With the 95th pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs selected, from the Chicago Steel, Nicholas Moldenhauer. The 5’11 forward out of Mississauga, Ontario is certainly happy to be drafted by the team he grew up cheering for.
According to @lukefoxjukebox on Twitter, “Nicholas Moldenhauer grew up a Maple Leafs fan, Favorite players growing up were Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner”. Moldenhauer was a prospect that scouts did not have a good feel for where he would be selected. In his last season with the Chicago Steel, he missed 2 months of training camp with an illness that made him lose 15 lbs. In his first shift of the season, he was struck by a skate that forced him to get an emergency blood transfusion and 175 stitches.
Moldenhauer was able to make his return to hockey in late November. In his first 21 games of the season, Moldenhauer registered 14 points, an okay start but people could see his potential. In a game recap from the beginning of his return to play Mitchell Brown, Director of North American Scouting for Elite Prospects, said “With the puck, he stands out because he doesn’t do a lot of the Chicago Steel stuff: he dumps the puck in quite often, tries to deke through defenders inside straight-line glides, and looks off his teammates to shoot or handle.” Moldenhauer worked on a lot of his perceived weaknesses throughout the season.
After a slow start to the season, he finished his season with 43 points in 41 games and 29 points in his final 20 games. An impressive stat that I saw around the time of the draft was that he finished the season with the highest points per game pace in the USHL for draft-eligible forwards, not counting the USNTDP program. Another stat that really jumps out was that he finished the season with the highest primary points per 60 minutes among players draft-eligible in the USHL. Moldenhauer played on the 2nd powerplay unit, and the top penalty kill unit.
Moldenhauer has a lot of strengths in his game. He is an amazing playmaker, He had an expected primary assist per 60 min rating that was in the 88th percentile among draft prospects. He is a very strong skater and handles his weight well. The physical aspect of his game is something I see translating very well into the NHL.
According to Mitchell Brown, “His ability to power through contact, even at full speed, stands out: he gets low, driving his shoulder and hips through the defender” Moldenhauer is also a great player exiting the defensive zone. He was in the 77th percentile for Exit Success Relief. His biggest strength in his game that will help the Leafs is the way he skates with the puck and his hockey intelligence. He seems to always know what to do with the puck in the offensive zone and can create plays out of thin air to try and attack the net. He sets himself up in the offensive zone in a way that makes it easy for him to either get a strong shot off or send a beautiful pass to one of his forwards.
As with every player, there are downsides to Moldenhauer’s game. A lot of scouts tend to agree that he is rough in transition. He has struggled to deke around defenders in the neutral zone which is something that killed the Leafs last year. Sometimes he shows us that he is a very good give-and-go player in transition and can get a player started very fast. Moldenhauer’s game will only continue to grow and these flaws in his game will be refined in no time. I believe that a full year with the Chicago Steel will continue to strengthen his readiness for the NHL.
Nicholas Moldenhauer has the potential to be a 3rd line player for the Leafs and play a role like Alexander Kerfoot in the coming years. I’m not saying that he is going to be the next Alexander Kerfoot but the role Moldenhauer can provide for the Leafs is similar. Moldenhauer will greatly benefit from additional development in juniors and for a team as great as the Chicago Steel, he is sure to be noticed at that high of a level. He is expected to be a top player for the Steel given his skill and the departures of some of their best players. After this season we could see Moldenhauer develop further in any of the minor leagues where the Leafs see would benefit his game as he makes his way to the NHL. I am excited for him to continue to grow. I cannot wait to see him in a Leafs uniform in the coming years!