Philadelphia Flyers 2019 NHL Draft Spotlight: Thomas Harley

MISSISSAUGA, ON - JANUARY 18: Thomas Harley #48 of the Mississauga Steelheads turns up ice against the Flint Firebirds during OHL game action on January 18, 2019 at Paramount Fine Foods Centre in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/Getty Images)
MISSISSAUGA, ON - JANUARY 18: Thomas Harley #48 of the Mississauga Steelheads turns up ice against the Flint Firebirds during OHL game action on January 18, 2019 at Paramount Fine Foods Centre in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/Getty Images) /
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The 17-year-old defenseman has the size and skating ability that could make him an option for the Philadelphia Flyers at 11th overall.

Thomas Harley is a 6’3, 192-pound blue-liner who was born in Syracuse, New York and raised in the United States but considers himself as a Canadian since both of his parents were born there. He’s been one of the biggest risers this draft class has to offer, going from being left off of Craig Button’s Top-40 preseason rankings all of the way to being a sure-fire middle of the first round selection. Harley has continued to improve his all-around game, showing that he’s more than just a tall guy who can skate.

The left-handed shooting defenseman had a less than stellar rookie season in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), scoring just 15 points (1 Goal, 14 Assists) in 62 games with the Mississauga Steelheads during 2017-18. He still earned himself a spot onto Canada Black’s 2017-18 Under-17 World Hockey Challenge roster but went without a point in five games played. You can see why he wasn’t highly regarded prior to 2018-19, given the low offensive production.

Harley was able to turn heads in a significant way with an outstanding second season in the OHL. He posted 58 points (11 Goals, 47 Assists) in 68 games for the Steelheads. That uptake in numbers led all Mississauga defensemen and ranked third overall on the team, as well. The lanky d-man also had a reliable performance at the Under-18 World Junior Championships, netting four points in seven games for Team Canada.

As I previously mentioned, Harley is a tremendous skater for his stature. He’s a strong forward-and-back skater, allowing him to be a capable defenseman in his own zone with the ability to quickly close out on opposing attackers. His first step is outstanding and has impressive acceleration, to boot. Harley is also powerful on the puck with excellent balance, which makes it difficult for players to knock him off of the puck.

Harley uses his acceleration to scoot passed forecheckers and carry the puck out of the defensive zone while also being able to make precise first-passes to teammates. He’s always willing to join in on the rush but, again, has the speed to recover if the play goes awry. The increase in offense can be attributed to his improving shot, which had added velocity to blow by opposing goaltenders. Harley could benefit from using his wrist shot a little more, but that should be fixed with coaching as he ages.

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I’d love for General Manager Chuck Fletcher to pick Harley at 11 for the Philadelphia Flyers. He’s still raw and has plenty untapped potential as a two-way defenseman.