Beau Akey is a 6’0, 170-pound defenseman playing his rookie season in the OHL for the Barrie Colts. The sixteen-year-old right-shooting blueliner brings an intriguing mixture of excellent skating and hockey sense that belongs more to a 19-year-old than a player just getting started in major junior hockey.
Akey’s skating ability stands out immediately as soon as he hits the ice. He is a tremendous skater, both in up-ice speed and four-way agility. He looks equally adept and comfortable skating forward and backward and transitions between the two with almost invisible fluidity. As such, he can control space and gaps quickly, stepping into open areas to reach loose pucks or shut down attack lanes with surprising speed. With the puck in his own zone, Akey shows great hockey iq and the capacity to slow the game, make the correct reads under pressure, and execute clever little plays to either break the pressure with his feet or move to puck accurately to a teammate.
Akey can be physical when called for, but he is not the type of defender who looks for the big hit. Instead, he can seal off puck carriers, will pin forwards to the boards, and finishes checks with the clear intention of regaining puck possession rather than separating the player from the puck. His high level of mobility allows him to keep himself in position, almost always on the right side of the puck.
He shines in transition. Akey skates the puck quickly through the neutral zone, using a variety of dips, shoulder fakes and edgework to force defending players into disadvantageous positions that he can then exploit with continued speed or deft passing. Given his size and mobility, defending players have a difficult time restricting his movement, so they have to back off to respect the speed, granting Akey even more time and space.
Playing on a blueline squad that includes Brandt Clarke (the eighth-overall pick from the 2021 NHL draft) limits Akey’s prime ice time. However, Akey tends to make the most of opportunities. He joins the rush whenever possible, leveraging his excellent skating ability and offensive awareness to get into the offensive zone and force opposing teams pay attention to him. Although Akey’s scoring totals have been underwhelming through his first 13 games in the OHL (just one point so far), his counting stats should start to blossom as the season continues and some of the rustiness caused by the missing COVID years falls away. He has twelve shots on goal through those 13 games, and based on his shot and passing abilities, it would not be surprising to see his scoring production climb toward the 0.5 points-per-game level by the end of the season.
Akey’s shot needs attention, but he has a solid foundation to build on. His wrist shot has some power, but it looks more like a puck distribution tool than a scoring weapon. He throws the puck to the net more than fires with intent to beat the goaltender. He does not use a big slapshot, so he will need to add one to his arsenal in order to keep opposing goaltenders and pressuring forwards honest. Even with an improved shot—which will come—Akey’s game in the offensive zone will likely be based on puck movement and speed to the net. His patience with the puck gives him an extra step to make the better pass, especially because he consistently makes solid choices between passing options.
Akey was recently selected to participate in the Hockey Canada Capital City Challenge, a U17 tournament that will be played in Ottawa at the end of November. The short tournament will be an excellent chance to observe his play against his age group.
Previous Players in the Prospect Spotlight:
Geekie continues to see his draft stock solidify as a top-16 pick in the 2022 NHL draft. Geekie is currently fourth in scoring on the powerful Winnipeg Ice team and eighth overall in the WHL, having racked up 23 points through his first 18 game of the season. His 17 assists put him top three in the Western league.
Cataford has been struggling to hit the scoresheet over the last month. He has posted just two goals in his last ten games. Like Akey, Cataford, too, has been selected to the Capital City Challenge. Perhaps that showcase will give him an opportunity to ignite his scoring.