December 04 2013 10:54AM
When the Canucks first selected Oshawa Generals forward Cole Cassels with their third pick at the 2013 NHL entry draft, the selection was a surprise to those of us who've closely observed the teams behaviour under Mike Gillis' regime at the NHL draft.
Cassels was a very young draft eligible player who had turned 18 less than two months before the draft. So he bucked the team's recent trend of drafting older, theoretically "more NHL-ready" players in the middle rounds. Cassels also isn't particularly big, where the club has made a habit of selecting mammoth wingers in the middle rounds (Alexandre Grenier, Alexandre Mallet, Joseph LaBate etc.). Moreover, Cassels - who is the son of former Canucks centre Andrew Cassels - was a third-line forward for Oshawa in his draft eligible season, and his production was pretty unremarkable in comparison with several players still on the board.
But obviously Vancouver's amateur scouts had seen something they liked in Cassels' game, and he's rewarded that confidence with his performance so far this season for the Generals. Between his stellar showing at the prospects tournament and his smooth adaption to a top-line role in Major Junior this fall, Cassels has earned himself his first NHL contract.
Read on past the jump.
Until this season Cassels had played a depth role for the Generals throughout his major junior career. With the graduation of Phoenix Coyotes prospect Lucas Lessio and Columbus Blue Jackets forward Boone Jenner, however, Cassels has been thrust into a major role for Oshawa this year and has spent the majority of this season as Scott Laughton's wingman.
As a result of playing with better line-mates - and Laughton is probably the most complete forward in the Ontario Hockey League this year - and seeing his ice-time spike, Cassels' production has exploded. In just 24 OHL games so far this year, Cassels has recorded 12 goals. That's a total that's within spitting distance of the number of goals he'd scored in his entire OHL career going into this season (18 in 128 games).
If Cassels can sustain that sort of production over the balance of this season, and step up into a prime role for the Generals next year when Laughton graduates, he could represent one hell of a dig for Vancouver's scouting staff...
I won't go too much deeper into Cassels' style of play or profile, suffice it to say that he's a solid two-way player who plays bigger than he's listed and has the talent to make skilled plays with the puck. He's not a particularly willing shooter, however, and his teammates and the Generals coaching staff have done what they can to encourage him to shoot the puck more often (so he'll fit in well if he ever cracks Vancouver's NHL roster).
Cassels is used in all situations (even-strength, penalty-kill and the power-play) in Oshawa and while he isn't a permanent centreman this season, him and Laughton do switch off taking draws on their strong side.
You can read more about Cassels here: