August 15 2013 10:16AM
Image via Matthew Henderson
To say that Alexandre Grenier has followed an unconventional developmental path since he was drafted by the Canucks in 2011 would be a bit of an understatement.
The lanky winger has played in four different leagues over the past two seasons – the QMJHL, Austria’s top pro league, the AHL, and the ECHL. Where will be suit up this coming season? And, more importantly, where does he stand as a prospect within this organization?
Read on for more.
Grenier was picked 90th overall back in '11. At the time of his selection, he was tabbed as a “project pick.” The term “project pick” is generally given to prospects with some interesting and unique qualities mixed in with a very raw and unpolished overall game. And it is also commonly applied to bigger players, as it is commonly thought that they generally take longer to develop (Grenier is 6-5 and over 200 pounds).
Grenier was coming off of a very strong QMJHL postseason when the Canucks drafted him, registering eight goals and 16 points in 16 games. He remained at the point-a-game mark the next season, finishing with 64 points in 64 games with the Halifax Mooseheads.
Playing in Halifax was great for his development, as the Mooseheads used him in a variety of situations (including playing the point on the power play). Grenier was an older draft pick, so he had to turn pro after the 2011-12 season. Not many first-year pro prospects leave North America to go and play pro hockey in Austria, but Grenier did exactly that.
Grenier’s time in Austria (with Salzburg) was marred by a concussion suffered as a result of a vicious head shot. He scored five goals and added eight assists in 25 games for a team that featured the likes of Rob Schremp, former WHL sniper Justin Keller, and the immortal Mike Duco.
To get more of a read on Grenier, I talked with Canucks.com prospect writer Tyson Guiriato.
Do you think the time in Austria served Grenier well?
Alex put up decent points in Austria, however due to a minor injury not long into the season and with the NHL labor dispute meaning more players looking for jobs overseas, Alex got caught in a bit of a numbers game and saw his ice-time reduced. One thing I noticed was his skating had improved from the time he went over to the time he got back, which most likely has to do with playing on the bigger ice surface.
Grenier returned to North America in early January after recovering from his concussion. He played only four games in Chicago (one of many victims of a deep Chicago team thanks to the NHL lockout) before heading down to Kalamazoo, where he spent the remainder of the 2013 season. He finished with 31 points in 37 games at that level, and was selected as the team's top rookie at the end of the season.
Grenier was obviously quite productive with Kalamazoo last year. Rarely we see ECHL players make their way up to the NHL. What traits does he have that may allow him to do it?
With the massive roster the Chicago Wolves had last season, we saw a lot of good prospects playing in the ECHL. This doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t top prospects; it was more of a case of a numbers game in the AHL where it was better for them to go down and get some playing time rather than play sparingly with a Wolves team that had seven or eight of their own forwards in the lineup each night. Alex has the size, the shot and the scoring touch to get to the NHL. He needs to work on his speed a bit, but it’s improving.
It is expected that Grenier will play a top-six role with the Comets this year in Utica. He has continued to show flashes of impressiveness since his draft day two years ago, but he still has a long ways to go in order to reach the NHL level in any capacity.
What type of role should he expect to play with Utica this season?
I think Alex will play a variety of roles for Utica this season. He is a versatile player that you can plug in on any of the four lines, whether it is in a checking role or a scoring role. I think the confidence he gained by playing in the ECHL will continue this season in Utica. One thing to look for is a more physical side to him as he is doing Olympic weight training this summer to add some muscle.
Does he still have NHL upside at this point? Is he still very much a project prospect?
Alex definitely has NHL upside at this point in his career. Anyone that has that kind of size, shooting and scoring ability will get a good look. His first year pro was a bit of a roller-coaster going from Austria to Chicago to Kalamazoo and back to Chicago. Give him a year to settle into his ways and the pro game, and I think we will see big things from Alex.
Grenier has two years left on his rookie contract – so 2013-14 technically isn’t a make or break year for him just yet. However, time is running out for the lanky winger to show that he has a future beyond the ECHL or AHL in this organization.