Devils Draft Series: Ryan O’Rourke; Two-Way, Puck-Moving Defenseman

Ryan O'Rourke
Ryan O’Rourke is a very mature defenseman for his age. (Photo by OHL.com)

Profile

Ryan O’Rourke is an 18-year-old, left-handed defenseman who’s listed at 6-foot-2, 181 pounds. The Canadian has played his whole junior career in his native country, most recently with the Soo Greyhounds of the OHL. The final 2020 NHL Draft Rankings were not so kind to O’Rourke, as he ranked 27th among North American skater.

The Statistics

O’Rourke began his career in the Eastern AAA Hockey League, specifically the under-16 league, where he compiled 23 points in 33 games as a 14-year-old. The following season, O’Rourke played in the under-16 Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL). He played in 55 games, totaling 44 points as the team’s alternate captain, where led his team for points by a defenseman. For comparison’s take, he trailed Jamie Drysdale in point per game by a small margin (0.88 to 0.80) and was 24th in the league in points (198 players). 

O’Rourke made his OHL debut in the 2018-19 season as a 16-year-old. He played in 62 games, totaling eight goals and 14 assists, as well as a plus-eight rating. He served a bottom-four pairing role and had slight special teams time on a team that made the playoffs. This season, he played 54 games and saw his point total improve to 37 (seven goals, 30 assists). His plus-16 rating led a Greyhounds team who took a major step back (29-31-4 this season).

O’Rourke was named an OHL All-Star this season and represented Team Canada in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. He played five games and scored one goal in the tournament.

O’Rourke’s Scouting Report

Strengths

O’Rourke has an extremely mature game for a kid that just turned 18 years old. He is a two-way defenseman who does it in all three zones of the ice. Defensively, he is a smart player that knows how to properly position himself for success. His size also allows him to have a pretty long reach that he uses to break up plays and maintain good gap controls in one-on-ones.

O’Rourke is a great passer, and this magnified his ability to break out of the defensive zone and through the neutral zone. He excels through the neutral zone and in transition large part due to his solid skating. His mobility, agility, and acceleration for a defenseman is respectable. Overall, his skating is above average in terms of a defenseman.

Offensively, O’Rourke does have the ability to create his own offense. He is not afraid to jump up in the play on rushes or use his lateral skating to create chances and rebounds from the point. This is something that Braden Schneider cannot do.

An underrated facet of O’Rourke’s game is his leadership. As mentioned, not only is he extremely mature, but the way he carries himself off the ice is also great. He was named captain of his OHL team as only a 17-year old. Only one other player in the team’s history was named a captain at that age, and it was 44 years ago.

Weaknesses

There is not much to say in this section. As mentioned, O’Rourke is an all-around player that has mature skills in his game. However, with that said, there is no part of his game that is eye-popping, and for this reason, has turned some away.

Two minor areas you can nitpick in his game is his offensive output and his top speed. The OHL is a very offensive league, so a career 0.51 point per game average in the league is not where it should be. It’ll be interesting to see his output next season, as I would expect him to be a little less than a point per game player, which should ease some of this concern.

His skating is solid, but the one area that does need improvement is his end-to-end speed. Luckily, this is not as important for a defenseman and the aspects of skating that are – such as acceleration, agility, and mobility – O’Rourke excels in. Additionally, watching his film he does show some sneaky acceleration which does help him mask his lack of top speed.

Projection

Much like Braden Schneider, O’Rourke does not bring a ton of risk when selecting him. He has a pretty high floor, and although not a ceiling such as William Wallinder, O’Rourke does have some untapped potential offensively. If he taps this potential, he will be an already bigger steal than he is projected to be.

At the next level, O’Rourke projects to be a top-four, two-way puck-moving defenseman. If the offensive potential is tapped, he may even turn into a borderline number two guy. He provides more of a ceiling than the likes of Kaiden Guhle and Braden Schneider and trails each slightly in the floor department.

For me, O’Rourke is the fifth-best defenseman in this draft. And you can very well make an argument that he will be just as good or even better than Guhle or Schneider, as those three are extremely close. Schneider’s floor, for me, gives him a very slight edge on O’Rourke for now.

Given his lack of a skill that stands out, he may drop the very end of round one or even early round two. This not only makes it a little difficult to pinpoint where exactly he is going to come off the board. But also shows that O’Rourke is most likely going to be one of the biggest steals early in the draft.

My best estimate is somewhere in between picks 27-32. Although, with his talent, he should be picked much earlier than that, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see O’Rourke’s name called much earlier. 

Cole Perfetti and Ryan O’Rourke share a friendship.

Fit With the Devils

It is well noted that I am a stout proponent of the New Jersey Devils taking a defenseman early in this draft. If you would like, you can hear more about why on our podcast Devils Army Cast (see below). If the team chooses to take one, it has to wait until later in round one. With this third pick, each Guhle, Schneider, and O’Rourke should all be in consideration, as each is sound defensively, something the Devils desperately need.

The Arizona or Vancouver pick will most likely need to drop into the 20s for the Devils to draft O’Rourke. This is especially true if the team sees him as most scouts have him pegged a late first-rounder. However, if the Devils really want a defenseman and one with more offensive upside, O’Rourke would have the edge on Guhle and Schneider.

Also worth noting, Cole Perfetti — a prospect New Jersey can very well select with the seventh overall pick — played alongside O’Rourke in the GTHL. Both have formed a great friendship (see above). Can we see them reunited in the red and black in the near future?

James’ Top-30 Prospect Rankings

1. Alexis Lafrenière (06/09/2020)

2. Tim Stützle (05/07/2020)

3. Quinton Byfield (05/08/2020)

4. Marco Rossi (04/30/2020)

5. Lucas Raymond (04/28/2020)

6. Cole Perfetti (05/06/2020)

7. Jamie Drysdale (05/01/2020)

8. Alexander Holtz (04/29/2020)

9. Yaroslav Askarov (05/05/2020)

10. Anton Lundell (05/11/2020)

11. Seth Jarvis (05/13/2020)

12. Jake Sanderson (05/04/2020)

13. Dawson Mercer (05/16/2020)

14. Noah Gunler (05/19/2020)

15. Rodion Amirov (05/12/2020)

16. Jack Quinn (05/09/2020)

17. Kaiden Guhle (05/31/2020)

18. Braden Schneider (06/29/2020)

19. Ryan O’Rourke (07/01/2020)

20. Dylan Holloway (05/14/2020)

21. Connor Zary (05/15/2020)

22. Jacob Perreault (05/26/2020)

23. Maverik Bourque (05/20/2020)

24. Lukas Reichel (05/18/2020)

25. Brendan Brisson (07/18/2020)

26. Hendrix Lapierre (05/21/2020)

27. John-Jason Peterka (05/28/2020)

28. William Wallinder (05/23/2020)

29. Jan Mysak (06/02/2020)

30. Roni Hirvonen (06/05/2020)

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