The 2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft will be held June 28-29 at Sphere in Las Vegas. The first round will be June 28 (7 p.m. ET; ESPN, ESPN+, SN, TVAS) and Rounds 2-7 are June 29 (11:30 a.m. ET; ESPN+, NHLN, SN, SN1). NHL.com is counting down to the draft with in-depth profiles on top prospects, podcasts and other features. Today, a profile on defenseman Carter Yakemchuk, who plays for Calgary of the Western Hockey League. NHL.com's full draft coverage can be found here.

Carter Yakemchuk knows he'll have to leave home at some point. But for now, the 18-year-old defenseman of Calgary of the Western Hockey League is very happy going to sleep in his own bed every night during the hockey season.

Yakemchuk was born in Fort McMurray, Alberta, but when he was 6 years old his family moved about 450 miles south to Calgary.

And the city is where his hockey career took off, including being selected by his hometown Hitmen in the third round (No. 65) of the 2020 Western Hockey League bantam draft.

This season, he scored 30 goals in 66 games to lead WHL defensemen and set a Calgary single-season record for the position.

"I'm super lucky that I'm living at home," Yakemchuk said. "So that's been great so far. My family, we took another kid from our team as a billet (center Oliver Tulk, Calgary's leading scorer this season) so it's been really good. It's super special, every night I get lots of friends and family come to the game. So it's been great."

They had a lot to cheer about as Yakemchuk (6-foot-3, 201 pounds) emerged as one of the top prospects for the 2024 draft. His 71 points were fifth among WHL defensemen, and he's No. 11 among North American skaters in NHL Central Scouting's final rankings.


"As a 6-foot-3 defenseman, right shot, that scored 30 goals on a non-playoff team, it was very impressive what he did," said John Williams of Central Scouting. "He also had [120] minutes in penalties, so he's no shrinking violet either. He will bring a lot of different elements. ... In some ways he looks like he's a little bit younger physically right now, he hasn't fully matured into his frame. I think down the road when this kid is 22, 23 years old and he's fully mature and gets that man strength, he's going to be a real tough guy to deal with."

It was a big step this season for Yakemchuk, who had 47 points (19 goals, 28 assists) in 67 games last season.

Yakemchuk said the only real change was some extra confidence gained by a start to the season that saw him put up 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists) in his first 19 games, including seven multipoint games.

"I think it was just the fact that he's a year older, more experienced and more confident," Calgary general manager Garry Davidson said. "He played with huge offensive confidence, no question about that. He also wowed us all on many occasions with some of the plays he made offensively.

"Development is always an interesting thing. You just never know how big a step a player is going to take from one year to another, and certainly he took a huge step."


The next step in Yakemchuk's development is raising his physical play and defensive game to approach the same level as his offensive output.

"I think at this stage of the game he plays more that style with his stick and his reach and stripping pucks," Williams said. "Because he is an offensive guy he's trying to transition quickly, and when you're playing that heavy, physical kind of role, it's a little tougher to quickly transition."

Yakemchuk said getting stronger will be the focus of his offseason training so he can play more physical and improve his skating.

"I think definitely trying to fill into my body a little bit more throughout the summer," he said. "So I think that's an area I definitely want to work on and become bigger, stronger and faster."

With Calgary missing the WHL playoffs, that work began not long after its final regular-season game March 23.

"He showed quite a bit of maturity that he just wanted to get going right away when the season finished," said David Liffiton, who handles on-ice training with Crash Conditioning in Calgary, "and really focus on skating and a couple of his areas that need improvement, to work on those, develop those."


Liffiton said it's a two-pronged approach to improve Yakemchuk's skating, with work in the gym making him stronger while Liffiton oversees technical changes.

"It's working on mobility off the ice, and then you get getting back to dialing in posture and edge control on the ice," Liffiton said. "As you're doing your strength and conditioning your body's constantly changing. The younger guys are putting on 10, 15, 20 pounds in the offseason. Now your body has changed quite a bit so you've got to make sure that you're keeping your skating coordinated with that change in your body.

"It's just the ability to maintain posture and get a little bit deeper into his stance and in his translations. That's been a big area of focus and it's definitely coming along."

Davidson also hopes Yakemchuk is able to develop into a leader for Calgary next season.

"We certainly hope so," Davidson said. "He's going to be one of our most experienced players, and a high-end talent. So it's going to be expected and we're certainly going to try to put that kind of responsibility on his shoulders next year where he's a go-to guy and leading the pack, so to speak."

That could be tough for Yakemchuk, who is a quiet person by nature. Which is ironic considering one of his favorite athletes is one of the loudest in sports, former UFC champion Conor McGregor.

"I like his personality," Yakemchuk said. "He's a crazy guy when he gets on the stage and he's hilarious. So I think watching him is pretty funny."

Could Yakemchuk develop any of the same brash, high-volume qualities as McGregor? 

"I would say no," he said.

Related Content