Grading the Maple Leafs’ 2020 NHL Draft Class: William Villeneuve

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Here’s my analysis and scouting report for Leafs draftee William Villeneuve. If you’re interested, check out the full article here.

William Villeneuve

Drafted: Round 4, 122nd overall
Age: 18, turning 19 on March 20th
Height: 6’1
Weight: 181 lbs
Position: RD
2019-20 Season: 9g/49a/58p in 64 games with the Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
2020-21 Season as of October 7th: 0g/1a/1p in 2 games with the Saint John Sea Dogs
Projected Draft Position: Late-Second Round to Early-Fourth Round

What. A. Steal.

I had the Leafs pegged to pick William Villeneuve before the draft…

In the second round Before the Leafs traded for a first round pick.

I’m a big fan of Villeneuve, let’s get into his game.

Offensively, even though his league defensemen-leading totals in assists and points could lead you to believe that he’s a pure offensive defenseman, he’s actually a solid two-way guy.

William Villeneuve’s partnership with fellow 2020 draftee Jeremie Poirier was a partnership that benefited both players. Poirier is very notably terrible at defense, but he’s an exceptional offensive player. However, his inabilities in his own end led the Sea Dogs to rely on Villeneuve, who got to develop the defensive side of his game even further. On the other hand, playing with Poirier also helped Villeneuve hit new lengths with his offensive game.

I think his hockey IQ and playmaking skills are his best assets offensively. He’s able to see the ice so well, which makes him so good at moving the puck and setting up dangerous chances. He’s a consistent and accurate passer, he’s able to find his teammates and seek out the higher-quality play.

One way he does create offense is via his shot from the point. He’s just able to deliver these crisp, accurate shots towards the net. He shoots in a way that the chance is dangerous for the goalie alone, but it’s also very likely to be deflected or rebounded. It allows for his net-front teammate to get a great chance off of Villeneuve’s shot.

He’s comfortable with his wrist shot and slapshot. Both, in my opinion, are great assets for him.

He can also get further into the play, but beside a guy like Jeremie Poirier, he just hasn’t needed to very often.

Defensively, Villeneuve is positionally sound. He’s very good at taking away passing lanes, and he’s able to use his 6’1 frame effectively. He’s able to use his decision-making skills and vision very well, rarely making serious lapses in judgement. However, even if he doesn’t make big gaffes in his own end, he does get beat in other ways.

Villeneuve is a strong skater, he’s agile, but he’s not necessarily a good skater. He has a stride that sometimes becomes almost painful to watch. Whether it’s the stride or just Villeneuve in general, he just doesn’t have that acceleration and explosiveness to keep up with his man at times. It makes it more likely for him to get outskated as opposed to outsmarted.

His strength is also an issue. While he uses his height and reach well, he’s still on the skinny side for a 6’1 defenseman. He needs to make sure he doesn’t get outmuscled in the QMJHL because it’ll become an issue as he transitions into the pro level.

Luckily, skating and strength aren’t impossible to fix. His skating looks more like a mechanical issue, so, hopefully, that’s something that someone like Barb Underhill can improve. Strength is probably something that will come with time for the young Villeneuve anyways, so I’m not overly concerned about it.

Grade: A

This pick is very close to an A+ in my eyes. I think that Villeneuve can develop into becoming a top-four defenseman. It’s probably more likely that he becomes an NHL team’s 4th defenseman, which is still amazing value for a late 4th round pick.

Villeneuve has room to improve, but I see this as a safe pick that could come with a lot of upside. We’ll see how he develops in Saint John, but I’m more interested to see what he’d be able to do with the Toronto Marlies or the Newfoundland Growlers, where he’ll likely have to use his size differently.

Definitely someone to look out for, the Leafs have his rights for two years, the lowest among players they picked in this draft, but I’d expect big things from the defenseman.

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Spencer White is an Editor of Hockey at Overtime Heroics. He writes about hockey, covering the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Marlies, Newfoundland Growlers, and the Toronto Six. You can find him on Twitter at @FreeNylander, @MagicianMarner, and @LeafsMoves.