Fred wrote:The funny thing is every time you turn on the TV/Radio you here the "experts" telling us all how deep the Canucks are.
Pharm depth is one thing, a strong prospect pool is another.
Fred wrote:The funny thing is every time you turn on the TV/Radio you here the "experts" telling us all how deep the Canucks are.
Clearing the decks: it's been a busy month for me and I've perhaps neglected my CA duties a bit. Over the next week or so, I'm going to be review the Wolves' minor league season. As we transition into next season, let's ask the question; who should we be watching next year and what obstacles might they face?
The agreement with the Wolves was, for the most part well received in Chicago. The Wolves were said to be pleased with way the Canucks management were involved in the development of their prospects. On the other hand, one has to wonder how pleased the Canucks might have been with the Wolves' proclivity to sign AHL veterans. It will be interesting to see what veterans are brought back next season; in the past, the Canucks have always worked hard to make their AHL team competitive, but with several young scoring prospects coming through, how much time can be afforded for the older, more skilled players?
Let's start our review with a look at the forward prospects who spent time with the Wolves this season:
Schroeder took a big step forward this season. After a lukewarm professional debut in 2010-11, Schroeder's solid two-way game emerged in 2011-12. The first two months of his season were a struggle, but as he gained coach Craig MacTavish's trust, Schroeder began to blossom. While not a sniper, Schroeder plays a strong puck-possession game and distributes the puck well. Given linemates who are more adept at finishing, don't be surprised if Schroeder's assist totals grow. Think of a smaller Chris Higgins - a forward who does everything very well. He's also a blindingly fast skater.
76 games 21 G 23 A +8 18 PIM 5 PPG 1 SHG 183 shots 11.5 sh pct
A decent year for the Chicagoan. Sweatt made his NHL debut with the Canucks in December, getting a smattering of ice time in Ottawa and Montreal. He spent most of the year in a high-flying duo with Jordan Schroeder, using his speed forecheck and exploit turnovers. He was also a key penalty killer for the Wolves. OUTLOOK: Decent. His wheels are his strength. Unfortunately his hands don't seem to be following along, but he should be able to contribute as a checking winger in spot duty next season.
71 games 16 G 18 A +9 24 PIM 3 PPG 0 SHG 165 shots 9.7 sh pct
A late-season cup of coffee went as well as could possibly be expected. After a first two games on the 4th line, Jensen was quickly bumped up to a line with veterans Steve Reinprecht and Mark Mancari. Jensen showed everyone his sweet finish, scoring a hat trick in the final game of the regular season. One wonders if the first round playoff series against San Antonio might have gone better if he'd not suffered a concussion in game 2. Jensen scored a pair of power play goals in game 1. There is some thought that the left winger, who was a late cut in the 2011 training camp, might push for a spot next fall. This seems unlikely, given the Canucks' known preference to slide entry level contracts as long as possible - wouldn't you rather have a cheap 22-year-old Jensen, rather than the 19-year-old version?
6games 4 G 0 A even 24 PIM 1 PPG 0 SHG 12 shots 33.3 sh pct
Rodin may have been the most skilled forward the Wolves dressed this season. With passing vision to rival his veteran teammates', no one was a slicker distributor than Rodin. Unfortunately, this wasn't always in evidence. The young Swede needs to add plenty of muscle; battles along the boards were a struggle all season. He didn't dress for a single playoff game, even when Jensen went out injured as MacTavish preferred to go with bigger, more veteran hands in the lineup. Rodin can skate and pass, but he needs to do everything better and more often. He'll be back in Chicago next season.
62 games 10 G 17 A -5 18 PIM 2 PPG 0 SHG 101 shots 9.9 sh pct
A junior hockey defenceman who has been converted into a checking-line centre, Schneider struggled to stay in the lineup despite showing himself to be useful on the penalty kill and in the faceoff circle. His huge frame may keep him on the long-shot list for another season, but this is the last year of his contract and he's going to have to do a lot of work to get his chance.
46 games 4 G 5 A -11 6 PIM 0 PPG 0 SHG 28 shots 14.3 sh pct
dark-horse prospect heading into the season, Archibald's season started well but then went immediately south. He scored the Wolves' first goal of the season in the very first game, but never found the net again. He quite quickly found himself skating on the 4th line in Chicago and not much longer was watching from the press box. Except for a late, short-lived recall, he spent most of the season in ECHL Kalamazoo, where he bagged 45 points in 49 games. Without improvement, his skating will hold back his NHL ambitions.
20 games 1 G 0 A -2 10 PIM 1 PPG 0 SHG 23 shots 4.3 sh pct
The former Minnesota Gophers captain was brought in to the lineup to provide a diligent and responsible presence to the 4th line and he did just that. He also dressed for 5 playoff games, picking up an assist. The 23-year-old could be a bit of a sleeper prospect. He's not a hulk nor is he a goal scorer but he works hard and his strong skating could earn him a call up as early as next season.
