Weight: 180 Pounds
Date of birth: January 18, 2002
Hometown: Innisfil, Ontario
Position: Left Wing
OHL Draft: Round 1, 8th overall, 2018 Priority Selection
NHL Central Scouting Rankings
The NHL scouting community had a difficult task ranking players for the 2020 Draft due to the cancelation of the CHL season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The opportunity to watch the players under pressure situations – a.k.a. the playoffs – was taken away from them.
One of the more glaring ranks by NHL Central Scouting is that of Mississauga Steelheads forward James Hardie. When Central Scouting released its mid-term rankings, Hardie was ranked 213th among North American skaters. By the time you add in Europeans and goaltenders, that virtually meant he would go undrafted. When they released their final rankings, they had moved him up 50 spots to 163 among North American skaters, which would put him in the 7th round.
I’m not alone in the belief that Hardie is vastly underrated by Central Scouting. OHL coaches voted him as the second most underrated player in the Eastern Conference in the OHL Coaches Poll, ahead of Ottawa’s Austen Keating, who was just voted the Overage Player of the Year.
Hardie played his Minor Midget AAA hockey for the Barrie Colts during the 2017-2018 season. He appeared in 34 games, scoring 41 goals and assisting on 29. He would add 6 goals and 7 helpers in 8 playoff games and 3 goals and 5 assists in 5 games at the OHL Cup. The Steelheads selected him with the 8th overall pick at the 2018 OHL Priority Selection. Here’s what OHL Central Scouting had to say:
James is a goal scorer that loves to shoot the puck. He has a junior-level shot already. It has pace, accuracy and he can pull the trigger quickly. He does a good job of finding open ice or those little quiet pockets in the offensive zone. He isn’t afraid to try and beat a defender in open ice when the chance is there. He plays for a well-structured team that does all the little things well and he knows his responsibilities in his own end. James was a big reason why his team had success in the playoffs and OHL Cup
Hardie broke onto the OHL scene a year ago and in 62 games scored 15 goals and 7 assists. When the remainder of this season was cancelled, he had already compiled 34 goals and 29 assists in 59 games. Among the OHL’s draft eligible players, Hardie finished 6th in goals, 8th in points, 4th in powerplay goals and no one took as many shots on goal as Hardie.
Part of the reason Hardie may have been ranked so lo to start is because he got off to a slow start. In his first 29 games, he had 12 goals and 7 assists but had a tremendous second half with 22 goals and 22 assists in his final 30 games.
Hardie is a shot generating machine, firing almost four and a half shots per game. It’s a hard, heavy, accurate shot that he has the utmost confidence in and he’s not afraid to use it. But he’s not always trying to beat goaltenders with it. He does shoot with a purpose, putting the disk in areas that the goaltender has a hard time directing and thus creating second chances. His release is also excellent and it is more noticeable with the man advantage when there is more space.
Hardie is a good technical skater, but we would like to see him add another gear. He’s not slow, but at 5’11” adding that gear could be beneficial. That doesn’t prevent him from challenging defenders one-on-one as he is more then willing. But he does play bigger than his size at times, willing to get in on the forecheck and throw his weight around to create turnovers.
Hardie will never be known as a playmaker first, his livelihood is his shot. He has shown some good hockey IQ offensively with the ability to find open spots in the offensive zone so that teammates can set him up for his shot.
Hardie continues to round out his offensive game. Earlier in the season, he didn’t show the drive to get to the middle of the ice and the high danger shot zone, but that was markedly improved in the second half, just like his production.
Hardie’s all-around game needs to improve. The offence is there. Just how patient an NHL team will be to develop that area of his game will determine how high he will go in the draft. But they must be thrilled with the offensive ability.