September 04 2014 11:19AM
It can understandably be easy to sometimes lose sight of it given how long he has been on the radar now and the type of stoic demeanor he exudes, but Frank(ie) Corrado is still just a 21-year old kid who only recently completed his first season as a pro.
Ever since the team took him 150th overall back in the 2011 draft - which is looking like a rather successful class at this point with the likes of Corrado, Jensen, Grenier, LaBate, and Tommernes all having been added to the system - his star has been rapidly rising as he has moved up the ranks.
After mastering the Major Junior circuit by the time his 4 years on the scene were up, Corrado expectedly hit the occasional divot in the road this past season as he made the transition to a full-time gig in the pros. His situation, which we'll get to shortly, assuredly didn't help smoothen out the process for him, either.
Still, we evidently collectively remain quite high on him seeing as we've ranked him as the top defense prospect in the team's system for the second straight summer.
Back when we profiled Corrado last summer, much of the discussion was about which path - a) sticking around in Vancouver with the Canucks and risking stunting his development by either playing him sparingly or throwing him to the wolves too soon, b) sending him back down to Utica so as to allow him the opportunity to eat large chunks of minutes on a regular basis - would serve him best.
As it turned out, the Canucks opted for the latter, though he did ultimately wind up dressing in 15 games for the Canucks as veteran defensemen ahead of him in the depth chart were dropping like flies throughout the year.
I had the luxury of chatting with ESPN's Corey Pronman a few weeks ago now about the challenges defensemen tend to generally face as they make the jump Corrado formally made last season (after having received small tastes of it in each of the previous two years):
"For forwards a lot of what they do in Junior or College or in Europe.. a lot of the basic skillsets that help them succeed in those leagues help them succeed in the NHL. You're talking about speed, you're talking about skill, and finishing ability. These things tend to transition easier to the NHL than for defensemen. You see defensemen who just aren't able to bulk up, aren't able to physically muscle off forwards at the top level. The pace quickens and they can't handle these really skilled forwards as well as they did in Junior. They were a 30-minute player in Junior and now they come to the NHL and they don't have the ability to get into the lineup, they're playing 18 minutes a game, and they struggle."
It's difficult to know just how much differently Corrado's season would've gone had he, say, not been hitched to what can only be described as an anchor for the majority of the campaign. His regular partner with the Comets was Yann Sauve, who was such a tire fire in '13-'14 that the team simply chose not to tender him this past June.
So while Corrado's -5.11% On-Ice Rel. Goals For % was the 3rd worst rate on the team, it's worth noting that his partner's was an ungodly -14.47%. I'd be awfully curious to see their WOWYs, but it seems abundantly clear that Corrado was being submarined by his partner's dreadful showing. From that same fantastic end of year write-up on the Comets by Josh Weissbock, we were afforded a player usage chart that shines a light on a few key nuggets:
The relative sizes of the circle indicate ice-time totals; whether it was based on merit or whether the Canucks had Travis Green's ear, it's clear that Corrado was relied upon heavily in all situations. The estimates had him as the 3rd most readily used player at both 5v5 and on the penalty kill. His circle appearing in the bottom right corner above indicates that he faced the toughest competition out of anyone on the blueline, and didn't have much help in the way of strong teammates. Given all of the underlying circumstances, it's difficult to quibble too much with his showing last year.
Sure enough, Corrado - who looked dreadful during his call-up in February during that forgettable trip out East prior to the Olympics, conveniently enough coinciding with Sauve's recall - fended much better for himself during his final cameo with the team in April. For whatever it's worth, in an undeniably small sample size he looked quite effective paired up with Ryan Stanton.
He now enters the upcoming season in a uniquely interesting position, with his entry-level contract set to expire this coming summer despite having played in just 22 total games for the Canucks up until this point. As you'll recall, that can be attributed to the year that was burned off of his deal during the 1st round sweep at the hands of the Sharks back in the spring of '13.
I imagine that the team would like to get a longer look at him this coming year before acting accordingly, though for the time being there are 7 defensemen signed to 1-way deals who figure to be ahead of him on the depth chart for the time being. That could change quickly should the injury bug strike once again. And with that list including the likes of Stanton, Weber and Sbisa, it's not like Corrado exactly has proven stalwarts blocking his eventual path.
But before any of that is considered, Corrado will be participating in Penticton just over a week from now for the 3rd consecutive year, in a tournament which he has dominated in the past. He'll imaginably be afforded an opportunity to make a good impression in what could wind up being be a big year for him personally.
Programming note: we'll have the Top 3 run early next week in the lead-up to the aforementioned Young Stars Classic, which is set to take place from September 12th to the 15th. At this point the three players we'll be profiling should be fairly obvious, but I imagine the particular order they're in may lead to some interesting discussion in the comments sections below (as they have up until this point which makes sense since they're essentially a subjective thing, though I'd caution against putting too much stock and outrage into the actual individual rankings themselves). For whatever it's worth 5 of our 6 voters had the same #1 prospect. Until then..