Though Ivan Provorov and 2017-eligible Nolan Patrick may be the jewel in scouts’ eyes when watching the Brandon Wheat Kings, the Wheaties other first time draft eligible top pairing defender is a damn good prospect in his own right. Calm and collected, Ryan Pilon (pronounced “PEE-lawn,” not “pylon”) is an adept puck mover and smooth skater, and a major part of one of the CHL’s top teams from the 2014-15 season.
Join us after the jump as we profile the first of many highly touted players scheduled to be coming out of Brandon the next few years.
- Age: 17.93 years old at start of season. Born October 10, 1996
- Birthplace: Duck Lake, Saskatchewan
- Frame: 6’2, 206 lbs
- Position: D
- Draft Year Team: Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
- Accomplishments: 2014 Ivan Hlinka Tournament Gold Medal, 2014 World U18 Bronze Medal, 2015 CHL Top Prospects Game Participant
|GP||ES G||ES A1||ES A2||ES Pts||ES Pts/GP||ES GF%||ES GF% Rel||TmG%||TmPts%||AA Pts/GP||EA Pts/GP||Adj Pts/GP|
- TmG% = Percentage of team goals a player scored in that player’s games played
- TmPts% = Percentage of team goals a player registered points on in that player’s games played
- AA Pts/GP = Age adjusted points per game
- EA Pts/GP = Era and league adjusted points per game
- Adj Pts/GP = Age, era, and league adjusted points per game
|PCS% 2014||PCS Pts/82 2014||PCS% 2015||PCS Pts/82 2015|
|PCS Most NHL GP||PCS Highest Pts/GP|
|Glen Wesley||Mike Green|
|Sean O’Donnell||Kevin Hatcher|
|Kevin Hatcher||Drew Doughty|
- PCS = Our Player Cohort Success model. Click here for more information about PCS.
Ryan Pilon is a big offensive blueliner for the Brandon Wheat Kings…is quite a strong skater for his size…while his footwork defensively can be a tad sluggish at times, it’s really the only fundamental knock I have on his skating…possesses good power in his edges and uses them to generate good speed when he really bends his knees and drives hard…strong c-cuts in his backwards skating allow for good acceleration against a rush…effort to really drive and accelerate around the ice isn’t always consistent in his game and leads to him getting outskated the odd time…his overall mobility, mixed with his reach, gives him a good starting base to work with defensively…biggest strength overall is his ability to see the ice and pass the puck…is arguably the best outlet passer from the WHL in this draft class…can thread the needle on outlets…stretches the ice with long and powerful feeds down past the red line…can take something off his outlets when necessary…can get creative on his outlets when it comes to using the walls to find open teammates…plays with a high level of poise against a forecheck…is comfortable carrying the puck if no passing lane is open…uses his long reach to aid in his puck protection while on the rush…is comfortable being the carry-man through the neutral zone on the powerplay and makes good puck placement decisions in that situation…despite his ability to do it now, I don’t think he will be a guy that consistently leads the rush at even-strength at the next level, rather being more of a complimentary player in that sense…is smart when it comes to joining the rush and pinching during the cycle…is a big threat to leak into the slot during the cycle, receive a puck and get a grade-A scoring chance…owns a hard wrister which he can get on net with regularity…has a good release on his snapshot with good accuracy…slapshot is good but not at the top of this class…solid footwork at the offensive blueline helps him keep pucks in and also allows him to get open for chances to shoot…has strong but soft hands in puck receiving…seems to really be the full package on the offensive side of the puck…on the defensive side of the puck I feel like he lacks some intensity in his style…allows his partner to do a lot of the puck retrieval and could do a better job hustling back into his own end…owns fairly good positioning with both his body and stick but isn’t an abrasive defender…hardly ever initiates contact…saw him live 8 times this year and I feel like I maybe saw him throw 8 hits total, although his intensity did definitely go up a notch come playoffs…when he does initiate contact he has the strength and size to do damage…not sure I saw him play at more than 80% effort all regular season, noting that it did come up a bit during playoffs…often times it looks more like he’s out for a skate with some buddies on a Sunday afternoon rather than playing a WHL game, which has obviously been a red flag for me all season long…could be stronger on his stick in battles…could be tougher in front of his own net to help his goalie with sight lines and in clearing rebounds…makes smart plays in all zones but will need to up his intensity level to succeed at the next level, which is clearly my main knock on his game…seems like he’s a small defenceman trapped in a big defenceman’s body…while being a main guy on the powerplay his appearances on the penalty kill didn’t seem to be overly regular in all of my live viewings…spent the vast majority of the season playing the right side (his off-side) alongside Ivan Provorov on Brandon’s top defensive pairing
Nickolet’s report goes in to more detail, and his site is an excellent resource of WHL-centric draft content. You can read his full 2015 WHL draft rankings and complete player profiles here.
