June 4, 2024

Jett Luchanko has flown up the 2024 NHL Draft rankings

The end of the first round can be one of the most intriguing parts of the draft, as teams with multiple first-round picks look to add to their cupboard or contenders look to insulate their core. Nearly every year, there are at least a couple of players who fly under the radar into the back half of the first round, only to end up as some of the top players selected in the draft.

It’s fair to say every NHL organization is looking for the next David Pastrnak or Wyatt Johnston, and while the odds of finding studs in the 20s are low, they’re far from zero. This year’s draft carries plenty of intriguing names slated to be called up to the podium at the end of the first round.

Jett Luchanko is one of those names.

Luchanko has flown up draft boards after an impressive draft-eligible season in the OHL and now looks like a solid target for any team picking in the 20s or 30s at the 2024 NHL Draft.

Who is Jett Luchanko

Luchanko isn’t the biggest of centers, standing at 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds. That said, Luchanko is one of the youngest players in the draft this year with an August 21st birthday. Needless to say, he has plenty of time to grow and add size to his frame as he has yet to turn 17.

Luchanko is currently slotted at No. 32 in FCHockey’s Final ranking for the 2024 draft, a rise from the No. 47 spot he earned at the midterm.

Luchanko’s on-ice production

Luchanko hails from London, Ontario, and played his D-2 season in 2021-22 with the London Jr. Knights U16 AAA team. That season, he finished second on his team in points, goals, and assists, behind only 2026 eligible Ryan Roobroeck in all three categories. Following the season, he was drafted 12th overall in the OHL Priority Draft by the Guelph Storm.

As one of the youngest players on a veteran-heavy Guelph Storm roster, Luchanko struggled to make an impact in limited minutes during his D-1 season in 2022-23. He finished his rookie season in the OHL with 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in 46 games. However, his 14 points did lead all Guelph rookies in scoring.

2021-22 D-2 London Jr. Knights U16 U16 AAA 21 19 27 46
2022-23 D-1 Guelph Storm OHL 46 5 9 14
2023-24 D+0 Guelph Storm OHL 68 20 54 74

This most recent season, Luchanko took full advantage of increased opportunities on a much younger and weaker Guelph roster. His production took a massive leap forward as he finished the year with 74 points (20 goals, 54 assists) to lead the Storm in both assists and points. His 74 points were the fifth-most in the OHL among U18 skaters, while his 54 assists were tied for the second-most among U18 skaters.

Internationally, Luchanko has represented Canada at both the U17 and U18 levels in recent years. In particular, his play at the recent U18 World Championships in April earned him plenty of attention as he registered a very solid seven points in seven games, finishing tied for fifth on the team in scoring as Canada claimed gold.

Luchanko’s strengths

The biggest strength in Luchanko’s game is likely his overall smarts and hockey IQ.

There’s a reason he was voted as one of the top three smartest players in the OHL’s Coaches Poll. His reads and decision-making are impressive for a player his age. Anytime a player can think the game like Luchanko, there’s going to be real NHL upside.

Another aspect of his game that stands out is his skating. While Luchanko isn’t what you’d call an elite skater, he’s a very strong one, which helps him impact the game offensively, especially in transition and off the rush. Combine that with his playmaking ability, and he’s a solid distributor of the puck.

“His playmaking ability and skating also allow him to be effective in the transition game, and his puck skills are adequate enough that he can create off the rush for himself or his teammates,” FCHockey chief Ontario scout Austin Broad said.

What you really notice about Luchanko when watching him, and what helps him raise his stock despite a lack of truly dynamic skill, is just how hard he works at both ends of the ice. His motor is incredibly impressive, and he’s constantly buzzing around the ice. Combine that with his strong skating, and you’ve got a forward who is seemingly everywhere at times.

“Luchanko has a high motor that allows him to be effective in the forecheck,” Broad said.

His seemingly endless motor helps him primarily on the forecheck, as he’s a hound on the puck and constantly engaging with opponents in puck battles to win back possession. There’s rarely a shift he takes off, and he’s always in the opponent’s face, pressuring them.

He may not possess above-average size or elite skill, but it’s his hard work every shift that makes him an effective player and one that coaches will love to have in their arsenal. He profiles as a Swiss-army knife type player who can play in all situations and stay above water because of how hard he works.

“He can close in on loose pucks and has the work ethic to outwork any opponent in 50/50 battles,” Broad said.

And that’s where his value lies.

He isn’t going to dance around defenders or dangle through opponents, but he’s going to work harder than almost everyone else on the ice and possesses a motor that seemingly never runs out of gas. NHL coaches will love that aspect of his game, and it will likely earn him plenty of chances in an NHL lineup one day.

Luchanko’s areas of improvement

The biggest knock on Luchanko’s game is his lack of true dynamic ability offensively, which is why he’s being ranked as a late first or early second-round pick. While 20 goals in the OHL are nothing to scoff at, it certainly doesn’t jump off the page. That’s not to say Luchanko doesn’t carry a solid skill set. He’s a strong playmaker and possesses some quick hands, but he just doesn’t stand out skill-wise in the way a lot of first-round forwards do.

There are certainly some question marks about whether his lack of truly dynamic skill and puck skills will prevent him from being an impact NHLer one day, especially given he’s also a tad undersized. That said, it likely won’t keep him from being an NHLer, but it may limit his overall upside and prevent him from becoming a locked-in top-six forward at the next level.

Building off that, his small stature is another area that could use some improvement, as he can often get bumped off the puck, limiting his effectiveness when there isn’t a lot of open space to operate. In short, he needs to improve his strength on the puck to extend certain plays, which should come with age as he continues to mature and add size to his frame.

In his own zone, there’s some room for improvement as well, but if his draft season is any indication, he’s heading in the right direction in that regard.

“Defensively, he’s a little inconsistent,” Broad said. “But I saw some significant improvements from him throughout the season, and if that area of his game continues to develop, it bodes well for his long-term outlook as an NHL prospect.”

Luchanko’s outlook

Luchanko, named recipient of the William Hanley Trophy awarded to the Ontario Hockey League’s most sportsmanlike player as voted by league general managers, carries some impressive tools, including an elite hockey IQ, high-end motor, and impressive work ethic. Those three skills, when put together, automatically create the profile of an NHL-caliber player. Luchanko has the tools to make the NHL as a speedy, playmaking third-line center, which is a solid outlook for a player available at the end of the first round.

His lack of dynamic skills is a real question mark and will be something to watch over the next couple of years, as it may prevent him from ever being a top-of-the-lineup player. Regardless, he carries a toolkit that NHL teams look for, and it’s why he’s likely to go off the board to close out the first round of the draft, offering sneaky upside.

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