Prospect Ramblings: Searching for the Next ‘Elite Pest’

Tony Ferrari


Will Cuylle (#13) and Donovan Sebrango fight each other at the CHL Top Prospects Game (Photo Courtesy of the CHL)


With speed and skill becoming the hottest commodities in the modern-day NHL, the ‘skilled pest’ has become a bit of market inefficiency. Players like Tom Wilson and the Tkachuk brothers have become rarities in today’s game. They have the skill and offensive prowess to play on their team’s top lines. They also bring the grit and physicality that bring back memories from days gone by. 


That combination of skill and physicality, scoring goals and starting scrums, allows these players to take advantage of less physical players and create havoc for the opposition’s best player as well. The lack of players who truly meets the criteria for projecting as a top-line player who can be a bit of a best is short. This year’s draft doesn’t have any obvious candidates. The players who play with an edge don’t have the same sort of offensive upside that players like the Tkachuk’s have. 


The three types of pests that the NHL has can be summarized using a few different players as the archetype. Tom Wilson is the ultimate compliment as a physical force who is offensively capable and has the ability to play with the top players. The Tkachuk’s, both Brady and Matthew, are a bit more offensively driven and can push the pace of play. They can help drive their lines and contribute a bit more on the scoresheet. The final of the three main archetypes for ‘skilled pests’ is the rat. Also known as Brad Marchand. If he’s on your team, you love the guy. If he’s on the opposing team, you need to watch out for his tongue. Marchand is his the ability to put up offensive totals that sit around the top of the leagues scoring list and aggravate the opposition to no end. He may not fight all of his own battles but that just infuriates his opponents more. 


The ‘Tom Wilson’ Archetype: LW Will Cuylle – Windsor Spitfires


Will Cuylle and Tom Wilson play a very similar style of game in terms of having an above-average shot and a big body that they enjoy throwing around. While Cuylle didn’t put up the same PIM numbers as Wilson did in junior, he has outscored him to this point. Cuylle plays a power game and is at his best when he is relied upon as a triggerman and can allow his teammates to do the bulk of the work in terms of carrying the pucks and driving the play. 



Cuylle has ramped up his physicality this season and has shown a willingness to throw