Analysing Seattle Kraken's New Talent, Nathan Villeneuve, Pick 63

Vince Carbonneau
July 2, 2024  (7:57)

Nathan Villeneuve in action
Photo credit: The Hockey News

Kraken's New Center: Nathan Villeneuve

After drafting Julius Miettenen early in the second round, the Seattle Kraken selected another center, Nathan Villeneuve from the OHL Sudbury Wolves, at the end of the round. The pick used to select Villeneuve came from the Rangers in the trade that sent Alex Wennberg to New York at the trade deadline in March.
If Villeneuve's junior team sounds familiar, it's because Seattle Kraken prospect David Goyette has played his entire junior career for Sudbury. Both Goyette and Villeneuve were drafted as centers and selected in similar spots in the draft—Goyette at No. 61 overall in 2022 and Villeneuve at No. 63 overall in 2024. However, their profiles are quite different. Goyette is a skilled, playmaking forward who has recently been skating more on the wing, whereas Villeneuve is a gritty, two-way center.
Evaluating Villeneuve, the Prospect
Villeneuve's motor never stops running. He beats junior competition with his pace and work ethic. He delivers a tenacious effort on defense, backed by smarts and skill to shut down opponents.
He also qualifies as a pest, a high compliment in hockey parlance. Though not a large player (5-foot-11), he brings a menacing style, playing physically through the echo of the whistle. He has an agitating on-ice presence and is known for his physical play and occasional fights. He's the archetypical «hard to play against» player, the type you only love if he's on your team. His physical edge and pro-ready movements stood out in at least half a dozen of his games I watched. He's not flashy but looks NHL-translatable, at least in a depth role.
Scouts see Villeneuve as a true center in the long term, perhaps as a third-liner or an outstanding fourth-line player. Several analysts noted he could have a late breakout beyond his current checking profile due to his high-end pedigree—drafted No. 3 overall in the 2022 OHL Draft—and his context during the 2023-24 season, where he played behind top-heavy forwards for Sudbury. Despite limited offensive opportunities, he excelled in his assignments, driving a third line and taking key penalty kill minutes. With more offensive opportunities, he could show even more promise.
Encouragingly, Elite Prospects noted, «Third-line minutes didn't prevent Nathan Villeneuve from scoring at a near-point-per-game pace. He amassed even-strength primary points per minute at a higher rate than Beckett Sennecke, Jett Luchanko, and multiple first-round NHL draft picks.» Both Corey Pronman of The Athletic and Elite Prospects see near-NHL-average skills across the board. Combining that with his relentless work ethic and an opportunity to be a featured offensive player in the best junior league, Villeneuve shows promise.
Nathan Villeneuve Player Profile
| Season | Team | League | GP | G | A | Pts | PIM | Plus-Minus |
| 2021-22 | Navan Grads U18 AAA | HEO U18| 30 | 26 | 41 | 67 | 79 | - |
| 2021-22 | Navan Grads | CCHL | 7 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 18 | - |
| 2022-23 | Sudbury Wolves | OHL | 55 | 12 | 10 | 22 | 57 | -4 |
| 2023-24 | Sudbury Wolves | OHL | 56 | 23 | 27 | 50 | 58 | 10 |
Source: EliteProspects
Grading the Pick on the Sound Of Hockey Big Board
The Sound Of Hockey Big Board ranked Villeneuve as the No. 91 overall prospect. Superficially, it might seem Seattle could have nabbed him with one of their third-round picks (Nos. 73, 88). However, Bob McKenzie's scout-informed list had Villeneuve at No. 73 overall, and my data score analysis put him at No. 71. These data points suggest Villeneuve may have gone off the board shortly after pick No. 63 if Seattle hadn't drafted him.
I don't have an issue with where the Kraken took Villeneuve, nor with the player himself. He's precisely the type of player I love to watch. My questions by this point in the draft were more about the players Seattle was bypassing—Zeev Buium at No. 8, Andrew Basha at No. 40, and several others with higher public scouting marks and scoring data profiles, including Henry Mews. While Seattle had a solid draft, there was concern about leaving value on the table. Only time will tell if Seattle's draft board was correct.
Villeneuve's highest rankings tracked on the Big Board came from (No. 29 overall), Scouching (No. 52), and McKenzie (No. 73). NHL Central Scouting had him as the No. 60 North American skater.
Scouting Breakdown
«[Villeneuve's] an all-around forward who plays with good pace and isn't afraid to mix it up along the boards. He loves to cause havoc in front of the net and plays a strong off-puck game compared to many others around this point in the list. His energy and feistiness will give him a shot in the NHL, even if he doesn't have the pure skill to burn.» – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
«Villeneuve's a feisty, high-pace attacker with a lockdown defensive game. When he's not throwing hits and winning battles, he's eliminating off-puck threats and pickpocketing the puck carrier. When the puck arrives on his stick, he instantly takes the middle or starts a give-and-go to attack the zone with speed. His high-pace transition game allows him to create scoring chances off the rush, often by cutting in front of the defense or dropping the shoulder to cut to the net. He always makes sure to establish body positioning en route.» – Elite Prospects
«Villeneuve is bound to be penalized by NHL scouting staffs for his violation of the OHL's social media policy that saw him earn a lengthy suspension (15 games) for inappropriate game-related comments, bringing his judgment into question
«An early pick in his OHL draft year, Villeneuve has yet to truly reach his upside as an OHL player. His creativity and playmaking ability have not translated as well as anticipated, leaving some concerns over his NHL upside. However, he possesses a solid floor and some intrigue over his offensive ceiling once he receives more ice time.» – McKeen's
Final Thoughts
Nathan Villeneuve wasn't the highest-ranked player on the board when he was picked. His involvement in and 15-game suspension relating to allegations that Sudbury players discussed putting a bounty on Barrie defenseman Kashawn Aitcheson after Aitcheson hit Villeneuve in a Jan. 18, 2024, game, raised some concerns. However, assuming Seattle is confident there are no lingering off-ice judgment issues, I like Villeneuve's game. I expect him to show well at the team's Development Camp and take a step forward for Sudbury during the 2024-25 season.
Analysing Seattle Kraken's New Talent, Nathan Villeneuve, Pick 63

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