5 games 1 G 1 A -2 4 PIM 0 PPG 0 SHG 5 shots 20.0 sh pct
Finishing among the top teams in the NHL five of the last six years has taken a toll on the Vancouver Canucks prospect pool. Aside from having a perennially low draft spot, the organization has either traded or graduated most of their top prospects. Consequentially the Canucks inaugural prospect awards are dominated by mostly complementary and depth players, with winger Nicklas Jensen being the possible exception.
Most Improved Prospect: Jordan Schroeder, C, Chicago Wovles (AHL)
Upon first glance, Schroeder's overall numbers don't really stand out. However, he more than doubled his goal output (from 10 goals to 21), while also scoring 16 more points (28 points to 44) than he did in his first full AHL season in 2010-11. He also dressed in 76 Wolves games, improved his plus/minus from minus-seven to plus-eight and had nearly 100 more shots on goal than he did the year prior. He seems to be slowly but surely maturing as a prospect and is inching closer and closer to reaching the NHL.
Best Defensive Prospect: Kevin Connauton, D, Chicago Wolves (AHL)
Though Chris Tanev garnered some consideration here, Connauton takes home this award based on the fact that he has shown a lot of promise and still has a lot of room to grow before reaching his full potential. Connauton, who was an AHL Western Conference All-Star representative, led all Wolves defenseman in scoring this season with 13 goals and 20 assists in 73 games. While he still needs to work on rounding out his game defensively, the offensive skills he brings to the table are top-notch and can't be taught. He has the requisite tools needed to quarterback a powerplay.
Best Offensive Prospect: Nicklas Jensen, RW, Oshawa Generals (OHL)
In an organization not blessed with a tremendous amount of offensively skilled prospects, Jensen was pretty much a no-brainer to be named the Canucks best offensive prospect. The skilled Dane may have not had the impact in his second OHL season as hoped, but he still scored at just over a point-per-game clip. He's a strong skater, and is equally adept at playmaking as he is at burying the puck in the back of the net.
Prospect of the Year: Nicklas Jensen, RW, Oshawa Generals (OHL)
As noted earlier, he didn't have the best junior season, but given how he performed for Team Denmark at the World Junior Tournament combined with how well he played in a brief end-of-the-season stint for the Canucks AHL affiliate in Chicago, Jensen edges out Wolves goaltender Eddie Lack for this award. The Danes were severely overmatched at the World Juniors, but Jensen still managed half-a-dozen points in six games. At the end of his OHL season he joined the Chicago Wolves and in eight games (including two post-season matches) he managed six goals.
Fastest Skater: Billy Sweatt, LW, Chicago Wolves (AHL)
He's not ever likely going to be a top-six forward, but Sweatt's speed could prove to eventually be a valuable weapon at the NHL level. Since being drafted by the Blackhawks back in 2007, his speed as always been his calling card, and when you combine that with his defensive aptitude, he makes the lives of opposing defenseman miserable. 2011 draft pick Ludwig Blomstrand also garnered some votes here.
Hardest Shot: Kevin Connauton, D, Chicago Wolves (AHL)
Most everyone knows that Connauton is an offensively gifted blueliner as evidenced by his 33 points for the Wolves this year, but it his pulverizing shot that is his standout tool. As evidenced by the fact that we won the hardest shot competition at the AHL All-Star Skills Competition with a blast that measured just a shade under 100 mph at 99.4, Connauton's shot strikes fear in many an AHL goaltender and the Canucks hope that it won't be too long before his rocket shot is instilling fear in NHL goaltenders in the not-too-distant future.
Overachiever: Jeremy Price, D, Colgate Raiders (ECAC)
Price was an offensive dynamo in the Ontario junior circuit before joining the Colgate Raiders in 2009, and though his numbers have not been as dynamic in his three seasons at the NCAA level, he has quietly emerged as one of the Canucks most well-rounded defense prospects. He's likely going to return to Colgate for his senior season next year, but once he turns pro, he might not need much minor-pro seasoning.
Underachiever: David Honzik, G, Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL)
Honzik's first season as a member of the Canucks organization didn't exactly go as well as Honzik or the Canucks had hoped. He never was able to take hold of the number one job for the Tigres and was outplayed the majority of time by the younger Brandon Whitney. He still played in 43 games for Victoriaville, but he didn't show much improvement as his numbers were almost identical to his 2010-11 season. Given the volatility of the goaltending position, it's still far too early to write Honzik off, but in an organization with a lot of talented goaltenders, he's going to have to bounce back next season if he wants to earn a contract from the Canucks.
Highest Risk/Reward: Alex Grenier, RW, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
Grenier didn't burst onto the scene in the QMJHL until 2010-11 when he was 19, so is more or less the definition of a late-bloomer. His first full year this fall as a 20-year-old was solid as he scored at a point-per-game clip in the regular season in 64 games and just a tick under a point-per-game in 17 playoff games for the Mooseheads. A very raw package of size (6'5) and skill, it appeared Grenier's next step was to play in the AHL, but it looks as though the Canucks might have other plans for him as it is rumored that he might play next season in Austria for EC Salzburg under former NHL coach Pierre Page.
