August 14 2013 10:21AM
Image via Matthew Henderson
When the Vancouver Canucks selected Alexandre Mallet 57th overall in the 2012 NHL entry draft, nearly everyone simultaneously raised their eyebrows in a show of surprise. After all, this was a player that had been passed over entirely by all 30 teams (including the Canucks) in the previous two drafts.
It wasn't necessarily an indictment against Mallet - who had just finished off a rather impressive season for the Rimouski Oceanic - but moreso a shared feeling that Mike Gillis and company had needlessly reached for a player that would've surely been available later on in the draft.
At the time, I somewhat half-heartedly defended the decision; if they truly valued him as a prospect, and believed that he was legit, then I had no real issue with them ensuring that he became a member of the organization. Even if it meant reaching. Unfortunately, his play this past season did little to support the idea that he's actually "legit".
Read on past the jump for more on Mallet, his disappointing campaign, and what's next.
Here's Hockey Future's scouting report on Mallet:
Passed over two years in a row for the draft, Mallet never gave up and was rewarded with a second round selection by the Canucks. The same perseverance makes an appearance on the ice, where his no-quit attitude and hard-nosed play has drawn rave reviews from everyone but his on-ice competition. Furthermore, he made the most of a larger role last season and showcased some offensive abilities previously unseen. A hardhat and lunch pail type of player who leaves it all on the ice, his compete level and dedication alone could take him far.
Followed by a breakdown of Mallet's production in the QMJHL, year-by-year (including playoffs):
17-year old season: 11 games, 1 goal, 2 points.
18-year old season: 77 games, 11 goals, 21 points.
19-year old season: 65 games, 10 goals, 21 points.
20-year old season: 89 games, 44 goals, 106 points.
It all makes for a neat story, no doubt, but we can't just look at what Mallet accomplished in his final year in the QMJHL in a vacuum. Context is crucial, as always. Say it with me: one of these things is not like the others. An optimist may say that he figured things out, but the skeptic in me believes that we can attribute the massive spike in production to the fact that he was an overage, 20-year old man that had his way with a bunch of 17 and 18-year olds kids.
When he fell flat on his face during his 18-game stint for the Chicago Wolves to start the season the skeptic in me felt vindicated. That's not to say that we should just forget about him as a prospect, but if he really had "figured things out", then why did he revert back to being a largely unproductive, 4th-line agitator as soon as he lost the physical advantage he had enjoyed the previous year? I don't think it's a coincidence, unfortunately.
There was some thought that some of the reasoning behind taking him was that he'd be ready to step into an NHL lineup sooner than most of the guys being taken in that vicinity, which would provide the team with a useful asset during the Sedin era. In last year's profile of him (in which he slotted in as our 9th ranked prospect), Jeff Angus pointed out that the team surely coveted his "readiness" and "maturity". Ironically enough, now I see people labelling him as a "project" that will take time to season before we can even really consider the potential of him playing in the NHL.
That change in thinking was probably brought on by just how resounding a flop his AHL stint was - 1 point, and just 1 fight in 18 games. He ultimately had to be sent down to the ECHL to try and salvage his first season as a pro. To his credit, he did manage to score 10 goals and register 29 points in 48 games for the Kalamazoo Wings. Just keep in mind that while those numbers look impressive on the surface, it's the ECHL; a topic we covered in splashing some cold water on Yann Sauve's impressive run there last season.
Nonetheless, here's his highlight pack from last season:
There's no denying that he possesses a tantalizing combination of tools. He's big, he seems willing to do the dirty work, and he has a scoring touch. Not a 40+ goal scoring touch like he displayed in Rimouski, but one nonetheless. Were he to ever be called up to the Canucks, I have no doubts in my mind that he'd instantly become a fan favourite. Just check out his hockeyfights [dot] com page; he totally manhandles dudes on the regular. It's not overly difficult to close your eyes and envision him getting up to stuff all over the ice, causing havoc for the opposition. It's why, despite a disappointing 2012-13 campaign, he was still ranked as our 13th best prospect in the system.
From what I saw of him during the lockout - while he was still up with the Wolves - he seemed to be pressing, and trying to do too much. He certainly isn't the first, and won't be the last player to do so in making the jump to professional hockey. There are adjustments to be made, and some players take longer to make them. I'm sure he was feeling a ton of pressure to justify the team reaching for him in the 2nd round, and if he were to have a bounceback season next year as something of a "post-hype sleeper", I wouldn't be surprised. But just temper your expectations on him for the time being, is all.
One general point of caution: fans seem to enjoy finding comparables for prospects - which every single scout I've ever talked to, or read, has shown a prominent reluctance to do - because they're, well, easy to do, and people tend to be lazy. Obviously as soon as a French-Canadian player named Alex - who happens to play a rugged game while boasting at least some semblance of skill - appeared out of nowhere on his way to becaming a Canuck, it was inevitable that comparisons to Alex Burrows would be made.
If he becomes 1/10th the player Alex Burrows has been, and continues to be, he and the Canucks should consider themselves lucky. While you're looking for the "next Alex Burrows", you may as well try to find the "next Milan Lucic", too.