Weight: 188 pounds
Date of birth: August 19, 2001
Hometown: Syracuse, New York
OHL Draft: Round 1, 14th overall, 2017 Priority Selection
NHL Central Scouting Rankings: Pre-season, November: B Prospect; Mid-term, 9th North America
If you are one of the few people who had Thomas Harley as the top ranked player from the Ontario Hockey League for the 2019 National Hockey League Draft, then a congratulatory note goes out to you. That’s exactly where NHL Central Scouting ranks Harley on their mid-term rankings: first from the OHL and 9th among North American Skaters. On their pre-season and November’s Players to Watch List, Harley was ranked as a B Prospect – typically a second or third round prospect.
Although he was born in Syracuse, New York, Harley has dual citizenship and has already represented Canada at the World Hockey Challenge Under-17. The WHC-U17 is not an International Ice Hockey Federation sanctioned tournament, therefore if the United States or Canada calls his name in the future for an IIHF tournament, he has the option of choosing his country. However, he can only make that choice once.
Harley played his Minor Midget AAA for the Vaughan Kings during the 2016-2017 season amassing 5 goals and 19 assists in 33 games. Entering his OHL draft year, Harley already had a reputation as a well rounded, two-way defenceman and the skill set to be a first rounder. The Steelheads would use the 14th overall pick at the 2017 Priority Selection to call Harley’s name.
The scouting report from OHL Central Scouting read as follows:
Thomas is a big defenceman that has a presence when he is on the ice. He is a good skater with good mobility which he uses to help him beat forecheckers and move the puck up the ice. He loves to have the puck on his stick and he has the skill to make some pretty nice plays. His game really took off in the second half of the season when his team had numerous injuries and he was relied on heavily to carry the load. He has a heavy shot and is always looking to get the puck to the net.
Harley broke onto the OHL scene during the 2017-2018 season appearing in 62 games and scoring once while adding 14 assists. He would add 2 helpers in the Steelheads’ 6 playoff contests.
During his rookie season, it was evident that his defensive game was well ahead of where most defenders are at that stage of their careers. He has excellent gap control and a long reach with a very active stick who not only can break up plays in his own zone but deny entry at the blue line. Preventing zone entries was an area he needed to improve and he has done just that. He is very good at angling players off on the rush but could have used more physicality in doing so, an area he has improved on this season. He is very good at eluding the forecheck and makes an excellent first pass, but he appears to be at his best when skating the puck out of the zone.
Harley has shown a marked improvement offensively. A year ago, he would rush the puck and once gaining the offensive blue line he was content to dump the puck in and let his forwards go into battle. But too many times it would create a turnover. Now, his entries are done with puck possession in mind. He holds onto the puck and looks for opportunities to put the disc onto a teammates stick. He has excellent vision and passing abilities which helps. He makes excellent reads and pinches while in the offensive zone as well.
Harley is a very good powerplay quarter back. His vision and passing abilities make him a threat along with his ability to get into open lanes attacking the net. He doesn’t posses an elite shot from the blue line which is an area we’d like to see improved. He does shoot with a purpose and is able to get his shot through, but it’s not going to overpower a goaltender. And who knows? Maybe it will come when he adds more strength.
Harley is the complete package. Along with his shot, if he could improve on his edgework and maybe make his first steps quicker, there’s no telling what his upside could be. He is definitely a first round talent. But is he the best of the best from the OHL? Only time will tell.