The Colorado Avalanche had to get creative to pick up an extra first rounder at this summer’s NHL Draft, but it seems they’ve gotten even more creative to essentially add a free prospect who had the chance to re-enter the draft.
Saige Weinstein, who was passed over in the 2023 NHL Draft, was an invitee to Development Camp over the summer, which he turned into an invite to the Rookie Tournament. He performed well in that tournament, scoring the overtime winner in the tournament finale, and found his way to training camp.
Weinstein was a little overwhelmed at main camp, and struggled in the lone preseason game he played, but the Avalanche must have really liked his toolset. On Friday, they signed the 18 year old defenseman to a 3 year entry-level contract.
So what is so creative about this move? Well, because Weinstein is only 18 years old, he was eligible to re-enter the NHL Draft next summer, if he wanted to. But because the Avalanche invited him to camp, they had an exclusive window to sign him, which they took advantage of. It’s pretty rare to see something like this go down, as most teams that invite undrafted players to their camp let them return to Juniors and go from there, but the Avalanche must have really liked Weinstein. In the end, it’s almost like you can add Weinstein to their 2023 Draft Class.
The 18 year old will still be eligible to play two more seasons in the WHL, and he’s already suited up for two games with Spokane this season. Last year, he finished with 18 points in 57 games, but offense isn’t really his forte.
Was surprised Saige Weinstein wasn't picked. Just a few months later, he's one of the first players from his draft class with an NHL contract.
— Mitchell Brown (@MitchLBrown) October 6, 2023
Here’s Weinstein’s scouting report from Hockey Prospect‘s 2023 NHL Draft Black Book guide…
Weinstein started the season strong with a great performance at the Hlinka Cup for Team Canada, winning the gold medal. He brought a physical, steady and PK presence on a defense with many talented offensive/two-way defensemen. We liked what we saw, and we thought he was a potential riser as one of the most physical defenseman in the draft. After that, his season had some highs and lows, not meeting our expectations from the summer. Spokane finished the season 2nd last in the WHL. Weinstein played primarily on the top pairing and top PK unit (sometimes on the 2nd power play) as a 17 year old for a bottom team, so it was a decent opportunity for him, but a big task at the same time.
As mentioned, he’s one of the most physical defenseman in the draft. His overall skating is really good, he’s strong and mean. His rush defense is a strength of his game. His 4-way mobility allows him to gain the inside dots, pivot smoothly skating forward, then angles the puck carrier and closing him before his blueline, most of the time with a good stick check first and strong contact after that. In the defensive zone, it’s the same thing. He closes space early with his skating, and he’s physical and hard to play against. He immobilizes puck carrier in the corner with contact and box out well in front of his net.
Weinstein has some positives and negatives in his play with the puck. On defensive zone puck retrievals, it’s an on and off area. Sometimes, he uses his size well to attract pressure, protect the puck and makes a strong pop play to his support for a controlled breakout. Sometimes, he forces play or dishes pucks under pressure with no real purpose.
His off-puck activations are a positive trait of Weinstein’s offensive game. An athletic skater with strong straight-line speed, he can activate to jump in the play and support the rush with ease. He can carry the puck as well, and had a few
surprising beautiful assists as the primary puck carrier on the rush this season. He doesn’t show constant poise with the puck, sometimes he can make bad/forced plays in the rush, so in these situations his decisions making can look worse than it is overall. In offensive zone play, he’s active as well, making scissors plays with forwards to attack downhill in better scoring locations. He owns a hard shot from the point, but still scored most of his goals closer to the net by activating.
Overall, Weinstein played a two-way style on a bad team, so his decision making looked on and off (inconsistent). We believe it was still a positive opportunity for his growth as a player and to improve his offensive/puck game. If we project him at the next level as a physical bottom pairing defenseman like he was with Team Canada, some of the questions about his decisions making in a smaller/simpler role can be erased. In a ideal world, Weinstein would be a bit taller/ bigger to project perfectly in that kind of role at the NHL level. Still, Weinstein is strong, mean, a good overall skater and had a lot of puck touches to gain reps and improve.
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