Lukas Dragicevic is a 2023 NHL Draft prospect who plays defence for the Tri-City Americans. That wasn’t always the case, though. It wasn’t that long ago that Dragicevic was playing forward, charged with scoring goals rather than shutting opponents down.
You can’t take that for granted. It’s the sort of switch that can take years to pan out. We’ve seen K’Andre Miller do that with great results and right now this blueliner is still in the early stages of doing that while playing key in Tri-City.
“My two-way game is something I’m still taking steps to improve,” Dragicevic told EP Rinkside. “I’ve only been a defenceman for three years now. The position is pretty much brand new to me. So I’m working very hard on the defensive part of my game. And keep getting better at that. I know that’s what is going to get me to the next level.”
There’s always a point where the player or a coach gets the player to make that change in position.
“In Bantam, my coach looked down the bench because we had a lot of injuries one game. He asked, ‘Who wants to play D?’ I volunteered because I thought it was going to be just for the rest of the game. Until now, so It was my decision. My decision to play defense. I haven’t looked back since.”
When offence is in your brain. That’s the easiest part to transition to when you’re a defenceman. Those offensive instincts were instilled when he was a forward so it’s naturally easier.”
“I’d say the offensive part has been the easiest transition. I think I’m a smart hockey player and that made it easier as well. I’m working on the defence every single day. That was the hard part,” Dragicevic admitted.
Matchups on the ice are much harder for a defenceman. A top-four defenceman ends up having to go up against many of the top scorers in a given league. Dragicevic is more than up to the task.
“The matchups are harder, but I try and knock them down when I’m on the ice with them. It’s harder, harder than at forward, but I try and do my best at every opportunity,” Dragicevic responded.
It’s always interesting to find out what the player feels his best attributes are. This prospect really nails it.
“It’s my offensive instincts and my hockey sense, for me personally. Having the puck on my stick. Making the right plays. I make a good first pass. Breaking out pucks to guys who are open. It’s about being smart with the puck,” said Dragicevic.
Some players have that gift to be able to see the gaps and where the lanes are opening up.
“I can identify it pretty fast. I think it’s one of my biggest strengths,” he said confidently. “It’s something I take pride in. It’s something that will make me become an even better hockey player.”
This blueliner’s speed really helps him create offence on the rush.
“My skating has gotten a lot better. I take a lot of pride in the work I’ve put in. My skating continues to get better. I think it’s helped my offensive production,” Dragicevic added.
Dragicevic is a solid power play performer.
“It’s a lot of fun. It’s something that’s not given. It’s earned. And the ability to go back on the ice every time so it’s probably one of my favourite things,” Dragicevic stated.
An accurate point shot is necessary these days and he knows how to get that done.
“I just try and get it on the net,” Dragicevic said. “I try and get the puck to the net and let the forwards do their job.”
All players are asked how physically they play. He talked about that.
“I do. I’m not going to hit anybody super hard. I’m not really going to fight or anything like that. When the opportunity comes, I let my body do its work. I battle hard in the corners and net front,” Dragicevic explained.
If it’s late in the game, there are certain players you want on the ice. I’m told that you want Dragicevic out there.
“I love those opportunities. I love being that guy the coaches can trust when they need a scorer. Or even when they need the defense,” Dragicevic said with confidence.
Dragicevic wasn’t the best multi-sport athlete growing up.
“I tried pretty much every sport growing up and hockey is what I came up with. I’m happy with that choice,” Dragicevic chuckled.
What was his worst sport?
“Swimming probably. I gave up swimming first.”
His leisure time activities are very competitive situations.
“I like to golf with buddies from back home. I have a tennis court sort of in my backyard. My friends and I tend to get competitive and play tennis,” Dragicevic underscored. “First serves are hard but I’m getting better at it. I don’t go net front. I hang back. Hopefully, they make a mistake.”
Dragicevic grew up in Richmond, British Columbia. It’s the central hub for air travel in all of BC.
“It’s awesome. The community is so great. It’s pretty amazing. It’s about 200,000 people there. It’s a bigger city. I loved it and it was a great place to grow up. The hockey community is awesome,” Dragicevic opined. “Everybody is together. Everybody grows up together.”
Dragicevic is trying not to think about the upcoming NHL Draft in Nashville. But like most talented prospects, he knows he will be there in a few months but first, he has a job to do.
“Not thinking about it too much. I’m still trying to do my best for the team. We are getting into playoffs. I’m going to push hard here and I’ll think about it after,” Dragicevic said honestly. “I’m planning on going and I think my family will come with me. They’ve been by my side the entire time. “
Dragicevic is expecting to do well in the playoffs. He thinks his team may surprise him. He’s had a terrific offensive season. He was named a U.S. Division First-Team All-Star. Being a defenceman who has that offensive touch has made him a dangerous shootout sniper.
He will be a fan favourite wherever he ends up in the NHL.