He is seen as being somewhat of a wild card ahead of the upcoming National Hockey League draft. Depending on who one talks to, Saginaw Spirit winger Nick Porco could be drafted anywhere between rounds three and five of the June 21-22 NHL process.
A Sault Ste. Marie native, the 6-foot, 175-pound Porco is coming off a 2018-2019 campaign in which he scored 20 goals, 16 assists, 36 points in 67 regular season games before adding 3 goals, 4 assists, 7 points in 15 playoff outings.
Porco was part of a Saginaw squad that finished second in the Western Conference of the Ontario Hockey League during the regular season and then upended the Sarnia Sting and Soo Greyhounds before coughing up a 3-1 series lead to the no. 4 seed Guelph Storm and losing in seven games in the third round of the playoffs.
As a second-year player in the OHL, Porco was one of seven Saginaw forwards who scored 20 or more goals during the 2018-2019 regular season.
And he did so in spite of a number of obstacles which included being shifted to right wing despite being a left-hand shot and playing on Saginaw’s third and fourth lines, often with mediocre line-mates who were unable to keep up with his speed. Porco also saw limited time on the Spirit power play, especially after Saginaw loaded up with fourth-year players at the OHL trade deadline.
Still, a 20-goal season is nothing to sneeze at and Porco certainly managed to catch the attention of the NHL scouts as the season went on.
Blessed with breakaway, separation speed and the author of a low, accurate shot, Porco also has what those in the game refer to as a “high hockey IQ.”
One NHL scout told me that Porco has “speed and can score and that’s a lot of what teams look for in a player.” Meanwhile, character-wise, Porco carries a reputation of being an “A+ kid.”
Porco, who recently spent time in Chicago being evaluated and talked to by members of the Blackhawks organization, says it has been a “life-long dream” of his to eventually play in the NHL. But he doesn’t get carried away talking about the upcoming NHL draft, preferring instead to, in his own words, “wait and see what happens.”
Friendly, albeit quiet and unassuming, Porco is not in the least bit full of himself and is known as a unselfish player and a good teammate.
Beau Moyer, who coached Porco for two seasons in the Greater Toronto Hockey League prior to the youngster becoming Saginaw’s first round pick, fourth overall, at the 2017 OHL draft, noted that “Nick is a great kid with a lot of hockey sense and ability. His speed is off the charts. I have had a number of NHL scouts call me to talk about Nick. Whichever NHL team picks him is going to get a player who is only going to get better and better. His potential is unlimited.”
Moyer, who besides coaching in the GTHL, also scouts for the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, added that “whichever NHL team drafts Nick will be getting a steal. I truly believe that Nick will play in the NHL at some point.”
Then there is a veteran OHL scout, who consults for a Western Conference team and who got to see a lot of Porco over the course of the 2018-2019 season. Like Moyer, he also sees the speedy Porco as “a potential steal as an NHL draft pick. He scored all of the goals he did this season without getting top minutes and not playing as a top six forward in Saginaw. Personally, I don’t think he was properly utilized by the Saginaw coach (Chris Lazary.)”
Meanwhile, Saginaw general manager Dave Drinkill, who drafted Porco in the first round for the Spirit two years ago, told me that “it is Nick’s separation speed that really stands out. He has world class speed and can be really dangerous on the penalty kill. To top it off, he’s a great kid who only wants to play hockey and keep on getting better. The sky is the limit for him.”
PHOTO: Nick Porco, in action for the Saginaw Spirit. (Photo by Natalie Shaver.)