point scorers amongst defencemen in the WHL this season, Yakemchuk is also amongst the most penalized players in the WHL as well. He’s very physical in all three zones and will dish out a hard hit whenever he’s able to. He’s typically not a dirty player and some of the penalty minutes are a result of being a bigger, stronger body than a lot of his competition. He does play on the edge though, and initiates or participates in scrums after whistles at both nets. As he’s Calgary’s best defenceman, he plays on the penalty kill quite a bit, and he has some utility there when he’s not in the box himself. As mentioned in the introduction, the biggest issue with Yakemchuk’s compete level is that he tends to play a lot of minutes and that leaves him tired towards the end of shifts. Quite a few of the goals scored against his team with him on the ice have Yakemchuk being one of the last players back into the defensive zone, likely because he had to skate all the way from the opposition crease at the end of a shift.

This first clip shows Yakemchuk in action on the penalty kill. The hit following the stick sweep early in the clip is something that should be generally reserved for 5 on 5 play when attacking forwards can’t take advantage of Yakemchuk being out of position as much. The stick work in the latter portion of the clip is good, especially as a way to force opposing players to regroup or break up passes like at the end of the clip.

This is a classic open ice hit by a defenceman who’s made the proper read on a player entering his zone with the puck. Everett’s Tarin Smith is on the receiving end of this hit and he’s not a small player at 6’1” / 176 lbs, which shows how strong and sturdy Yakemchuk is already.

This clip is a good example of Yakemchuk using his skating and read and react ability to stay with the forward with the puck. Yakemchuk uses stick position to force Portland’s Marcus Nguyen into the corner and then uses his strength to pin Nguyen to the boards, allowing his teammate to collect the puck and start a zone exit.

Another clip and another hard hit by Yakemchuk in the defensive zone, showing how hard he is to play against. In this clip, he uses his strength and leverage to knock down the smaller player as they race to the puck behind the net. This frees up the puck for Yakemchuk’s defence partner and the zone exit is initiated.

This clip shows Yakemchuk’s compete level in the offensive zone in which he follows the puck into the corner area after his initial shot is blocked by a defender. Instead of peeling off back to the blue line, Yakemchuk hunts for the puck to try and maintain possession. Once he arrives at the puck and the defender, he uses strength and leverage again to knock the player off his feet. The puck is freed up behind the net and Calgary spends more time in the offensive zone.

This last clip shows Yakemchuk riding the edge of clean vs dirty plays in his own zone. The cross check to the back of the opposing player behind the net could easily be called a penalty. Once the puck re-enters the zone and rings around the boards, Yakemchuk finds another opposing player to hit. This could also be called an interference penalty as the player has passed the puck down behind the net long before Yakemchuk reaches him. The play ends with the goaltender covering the puck and Yakemchuk starting a scrum as he pushes the forward into the net, knocking it off its moorings.

Grade: 55

OFP: 56.5

A note on the 20-80 scale used above. We look at five attributes (skating, shooting, puck skills, hockey IQ and physicality) for skaters and six for goalies (athleticism/quickness, compete/temperament, vision/play reading, technique/style, rebound control and puck handling). Each individual attribute is graded along the 20-80 scales, which includes half-grades. The idea is that a projection of 50 in a given attribute meant that our observer believed that the player could get to roughly NHL average at that attribute at maturity.