23 Options For the Toronto Maple Leafs 2024 NHL Entry Draft - EJ Emery

The USA U18 Defenseman excites with a defensive game well beyond his years. What he lacks could make him truly great.
USNTDP Defenseman EJ Emery (#6)
USNTDP Defenseman EJ Emery (#6) / Michael Miller/ISI Photos/GettyImages
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23 Options For the Toronto Maple Leafs 2024 NHL Entry Draft - EJ Emery


Emery is Canadian born, but is the son of an American father, and is a Right-Handed Defenseman who has played the past two seasons with the United States National Team Development Program (NTDP).

Emery is committed to play next season for the University of North Dakota. He's ranked 39th by NHL Central Scouting for North American skaters, and highest by TSN's Craig Button at 17th.

Emery's athleticism is one of the finest in this draft. He's a powerful defender with heavy body-strength, but also has the quickness to move around and deliver hits and chase pucks, using his size to close off opponents.

It's an archetype that goes undervalued to many fans, but NHL GM's are constantly paying the big bucks to have it. At best, you hope Emery turns into an elite defensive defenseman who allows your offense to thrive knowing he's behind them, like an Adam Pelech. A more realistic comparison may be Washington's Nick Jensen.

Emery has struggled in producing points on a USA National Team Development Program squad deep with scoring talent.

Emery had just 16 points, all assists, in 61 games for the NTDP this season. Some similar totals for the USA include Charlie Leddy (2022/126) with 17 PTS in 55GP.

One potential positive outcome is Brock Faber, who had just 12 points in 46 games in 2019-20 for the Americans. Faber was a 22nd Round Pick, however. If you're taking Emery round 1, it's a matter of believing in the offense eventually coming. Faber, who finished 2nd in this year's Calder Trophy standings, may give optimism to teams that Emery can find his offensive game with the right development.

It was with offensive-minded defender Cole Hutson that it seemed clear of exactly what kind of game Emery could provide to a team. His hardworking stay-at-home style perfectly complimented the mobile and puck-hungry Hutson, who was able to push the puck up ice with Emery relied upon to sit behind and focus on protecting his own end, ready to move in to be the man on defense.

A good example of this is Minnesota's Jacob Middleton. When he'd play alongside Jared Sourgeon, Middleton's stay-at-home style allowed for Spurgeon go advance on the rush, leaving Middleton to focus on protecting his own end.

Emery is a player who could go in a few different directions, but he has the athleticism and maturity to at the very least stick in the NHL, although not as a premier player but a reliable defensive option. The rest of his game will be determined by how much of him progresses at the next level.