This week on Prospect Watch we’re going the NCAA route, heading to Rhode Island and Providence College to talk about Friar defenseman and Jacket Prospect, Guillaume Richard. He has the potential to become a bottom-three defenseman in the NHL.
Richard ranked 17th on our most recent prospect rankings for the Blue Jackets, and he’s having a similar season to the one he had a year ago, though slightly less productive offensively. Through 23 games, he has 1 goal and 4 assists, along with 6 penalty minutes and a -5 +/- rating.
Originally taken by the Jackets in the fourth round (#101 overall) at the 2021 NHL Draft, Richard was viewed as a bit of a project piece, which seems to be holding true. His standout attributes had him ranked all over the board (anywhere from early third round, to much later), and the Jackets nabbed him basically right in the middle of that range.
He has a longer development path because his talent is still pretty raw and he needs time to pull his game together. But, he’s a solid skater who has made great strides in his overall gap control, and an intelligent player who has just enough skill to chip in offensively when it’s required. He has good size too, at 6-2, but at just 175 or so pounds, he will need to work on strength and conditioning before making the jump to the professional level.
While his offensive output isn’t jaw dropping, he’s a good two-way defender who can take on tougher defensive assignments and play good transition hockey. Ultimately, this is exactly the kind of depth defenseman you see hanging around good teams, because he can play in all situations and has a calming presence about him.
Overall, I would project him as a potential bottom-pairing, shutdown style defenseman whose game isn’t built around physicality or throwing big hits; but instead, more around breaking up plays with his stick and moving the puck ahead quickly. He might be able to fill in higher up in the lineup as needed, but hasn’t yet shown the offensive pop to play in the top-four consistently.
Should the team trade away a player like Vladislav Gavrikov, a guy like Guillaume Richard could eventually be able to come in and eat up some of those defensive zone minutes. Think of him as another Tim Berni type, who won’t jump into the rush very often, but is a cerebral player who just quietly goes about his business.
The only problem with that is, he’s still at least 1-2 years away from making that impact, and possibly longer. He won’t sign any professional contracts until he’s finished with his collegiate career; and when he does, expect him to spend at least one full season in the American Hockey League. But for a fourth round pick, the early returns here are pretty positive: Richard looks like a legitimate NHL prospect.