June 28 2014 12:12PM
The Vancouver Canucks forewent anything resembling skill of talent in the late rounds of the entry draft, opting instead for size and grit by selecting Kyle Pettit of the Erie Otters and Mackenzie Stewart of the Prince Albert Raiders. Read past the jump for a look at these players and some thoughts on Vancouver's 2014 entry draft.
Pettit is a 6'4 4th line centre for the powerhouse Erie Otters. He had 24 penalty minutes in 53 games, so you can infer that he either plays a very disciplined game, or isn't that physical for a kid his size. Here's what McKeens hockey has to say about him:
A model of consistency last year, Petitt only missed one game however missed 15 this season to a shoulder injury .. a consummate two-way player, his value isn’t measured by points but by his attention to detail away from the puck and relentless work ethic .. a team player who buys in and does whatever is necessary to win games .. willingly blocked shots this season even when his team was up by five goals in some contests .. extremely effective at taking face-offs and would routinely take defensive zone draws, win them and skate hard to the bench for a change .. a decent skater for his size — his mechanics are not polished but show the potential to improve .. despite his size (6’4” and 190 pounds) he is not aggressive .. plays an honest game and while he doesn’t look for hits, he will use his size to lean on players down low .. lacks offensive zone awareness as he is always chasing the puck and possesses very little poise with it in his possession
With just 16 points in 120 career OHL games, Pettit is extremely, extremely unlikely to ever wear a Canucks jersey in any form other than rookie camp, and probably destined for a depth role in Kalamazoo. Truthfully, I'm not sure why you'd even gamble on a 4th liner with no offensive upside at the OHL level. You can find actual NHLers to fill the role that Pettit may potentially one day project to possibly fill for free on the open market.
Mackenzie Stewart is a fantastic story. Born deaf, he didn't start playing hockey until he was 12, after a series of surgeries allowed him to hear. It's easy to cheer for guys like Stewart and it would be phenomenal to see him overcome tremendous odds to become an NHLer.
With all this being said, this is where the cold, harsh reality of professional hockey comes into play. Stewart was a bit defender on a very mediocre Prince Albert Raiders team, presumably drafted only because the WHL lists him at 6'5, and he had 10 fighting majors this past season. Like Pettit, he also doesn't project to make any sort of NHL impact, and maybe he becomes the next Nathan McIver, but that's unlikely.
Adding to this is that Stewart's draft year was actually last year, and this was his 18-year old season. We've looked into this stuff before, and found that D men who don't score at least 0.5 pts/GP in their draft+1 season are pretty much guaranteed to miss the NHL. So while a 7th round pick is unlikely to ever play an NHL game under optimal conditions, drafting a Mackenzie Stewart-type is hardly optimal.
The 4th-7th rounds are essentially a crapshoot, so I don't really fault teams for taking home run swings at guys with tools, given that there's no one else available. The problem is, there are almost always guys available. This year, the Canucks repeatedly passed on Spencer Watson, a guy who led the Ivan Hlinka U18 tournament in scoring, had more even strength points than Sam Reinhart and was one point back of Sam Bennett, Nikolaj Ehlers, and Leon Draisaitl, was 3rd in ES goals behind only Robby Fabbri and Jake Virtanen, and was 9th in the CHL and 1st on Kingston in ES Rel GF% at +14.7%.
There's a not-insignificant chance that Watson would have been the most talented player the Canucks drafted other than Jake Virtanen, and that Watson quickly develops into a Brendan Gallagher-type top-6 forward... for the LA Kings, who took him 209th overall. Yes he's small at 5'9, but as our friend Garret Hohl pointed out:
Funny thing about size, look at NHL average vs drafted kids avg... NHL average is actually lower.— Garret Hohl (@garrethohl) June 28, 2014
NHL teams repeatedly roll the dice on bigger coke machines, when it's the smaller guys who can really play the game of hockey that consistently work out more often.
Other Canucks Army favourites that Vancouver passed on include Brayden Point (79th overall, Tampa Bay, 91 pts in 72 GP), Chase De Leo (99th overall, Winnipeg, 81 pts in 72 GP), Jaedon Descheneau (124th overall, St. Louis, 98 pts in 70 GP), Daniel Audette (147th overall, Montreal, 76 pts in 68 GP), and Vladimir Tkachev (Undrafted, 30 pts in 20 GP).