August 19 2011 01:26PM
Alex Friesen is the one in the middle. Yeah... the short one.
(Photo from canucks.com)
The Vancouver Canucks have really enjoyed drafting smallish centers recently. Cody Hodgson, Jordan Schroeder and Alex Friesen are all in the Canucks system, all possess great skill, and all are under six feet tall and 200 pounds. The problem for all three of them, is that the Canucks have an incredible stable of centers ahead of them. Forgive the pun, but Alex Friesen has drawn the short straw in the Canucks depth chart, coming up seventh.
Does Alex Friesen have the tools to move his way up the Canucks ladder at center? Or is he going come up short? (**Ed.note - I could make short jokes all day long)
Alex Friesen showed the kind of steady improvement through junior that you want to see out of your young prospects. He improved every major stat in his statline through each of his four years with his hometown Niagara IceDogs of the OHL. His goals, assists, points, and plus/minus all improved year over year in Niagara.
Statistics provided by hockeyDB.com
The 20 year old will find himself looking to the professional ranks now that he has graduated from junior. However, at 5'9" and 189 lbs., Friesen lacks the physical tools to make him an imposing presence on the ice at the pro level. He does however possess the mental strength and acumen needed. Friesen was chosen as the OHL's Top Academic Player at the end of the 2007-08 season, and won the IceDogs' Humanitarian Award the same year. In 2010, he won the team's "Heart of the Team" award, was drafted in the 6th round (172nd overall) by the Canucks in the June Entry Draft, and participated in his first Canucks development camp, where he scored in the top three in the Canucks psychological and intelligence testing.
Last month, Friesen was part of his second development camp and provided this interview with Joey Kenward.
While Friesen may not tower over opponents, he does like to play physically and will get to the 'dirty' areas. During the 2009-10 season, Friesen famously flattened budding superstar Taylor Hall during an OHL game between Friesen's IceDogs and Hall's Windsor Spitfires.
That type of grit and energy will serve him well as his begins to forge his professional career, likely in the AHL next season. It may just end up being his calling in the NHL as well, assuming he makes it that far. Hockey's Futures grades him as a 6D, meaning that his potential is that of a third-line player, but he's unlikely to stick in the NHL and will probably be a middling minor leaguer.
With the depth at center that the Canucks currently have and Friesen's small stature, it's hard to argue with that assessment. If Friesen shows a continual improvement and increase to his grit and determination, while showcasing his high hockey IQ, he could well crack an NHL roster. For the next couple of years, though, it certainly won't be with the Vancouver Canucks.