As we move into the home stretch of our top 15 prospect series, there are bound to be a few "sleeper" picks. Today we are going to talk about one of those "sleeper" picks. The 2013 NHL Draft was highly looked at as the draft that the Detroit Red Wings acquired Anthony Mantha, and Tyler Bertuzzi. What has been forgotten is the acquiring of center and winger hybrid player of Zach Nastasiuk.
I haven't seen the kid play much, I'll admit. He has spent four years with the Owen Sound Attack in the OHL, in which he managed to score 187 points in 256 games. Two of those four years, Nastasiuk was captain of his junior squad.
"Nasty," as his teammates and coaches call him, can be described as a true two-way forward who is a model type of player to have on the penalty kill. He's not a flashy, speedy player. He's more of a "complete package" player, who can be considered the meat and potatoes of your lineup. Simply put - Zach Nastasiuk is one of those guys you want in your bottom six.
It's tough to get a true grip at what he could be at the professional level. Nastasiuk has performed well in the OHL, especially in his senior year where he scored 35 goals in 64 games. While that production might seem promising, he certainly does not strike me as a point-getter on a normal basis. He's one of those guys you can put into the tough situations and know that you've invested trust into a player who can handle the workload.
I know that a lot of fans want to hear about point production, elite capabilities, yada-yada, whatever. The thing is that Nastasiuk is not that kind of player. He is a raw example of the word "intangible." He's a true leader. For a 20-year-old who has only seen 10 regular season games at the AHL level over the past two years, he's extremely mature, and seems to be more experienced than he actually is. I know it sounds crazy, but it's like he's been playing the game for a lifetime. A "crafty veteran," if you will.
You all know my story - I hated on Luke Glendening for a long time. Honestly, I still give the guy a lot of crap, but I love him. He's a tough hard-nosed fourth liner who I hold dearly to my heart. If I were to pick any player who could potentially play like him, it would be Zach Nastasiuk. The thing is, seeing what I have seen from Nasty, he could be a lot better. He has that true-scoring touch judging from what I've seen at the junior level. In a somewhat-recent article from Peter Wallner, there was some quotes from head coach Jeff Blashill on Nastasiuk:
Nasty has earned my trust in the past, whether it was at the Prospects Tournament or when he played for us in the playoffs for us last year," Blashill said of the right winger, who joined the Griffins' practice Tuesday after completing a successful season in the Ontario Hockey League. "He's earned my trust, albeit there has been some time in between there.
Long story short, Zach Nastasiuk is to Jeff Blashill as Luke Glendening was to Mike Babcock. The only difference is that Blashill is likely much smarter coach, and won't do that (ooooohhh, sick burn.)
More from Michelle:
Nastasiuk is a versatile two-way forward who can play both center and right wing, he played wing quite a bit in juniors but has been used as a center by the Red Wings and Griffins. He’s aggressive on the forecheck and isn’t shy about playing a physical game. He’s not a star in an single area of the game, but he’s good at a lot of things. What he lacks in high end natural tallent, he compensates for in a top notch work ethic, leadership skills, and a willingness to do whatever needs to be done. For the Owen Sound Attack, Nasty was not only the Captain but was the go to player in every situation; power play, penalty kill even strength, with the lead, when trying to come back, overtime, everything. In his limited time in Grand Rapids so far, he’s been used on the penalty kill but not much on the power play. He’s been used as a center in GR and Wings camps but it’s possible his future in the NHL lies in being a utility winger. He’s an incredibly easy player to fall in love with because of how he gives everything all the time and is a "clue collar" type of player. From the first time I got to speak with him, it was clear he’s mature beyond his years and is completely focused on and dedicated to leaving everything on the ice leading by example.
I see Zack Nasty being a 3rd or 4th line grinding winger in the NHL who has the edge of bringing some intangibles to his team. I want to be clear that highlighting his intangibles and work eithic isn’t a nice way of saing he’s not a useful tool in a team’s toolbox. He has the potential to fill an important role for the team, one of the big questions is will he be the best option to fill that role with the Wings. He has more skill than "just" a ginding winge for sure, but it’s not "high end" skill to get him to the NHL on skill alone, as a whole package I think he can make it. He’ll be making his full time debut in Grand Rapids this year so we’ll get a better chance to see what he can do at the next level.
JJ - #12
Graham - #11
Kyle - #13
Michelle - #12
Jeff - #13
Joe - #12
Caleb - #13
Christian - #8
Prashanth - #11
Lauren - #11
He's not a Dylan Larkin, and he's not an Andreas Athanasiou. He's a core part of your two-way prospects who can play both center, and wing. He shoots right, and he can be a role player on the penalty kill. Players like this have a ton of value. This is why Zach Nastasiuk has slated himself into the top-15 Red Wings prospects.