As we get closer to the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, we continue to evaluate players that the Washington Capitals could conceivably select with the eighth overall selection. Today we will take a look at forward Andrew Cristall.
ANDREW CRISTALL – (18) – 5’10” – 165LBS, LW, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
Cristall is another player where there is not a real consensus on his ceiling. He is an overshadowed name because he is in the same league as Connor Bedard, the projected No. 1 pick.
Cristall ranks from sixth all the way down to 35th by the major prospect evaluators. The left-winger had a very strong draft season with 95 points (39 goals, 56 assists) in 54 games, which led the Kelowna Rockets and was sixth in the WHL. The Vancouver native was also fourth in the league with 1.76 points per game, but only trailed Bedard in that category among 2023 draftees. He also missed 14 games due to an injury.
Before playing junior hockey, Cristall played at St. George’s Prep School. He was named team captain of the U15 squad in his sophomore year and led the team with 80 points (43 goals, 37 assists) in just 27 games.
“He just always had the puck and if he didn’t have the puck he found a way to find and go get the puck. And when the game was on the line, I just knew that he was going to try to find a way to win the hockey game for us. He just had that tenacity and ferocity to go get the puck. He was a fierce competitor,” Cristall’s coach Todd Harkins said.
The 5-foot-10 winger is one of the best passers in the draft. His incredibly high hockey IQ is how he’s able to find passing lanes and thread the needle. Another thing that sticks out about Cristall is his edge work. He is one of the most deceptive skaters in the draft and has exceptional hands.
📽️ HIGHLIGHT REEL 📽️
— The WHL (@TheWHL) June 14, 2023
Cristall’s shot is decent in terms of power, but is also very accurate. He’s excellent at shooting through traffic and fooling goaltenders.
While the 18-year-old is very agile on his edges, his straightaway skating is the biggest area needing improvement. He does not have that explosive stride to him, which causes him to struggle on backchecking and on breakaways. However, that will improve as he continues to get stronger.
Bob McKenzie on Andrew Cristall (Kelowna Rockets, WHL): “He’s a really highly skilled player, but he’s 5’9 1/2, didn’t finish the season particularly strong… could be a high risk, high reward, swing for the fences, home run kind of pick”
McKenzie has him ranked 27th.
— NHL Watcher (@NHL_Watcher) June 23, 2023
Another area that is lacking for Cristall is his defensive game. He gets knocked off of pucks frequently while in the d-zone and can sometimes be lazy on the backcheck, in large part due to his skating.
While there is no denying Cristall is one of the best playmakers in the draft, it seems unlikely that the Capitals will select him with the eighth selection. Washington’s main focus should be finding players that are pure goal scorers, such as Colby Barlow and Matvei Michkov.
Cristall is one of the top playmakers in this class, as he’s very creative and evasive possessing high-end offensive IQ. He’s very deceptive and shifty with his movements as he maintains great control of the puck, handling it confidently in high traffic areas and even beating defenders one-on-one. Whether it’s feathering a puck through a defender’s stick or his feet, he’s always making slick plays and dekes. His soft hands allow him to make moves in tight on the net to fool goaltenders and leave them in the dust.
A dynamic player through and through, Cristall adds the extra flash to every play. He beats defenders with head fakes, handling skills, and slick edges before cutting inside or finding a teammate burst into the slot. He starts the plays, builds them, and then puts the finishing touches on them. He’s an inventive playmaker, capable of turning the mundane into the brilliant, breaking down opponents with feints and deception before sending perfectly weighted passes to his teammates to do the rest.
Cristall is very talented offensively. He has puck-on-a-string type of hands and routinely beats defenders with his stickhandling. He has a highly-imaginative offensive mind and very good vision with the puck. Cristall is so dangerous on the power play because of his skill but also his great shot, as he’s scored a ton of goals from range this season. The concerns come down to his frame and especially his skating. He lacks footspeed for the higher levels and has awkward skating mechanics that are concerning for his NHL projection where he too often defaults into the 10-2 skating style, overly relying on his edgework.
Craig Button/TSN: 35
Daily Faceoff: 16
Elite Prospects: 19
The Hockey News: 6
By Jacob Cheris