It was a clear opportunity for Alexander True.
With nearly seven and a half minutes to go in the overtime period of Game 6 of the WHL Championship, Seattle Thunderbirds defenseman Aaron Hyman dumped the puck down the boards from their defensive end. As soon as Keegan Kolesar received the puck, he gave a nifty back-hand pass to a surging True, flying into the T-Birds’ offensive zone. True’s initial shot from the faceoff circle was stopped by Regina Pats goaltender Tyler Brown, but True gathered his own rebound and put it in a relatively open net to not only win the game, but the WHL Championship for the Seattle Thunderbirds.
Two years later, the Dane is being rewarded for his imposing style of play that led to goals like those.
It was certainly overshadowed by the signing of 2018 first-rounder Ryan Merkley, but on July 18, nearly a year after he decided to forgo his final year of WHL eligibility to sign with the Barracuda, the Sharks decided to ink True to a three-year, entry level deal on the same day.
It was a well-deserved contract for the Barracuda’s second-best rookie scorer. Dressed for all 68 games with the ‘Cuda in his rookie season, True scored 0.22 goals per game while putting up 0.31 primary points per game and firing off 1.78 shots per game. It’s a little bit of a drop off from his last WHL season where he scored at a rate of 0.38 goals per game and 0.5 primary points per game, but, of course, the Sharks organization does not have the services of players like Mathew Barzal, Ethan Bear or Ryan Gropp.
True’s rookie season was quite an interesting one. Despite being second in rookie scoring for the Barracuda, True seems to drive the play on the man-advantage a lot more than he does in other situations. Evan Oppenheimer’s “Betweenness” data shows us that True had a rating of 0.249 on the power play, but during 5-on-5 play, he needed to rely on his teammates a little bit more, registering at -0.035. Emmanuel Perry’s often-relied-upon NHLe model tells us that True has a 32.28 percent chance of making the NHL and has a projected WAR (wins above replacement) of just 0.01. So, while True may not be projected to have the biggest impact on the Sharks, he will provide depth at center and be a reliable call-up should somebody like Antti Suomela go down with an injury.
This upcoming season, True will link up with two of the Thunderbirds’ biggest rivals’ former players: Matt Fonteyne of the Everett Silvertips, and Joachim Blichfeld of the Portland Winterhawks. The fact that there is a legitimate possibility of a Fonteyne-True-Blichfeld line next year could do what is considered unthinkable — unite those three fanbases.
What We Like
True is an excellent special-teams player. As mentioned earlier, True drives Roy Sommer’s man-advantage staff when he’s out on the ice. His stature at 6-foot-5 also gives him an advantage at net play, often being a source of screening the net.
Areas of Improvement
True’s skating is what may have kept him from getting drafted and while there’s been some improvement, it’s still his biggest hurdle at the the professional level. And while standing out on special teams earned him an NHL contract, if Mikkel Boedker taught us anything, it’s that power play specialists can be streaky. To maintain his production level, True has to drive more play at even strength.
When the Barracuda needed a hero to get them into the playoffs, Alex answered the call. His two goals on the final day of the regular season were enough to keep the Barracuda alive and eventually get them into the playoffs.