Sault Ste Marie (OHL)
Steve Kournianos | 10/5/2020 | Nashville | [hupso]
Height / Weight: 6’0, 178 lbs
Born: May 16, 2002 | Pickering, ON
|2019-2020||Sault Ste. Marie||OHL||54||7||30||37||79|
|2018-2019||Sault Ste. Marie||OHL||62||8||14||22||64|
O’Rourke easily is among the top two-way defensemen in the entire OHL, and that’s as a first-year eligible. The Soo had issues all season with keeping the puck out of their net, but it was O’Rourke who was his team’s most reliable option at killing opposing possessions or limiting their looks to low-percentage areas. The early-season acquisition of Billy Constantinou and the emergence of draft-overager Robert Calisti – both a full year older than O’Rourke – limited Ryan’s plum opportunities in the offensive zone and on the power play. Nonetheless, he still finished with an impressive 0.69 points- per-game average that was second only to Jamie Drysdale among 2002-born OHL defenders.
O’Rourke is a leader both on and off the ice. He was the team captain and consistently summoned to handle tough assignments prior to defensive-zone draws. His success rate at thwarting opposing cycles at even strength must have been incredibly high this season, especially in matches against lethal attacks like Ottawa’s and London’s. He can transition from slot defender and crease clearer to puck rusher and playmaker rather quickly, and O’Rourke’s ability to wear multiple hats is why he’s been part of high-profile events like the World under-17 Hockey Challenge, U18 Hlinka, and the CHL Top Prospects Game.
An instinctive player who usually guesses right, O’Rourke is money during the breakout. He delivers a crisp first pass that catches teammates in stride, but he also delays appropriately and knows how to use the net to his advantage. His eyes can focus on multiple targets and he rarely (and I mean rarely) makes decisions that out his buddies in vulnerable position. It seems like O’Rourke’s anticipation and poise help him make decisions for the strategic, long-term success of a game, let alone a shift or period. In other words, O’Rourke gets into opponents’ heads and you notice forechecking tactics change when he’s on the ice.
O’Rourke is a very good skater with above-average straight-line speed but excellent mobility and quickness while backskating. His gap is more elastic than it is tight, but it contracts rapidly in the grey zone outside his line. He is a hard shover and will finish his checks with authority; often to put a forward on his behind. He also is very quick when avoiding pressure and his rushes up ice are swift and confident. Once he’s across center, O’Rourke leans towards safer plays and keeps high-risk passes at the bare minimum. He is active from the point and keeps plays alive, but O’Rourke hard, low shot is his biggest contribution to offensive-zone possessions. He has top-pairing potential and can log over 25 minutes a game at higher levels, and when coupled with his plus character traits, it’s conceivable to see him as a late first-round pick.