Huge Defense Prospect Carter Yakemchuk Should be a Name the Columbus Blue Jackets Keep on Their Short List at #4

Carter Yakemchuk is a highly regarded defenseman currently playing for the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL. He has a wicked shot, is an above-average scorer at his position, and brings awesome size, but he has some areas of concern to his game.
Calgary Hitmen v Winnipeg Ice
Calgary Hitmen v Winnipeg Ice / Jonathan Kozub/GettyImages

In a league where the average player stands at 6 feet tall, according to, I would imagine that many forwards might feel at least a bit intimidated when Carter Yakemchuk lines up next to them in the faceoff dot.

Yakemchuk is one of the most prominent players in the Western Hockey League; he reaches 6'3" and weighs 190 pounds despite being 18 years old. The right-shot defenseman will turn 19 on September 29, 2024, which makes him one of the older first-draft-eligible players in the 2024 NHL draft. He missed the cutoff date for the 2023 Draft by just 14 days.

Despite his unique blend of size and skill, Yakemchuk's draft rankings are mixed, according to some of the more respected hockey writers. While almost every writer believes him to be a first-round draft choice, I found that he was ranked anywhere between 3rd and 20th in some of the most recent composite draft-eligible player rankings.

Corey Pronman of The Athletic writes favorably about Yakemchuk's ceiling, naming Vegas' Alex Pietrangelo as Yakemchuk's pro comparison. Pietrangelo, now in his 15th NHL season, profiles as an excellent all-around defenseman who contributes as much offensively as he does on the defensive end.

Pietrangelo is a brilliant first-pairing type of defenseman. He has an extremely high Hockey IQ that allows him to be in the right place at the right time at all points during 24+ minutes of TOI per game. Pietrangelo is an excellent play-driver at both ends, as skilled at breakout passes as he is quarterbacking a power play in the offensive end. He also has more than decent size, standing at 6'3" and 210 pounds, which he knows how to use effectively to keep opponents away from the puck.

Yakemchuk profiles slightly differently than Pietrangelo in a few areas, namely in his offensive approach and hockey IQ. Yakemchuk tends to be a shoot-first player in the offensive zone; he has a hard slap shot and exceptional creativity that allows him to score from anywhere on that end of the ice. During the 2023-2024 WHL Regular season, Yakemchuk was 1st in the league in shots on goal by a defenseman with an impressive 275 pucks on net, 42 more than the defender in second place.

However, while Yakemchuk is a proficient scorer, McKeen's hockey notes that he has opportunities to grow when working in his defensive zone. He can tend to be too aggressive with his attempts at driving play offensively, which can leave his team at a disadvantage if he overcommits to the rush.

He could also use his impressive frame more effectively in these situations by boxing out opponents and relieving opposing rush chances when he's able. These opportunities for improvement remind me much of David Jiricek's current opportunities for growth, which we have seen him continue to work on in the American Hockey League.

Currently, Yakemchuk struggles to use his massive frame positively in the defensive end. Out of 657 eligible skaters in the WHL, Carter Yakemchuk was tied for fifth in total penalty minutes, with 120 racked up during the regular season.

Despite these glaring holes in Yakemchuk's game, I firmly believe these skills could be rounded out by a team with the right coaching and development opportunities. He profiles as a high-end defenseman prospect who will immediately boost the prospect pool of any franchise that chooses him in the 2024 NHL Draft.