There are many highly talented and fun players to watch in this draft and Andrew Cristall is definitely one of them. Until the past two months or so, he was an under-the-radar prospect to the casual fan, but he’s now shot up the rankings.
Cristall will be one of the more interesting players to keep an eye on come draft day. Realistically, he could hear his name called very early in the first round, but it also wouldn’t be surprising if he’s one of the biggest fallers.
Who is Andrew Cristall?
Cristall’s on ice production
|2018–19||D-4||CSSHL U15||St. George’s School U15 Prep||30||25||27||52|
|2019–20||D-3||CSSHL U15||St. George’s School U15 Prep||27||43||37||80|
|CSSHL U16||St. George’s School Elite 15s||1||1||0||1|
|2020–21||D-2||CSSHL U18||St. George’s School U18 Prep||4||3||1||4|
Andrew Cristall’s strong showing in the CCSHL led him to be drafted eighth overall by the Kelowna Rockets in the WHL draft. His first season in the WHL was impacted by the pandemic and only saw him play 14 games where he put up five points. Ever since that season, Cristall hasn’t struggled.
He had a “breakout” year in the 2021–22 season scoring almost 30 goals and 69 assists in 61 games. Him and the Rockets were bounced quite earlier in the playoffs being eliminated in five games. This prior season, he finished sixth in points and third in points per game with the Rockets. However, he wasn’t treated to a long playoff run as Cristall and the Rockets were swept by the CHL’s best team, the Seattle Thunderbirds.
Representing their country is a big achievement for a player and Andrew Cristall has represented his country of Canada twice so far. The first time in the summer of 2022 at the Hlinka U18 Gretzky Cup where he was a part of the gold medal winning team and put six points in five games.
Now, he is currently playing at the U18 World Junior Championship and will face the Swiss in the quarterfinals today. Compared to the Hlinka Cup, Cristall has so far been underwhelming at the U18 Worlds as he only has two points in four games.
Cristall also has connections to other players in this draft. Him and consensus top pick, Connor Bedard, are childhood best friends. According to them, the two have either played with or against each since they were five years old. This season in November, they played against each other in the WHL for the first time.
Andrew Cristall’s strengths
Hockey IQ and vision
Andrew Cristall’s best skills are his intelligence and vision. When potential chances arrive, Cristall will play a waiting game with the goalie and analyze weaknesses in the goalie’s position. When he finds them, he takes advantage of these weaknesses and allows himself or a teammate to get a goal. He can see where he needs to go to receive the best scoring chance or to make the highest quality pass possible.
He’s able to read the ice in ways that everyone else on the ice wouldn’t and this leads to him making jaw dropping plays. Being able to know when to make a shot or pass in difficult situations is impressive and Cristal does just that. Cristall scans the play and can usually decide what’s the best option available, whether it’s a simple pass or a risky play that has high payoff.
Shooting and passing
One thing that’s very noticeable when watching Cristall is that he has a great sense of when to shoot or not. It’s crazy how he always seems to know if it’s a good time to shoot or if he should hold to the puck and create space. His accuracy is incredible and he’s able to pick corners and score on angles that most players would struggle with. Passing is another skill that is one of Cristall’s best.
The creativity he has is mind-blowing and he loves to make pretty passes such as going between the legs. He draws opponents towards him to allow for pressure to be removed from his teammates and then makes the perfect tape-to-tape pass usually leading to a goal. He has many highlights of his in-zone passing, while his team is working the cycle, he almost always finds his open teammate and allows them to get a high quality chance which works extremely well with one timers.
Cristall’s rush passing is also as good as his in-zone passing. Sometimes on the rush, he’ll make great passes on the fly and allow his team to get better positioning through transition. Other times on the rush, he’ll have the patience, draw in an opposing defender and then find an open teammate who continues the rush and at least gets a high-scoring chance.
Hands and edgework
Cristall’s hands and edgework go hand in hand as they play into deceptiveness and creativity. He uses his edgework to help escape pressure and create scoring chances for himself or his teammates He knows how to deceive opponents and can draw them in towards him which could leave them with their ankles broken.
His hands are very fast and he will often leave goalies and defenders dumbfounded. It’s amazing watching him quickly turn and somehow be able to keep control of the puck and as well get a solid shot off or make a great pass. Any defender that dares to try to poke check or block his lane is asking to be on the bad end of the highlight reel.