Breakout for 2012-13: Joseph Labate, C, Wisconsin Badgers (WCHA)
There looks to be a handful of players that might breakout in a big way next year. In the end though, Labate took home the honors over Swedish forward Anton Rodin. Fresh off dominating the Minnesota High School ranks, Labate had a decent freshman season at the University of Wisconsin, finishing with five goals and 15 assists in 37 games. Labate has the skills of a burgeoning power-forward. He's blessed with tremendous offensive skill and as he gains experience and continues to fill out his lanky 6'4 frame, he should become very difficult to contain. He true break-out may not come until 2013-14, but expect a big jump in Labate's sophomore numbers next year.
Written by Jared Ramsden
Potatoe1 wrote:Frank Corrado - Said that Corrado has an outside chance of making the team. Said that MacT just loved him in his brief sting last year and that he walked in from Jr and played big minutes on the farm. Says he's big, strong, fast, and very reliable.
TDA Rum wrote:My take on Gagners list is that he thinks those 10 are more NHL ready....
Darren Archibald has always been a "late bloomer." While he had significant success in his Major Junior career, that career didn't even begin until he was 18. The young power-forward went undrafted several times, and was only signed by the Canucks as a 20 year old after his NHL draft eligibility had expired.
Until this past summer, undrafted free agents were a staple of Mike Gillis' tenure as Canucks General Manager. Prominent examples include Chris Tanev and Eddie Lack, as Mike Gillis aggressively pursued "late bloomers" of Archibald's ilk in an effort to jump-start a rebuild of the Canucks farm system and offset the loss of the mid-round picks that Gillis routinely moves at the trade deadline.
After several shining successes with undrafted free agents, Mike Gillis' luck ran out somewhat this past season. In 2011 he signed two more long-shots in Sebastian Erixon (who was unhappy in Chicago, was traded, and will return to Sweden for next season) and Darren Archibald, who spent nearly all of last season in the ECHL.
Generally speaking, spending a year in the ECHL is a bad sign. The league doesn't even have an NHLE number since, Alex Burrows aside, so few players ever actually make the transition. To get signed to a professional contract by an NHL club in the first place, Darren Archibald had to overcome long odds. Can he do it again and make the show? Click past the jump for more.
NHL scouts have long been impressed by Archibald’s skill with the puck, but his skating has always been a concern. Like 2012 draft pick Alex Mallet, Archibald is a different skater with the puck than without and both players have difficulty pulling away from defenders while they are carrying the puck. It’s a challenge Archibald will have to overcome if he’s going to make the NHL. To make it to the NHL level, scouts generally believe that a player can take no more than four strides to get up to top speed, while being pressured and at the moment Archibald falls short of that standard.
On the other hand, his work ethic and attitude has garnered praise. Like Alex Burrows, Archibald seemingly has a will to succeed that may carry him over the top and into the NHL.
From the Barrie Examiner’s Gene Pereira:
[Archibald's] big 6’3, 210-pound frame makes him hard to handle in corners and when driving to the net. When on his game, he uses his large frame to fend off checkers, but the knock is that he lacks that grit consistently. Coaches would love to see him play with more of an edge. He's a true power forward when he plays that rugged style.
[Archibald] has solid hands and was always able to find the back of the net in junior, recording 25 goals in his rookie season with Barrie and following it up with a 26-goal effort in just 57 games the following year. Dealt to the Niagara IceDogs two months into in his final season in 2010-11, he finished his overage year with a career high 41 goals and 25 assists in 61 games.
He boasts a quick release that makes him very effective in the slot area or coming off the boards. He's also a responsible player in his own end who can play on the penalty kill and can see some power play time.
He'll also drop the mitts here and there and could develop into a solid bottom six forward, and possible top six forward if he delivers that rugged style consistently.
Archibald attended NHL prospects camps with Detroit and Columbus before signing with the Canucks in December 2010. There clearly was something about his skating the Canucks felt they could correct...
After scoring the first goal of the season for the Wolves, Archibald slowly but surely slid down Craig MacTavish's lineup, until eventually he was in the press box. His demotion to Kalamazoo was reasonably successful as he was able to find the net with regularity, however, a late-season call up to Chicago again saw him fighting for minutes again. Despite his successful ECHL turn, Archibald struggled to be productive in his second stint with the Wolves...
Archibald plays a strong game and has an effective shot, so despite his lack of foot speed, he should get a long look in the top-9 forwards for the Wolves next season. Even if he can transform himself into an effective player at the AHL level - a significant if, at this point - Archibald is at least a couple of seasons away from dressing for the Canucks. Even then, it's fair to characterize that prospect as remote...
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