NHL Prospects

CHL Overager in the Hunt for a Shot at the NHL

As if getting named WHL player of the month in January 24 points (19 goals and 5 assists) wasn’t enough, Moose Jaw Warriors overage forward Dryden Hunt followed it up with being named WHL player of the week in early Februrary. The 6’0”, 201 pound forward from Nelson, BC has garnered quite a bit of attention with his scoring run during his fifth WHL season.

“While some may consider him a late bloomer, he has always been a very good player,” says Paul Figler, co-founder of WHLstats.ca. “He has elevated his game another notch since his trade from the Medicine Hat Tigers.”

Figler highlights Hunt’s ability to get into the other team’s offensive zone without being spotted, calling him “sneaky in the best way possible” — something that has been a big factor in his scoring this season.

According to Darren Dreger, NHL scouts are watching Hunt because of his skill, hockey sense, and competitive nature. Figler notes that Hunt’s skating is also very good, particularly through the neutral zone, “[he] skates so well at times it looks like he is coasting”.

Part of that has undoubtedly been the work that Hunt did in the offseason with Crash Conditioning in Alberta — offseason home in the past to NHLers such as Jordan Eberle, Cody Franson, and Duncan Keith — working on increasing his foot speed both on his initial stride and overall.

Obviously any 20-year-old playing major-junior is hoping to come out of the season with an NHL entry-level contract, but the desire is likely even sharper for Hunt, who missed all but two games of his first draft-eligible season due to injury. His chances of getting one seem good, with Darren Dreger recently noting that as many as four NHL teams have already explored offering Hunt an ELC, with one of those teams being Canadian.

It’s possible that one of those teams is the Carolina Hurricanes, who brought Hunt to their development camp, as well as the Traverse City tournament, in 2014.

NHL coaches and GMs alike want “character guys” who are “good in the room”, but in today’s league ideally you’ll find that character and leadership in someone who also provides you substantial offense. Hunt is showing signs that he could be that player. Moose Jaw head coach Tim Hunter speaks very highly of Hunt and has praised his play and his interactions with the younger players, particularly on the bench.

Hunt has also already surpassed his point total from last season, which was 83 points (33 goals and 50 assists) in 71 games. Currently, Hunt is first in WHL scoring at 99 points, with 49 goals (including 5 hat tricks in his last 8 games) and 50 assists in 61 games.

With no signs of slowing down, Hunt’s likely to put up a much higher number from him at season’s end. Only 28.28 percent of his points have come on the man advantage, good for third lowest among the league’s top 10 scorers, meaning he’s a monster during 5-on-5 play. Hunt also owns 22.9 percent of his team’s total goals – over a fifth of  Moose Jaw’s goals have come from the eager overager.

Much has been said about Hunt’s determination and drive — two things that a prospect facing a difficult road to the NHL has to have if he’s going to stick in the world of professional hockey. Between that and his scoring run, NHL teams have started to sit up and take notice. Like any hunter knows, you have to keep your eye on the target, and Dryden Hunt’s sights are firmly set on a contract by season’s end.

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