Cristall’s areas of improvement
Size and strength
For someone of his stature, Cristall has definitely heard a ton of criticism about his size and strength, but it definitely is a flaw. For starters, his compete level doesn’t appear to be high. He’ll seemingly try to get the puck back and sometimes plays the stick, but he presents himself as too small and usually seems lackluster in his attempts to get the puck back.
Some shifts he seems to want to push hard and get the puck back but his inability to check and out muscle players puts a stop to it. When he steals the puck, it’s typically the result of a waiting game as he waits for either the perfect time to steal or for the puck to come to him instead of working hard to steal the puck or make it come to him.
His size can often be spotted as a vulnerability as it’s easy to force him to cause a turnover by just playing the body. This is an area of struggle, but it’s likely he can grow and if he doesn’t, we’ve seen plenty of NHLers face the same problem and still be great.
Although he has great edgework, Cristall’s stride is a weakness. He lacks explosiveness and his top speed is mediocre. His slow acceleration has caused him problems both offensively and defensively as sometimes he can’t reach the play in time.
The biggest problem for many with this weakness is that small players tend to make up for their lack of size with their speed, so some are very concerned this could strongly weaken Cristall’s game. The weak stride seems to be caused by a lack of lower body strength, but a positive is that he can build that strength, and skating problems can be fixed with a good skating coach.
Cristall’s defensive abilities are the weakest part of his game. Cristall will sometimes find himself trying to get the puck off of the attacking player but will curl back if his pressure doesn’t work quickly instead of sticking with his defensive attack. Often players who do this look like they don’t believe they can finish their attack and bail to go guard the point since it’s their original assignment which in a way could be covering up a defensive blunder.
Another that causes Cristall to be weak defensively is his already mentioned weak stride. His slow acceleration and mediocre speed don’t allow him to complete his back check and allow dangerous chances.
Andrew Cristall’s comparable
Almost all of Andrew Cristall’s offensive skills, his hands, edgework, passing, shooting, IQ, and vision make me draw a comparison to Johnny Gaudreau. Both of them are smaller players, have similar play styles, and have almost identical strengths and weaknesses.
Fit with the Flames
Andrew Cristall is the most realistic option for the Flames out of the draft prospects we covered so far. If the Flames magically win the draft lottery and pick sixth, he’ll be an option, but there’s also a high chance he’ll be an option when they more realistically pick sixteenth. As Cristall has become more popular, I’ve seen many have problems with his weaknesses and drop him down the draft board which I don’t really agree with.
If Darryl Sutter is still the Flames’ head coach for the next two seasons, the chances they pick Cristall if he’s available becomes highly unlikely. Sutter seems like he has some vendetta against small players and as I’ve mentioned before, Cristall is a small player.
It becomes even more unlikely when you look at Cristall’s defensive struggles as well because Sutter loves to play defensive hockey. If the Flames do stick with their word and try to start to be more young and progressive with their management, Cristall seems like a likely pick.
I would love for the Flames to draft Cristall and develop him to be that Johnny Gaudreau type player for the top line that they were missing badly this past season.
Andrew Cristall is one of the most fun players to watch from this draft class. He’s a package of pure skill and creativity. He checks off all the skills that an offensive star has at an NHL level. There are some concerns with his game, but there are ways around them. If Cristall reaches his ceiling, he’ll be a star and elite at the NHL level. If worse comes to worst, Cristall will be in some team’s top-nine as a scoring winger that plays on the power play.
Projection: Elite scoring winger
All TWC 2023 NHL Draft Profiles
Check out more of our individual player profiles of selected 2023 NHL Draft prospects:
Connor Bedard | Matvei Michkov | Adam Fantilli | Leo Carlsson | Zach Benson | Andrew Cristall | Oliver Moore | Will Smith | Ryan Leonard | Eduard Sale | Colby Barlow | Axel Sandin Pellikka | Dalibor Dvorsky | Brayden Yager | David Reinbacher | Nate Danielson | Riley Heidt | Matthew Wood | Quentin Musty | Mikhail Gulyayev | Calum Ritchie | Gabe Perrault | Jayden Perron | Ethan Gauthier | Dmitri Simashev | Samuel Honzek | Lukas Dragicevic | William Whitelaw | Otto Stenberg | Gavin Brindley | Daniil But