Ryan is a very efficient, effective player who plays with assuredness. He doesn’t panic or get overwhelmed with the pressures facing him in the game and has a steadying calm to his play. He makes the necessary plays and doesn’t force things. A player who can complement a real high-end offensive type.
A strong two-way defenceman with the work ethic, determination, and skill to get the job done in all situations. Possesses a quick, accurate release on his shot. Pilon is a smooth skater and is able to quarterback plays as he sees the ice very well. He exhibits very good decision making in all three zones.
After a very impressive first two seasons in the WHL, Ryan Pilon looked poised to grow into one of the top prospects in the 2015 draft class, and certainly didn’t disappoint from a statistical standpoint. He played his off-side all season on Brandon’s top pairing with potential top-10 pick Ivan Provorov, and was a major part of the Wheat Kings somewhat earlier-than-expected success. He scored more even strength points than every other draft eligible CHL defender other than Gatineau’s Alexandre Carrier, and trailed only Carrier, Mitchell Vande Sompel, and teammate Ivan Provorov in ES points per game.
In terms of ES GoalsFor%, Pilon’s 63% ranked him 2nd among all WHL draft eligibles behind only Noah Juulsen, who we’ve profiled previously. Pilon was one of the best defenders on what was arguably the WHL’s best team for most of the regular season, and played in all situations for the Wheat Kings, until an injury rendered him unable to play anything other than the powerplay against the Kelowna Rockets in the playoffs. PCS compares him to a very diverse group of defenders too, including Dan Hamhuis, Brad Stuart, Cam Fowler, Karl Alzner, Luke Schenn, Jason Smith, Dmitri Kulikov, Dana Murzyn, Jay Bouwmeester, and the guys listed in the stats section above.
Pilon is an efficient and effective defender that plays a controlled game and moves the puck with ease. His vision in the offensive zone and sense of timing of when to jump in to the play is very strong, and Corey Pronman likes his ability to win one-on-one battles in his own zone, citing Pilon’s size and competitiveness.
The knocks on Pilon seem to be more “we just don’t like how he looks” rather than deficiencies in his skillset or holes in his game. Cody Nickolet writes that “often times it looks more like [Pilon is] out for a skate with some buddies on a Sunday afternoon rather than playing a WHL game,” which personally, is not a sense that I ever got watching Pilon, but Cody has seen more games of his than I have.
It’s always dangerous evaluating guys on the basis of body language and perceived effort level, because it can lead to stuff like questioning whether Drew Doughty’s committed enough to deserve that $7m/yr contract he held out for the season before winning a Stanley Cup. Not to compare Pilon to Drew Doughty because that’s unfair (though PCS does), but all the hallmarks are there of an extremely effective and talented two-way defender with definite plus-level offensive ability already possessing an NHL-level frame.
We can’t ignore the criticism Pilon draws due to a lack of assertiveness in the defensive zone, but that’s not really an industry consensus feeling on him. It’s something to consider and worry about for sure, but nothing large enough to drop him too far past the first round. If he develops, you’re looking at a very steady and efficient second-pairing two-way defender who can kick start a transition game and eat a ton of minutes for years to come.
If he doesn’t develop, at least his name is easy to make puns from.