Alex Cotton’s year was something to behold, especially given how humble his first two years in the WHL were, and how overlooked he was in his own draft year.
Cotton comes to us from Langley BC, where guys like Shea Theodore and Danton Heinen could call stomping grounds, joining Lethbridge late into 2017 and having a modest 2018 season that ultimately resulted in him not getting picked during what would’ve been his draft year.
And then...something clicked, and he showed up ready to go in 2019, and promptly went on a tear, becoming the Hurricanes’ leading scorer among defensemen and third in scoring overall on the team. He got there with some crafty stickwork, an uncanny ability to fake shots then either get a good pass or snapshot off, catching the defense unawares, and a very strong sense of where the play is going and where his teammates are going to be, allowing him to be an effective and very dangerous power play QB, even if it doesn’t seem like he’s doing much.
He’s also a fantastic transition target, able to get some decent acceleration out of the defensive zone and able to avoid and overcome neutral zone contact with that same slick use of hands, and that same play recognition helps him out a lot in breaking up offensive plays with his stick.
Just as the PP comes to an end Alex Cotton finds his 14th of the season for @WHLHurricanes— Access7 Sports (@Access7Sports) January 25, 2020
LET 4 | REG 0 pic.twitter.com/VhSFVaqzEb
Some WHL video today. #28 on Lethbridge Alex Cotton (01) is 2020 Draft eligible and makes a great play here faking a shot and sending a cross ice pass for a goal in open part of the net. He doesn’t wow you but does little things right to help your team be competitive pic.twitter.com/SXDWx24dKD— Cameron Friss (@cfriss216) May 2, 2020
And of course, he’s always willing to throw down for his teammates with a lot of fire behind his fisticuffs...even if he isn’t always successful:
But, and this is not to take away from anything he did this year...he’s an Overager. Being an overager in junior gives you tons of benefits that the teenagers that normally populate these rosters don’t always get, like familiarity with the system, natural size, and strength that other players don’t have yet. And it’s hard to say whether or not getting to play with guys like Dylan Cozens on the power play is the kind of thing that gave him his impressive statline or not.
As for more concrete criticisms, his skating is rougher than other players. He can skate fine forwards and back, but his edgework, lateral skating and turning is not ideal, as he loses speed while he makes his turns, and in the pros, that’s practically an invitation for getting run down even by smaller forecheckers, and for a guy his size, he really should be able to get some muscle on his lower body to prevent that. Further, his less than stellar lateral movement means even if he recognizes where a play is, he may not be able to catch up to it in time to stop it with his body or stick, and that can get him into trouble. Drafting him means improving his lateral skating and his strength as much as humanly possible.
Cotton is, like any middle round player, a project. He’s totally willing to put in the effort to succeed and apparently has those offensive instincts and intuitions that you just can’t teach...but he’s only a year out from previously having less than 20 points as an 18 year old with some glaring issues. If you want a long-term project player, Cotton could be one you could make a lot of noise with if it pans out...
...it’s just that your idea of “long-term” needs to be at least a year shorter than you think.
73rd by FutureConsiderations
79th by NHL Central Scouting among North American Skaters
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