April 02 2012 11:26AM
Canucks prospect Frank Corrado, saw his Ontario Hockey League season end when the Brampton Battalion completed the four game sweep of Corrado's Sudbury Wolves in double over-time on Wednesday. Yesterday, Mike Duco broke the news on Twitter that Corrado was joining the Chicago Wolves (the Canucks' AHL affiliate) as we expected he might when the Wolves set their clear day roster. Will Nicklas Jensen be joining him soon? Click past the jump for more!
We kept close tabs on Corrado this season, and for a fifth round draft pick - he's looking like a steal. He impressed at the prospect tourney in Penticton, and had one especially marvelous game against the Oilers in the preseason. Out of camp he earned himself an entry-level contract before being sent back to the OHL.
The Sudbury Wolves were a middling OHL team this season, but Corrado stood out. He was tasked to play a more defensive role, and based on who he was regularly matched up against when I was watched his games, it looks like he was Sudbury's primary "tough minutes option." He regressed somewhat offensively in a role with greater defensive responsibility, but he took his two-way game to the next level. Major Junior Hockey stats are still in the stone age, so take this with the heaping of salt it deserves - but on a team with a +2 goal differential, he posted a +26.
Beyond playing in all situations, and being matched up against the opposition's top forwards, Corrado demonstrated a commendable level of fearlessness this season. I don't mean to put too much emphasis on intangibles, but if you're 6,2 and weigh less than 200 pounds - and you're still willing to fight 6,7 man-child Jared Tinordi - I'm going to be impressed. In the games I've watched this season, Corrado combined an agitators mentality (dude talks constantly when he's on the ice) with some impressive defensive, and puck-moving instincts, like a hybrid of Bieksa and Tanev.
Corrado fits the mold of what Gillis' management team seems to value when they're looking for defenseman: he's fast, he moves the puck well, and he's got the defensive instincts to compensate for his lack of size. He'll need to get bigger to play regularly at the pro-level, and defenseman take time to develop, but he's definitely on the right track. From what I've seen, I think he's got an outside shot at developing into a useful, play-driving possession defenseman who might even play in the top-4 eventually. That the Canucks found a prospect in the fifth round with that type of ceiling reflects very well on the organization.
On the Wolves, expect Corrado to get at least a look on the third pairing, and probably a pretty extensive one. The team has been employing amateur try out player Brad Hunt as their sixth defenseman of late, and it's certainly possible that Corrado could supplant Hunt for the postseason if he performs up to snuff. The Wolves could go into the postseason boasting a top-six of: Connauton, Baumgartner, Sauve, Polasek, Corrado and Matheson - and that's a blue-line group with a lot of speed.
As for Nicklas Jensen, his Oshawa Generals put up a good fight against the juggernaut Niagara Ice Dogs in the first round, but it was on the whole a disappointing season for the team. After last season's surprise playoff run, they looked to be an ascendant team with oodles of offensive talent. Ultimately it wasn't enough as the the club finished in eighth, and had to play a loaded Niagara team (featuring Canucks prospect Alex Friesen, who had 12 points in 6 games) in the first round.
Jensen's offensive totals improved somewhat over last season (his NHLE jumped only a point), and he's definitely looked to play a more responsible two way game. That said, he's got the size, hockey sense and overall athleticism to be dominant at the OHL level, and too often he just wasn't.
I'll be curious to see if Jensen gets a cup of coffee over the next week with the Wolves, or, if the team maybe decides to "send him a message" by not extending that invitation. I have to think the latter scenario would be pretty unlikely, if nothing else Jensen has the size and the two-way ability to contribute immediately in a bottom-6 role at the AHL level, and he may also be able to add some punch to the usually toothless Wolves power-play.