August 26 2015 09:57AM
Banner courtesy: Matthew Henderson
When one talks about miles traveled in reference to hockey players, they primarily mean the physical toll that player has suffered over the course of their career. When one talks about miles traveled in reference to Vancouver Canucks prospect Alexandre Grenier, it is said literally and with the utmost sincerity.
For the first time since being drafted by the Vancouver Canucks with the 90th overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Grenier was able to ply his craft in the same location over the span of a full calendar year. Building on an uninspiring rookie performance with the Utica Comets in 13-14, Grenier posted a highly productive 14-15 campaign which now has him in the discussion among the Canucks' top prospects.
Representative of Mike Gillis' strange appreciation for overage players named "Alex" in the middle rounds of the NHL draft, Grenier checks in at eighth in our organizational prospect ranking.
Having recently been re-signed to a one-year, two-way contract extension it's clear that Grenier is chomping at the bit for NHL action. Grenier has always possessed the size for such a gig, but has only recently put together a level of production that would deem his play worthy in a role beyond that of fourth-line plug.
The consensus opinion of Grenier heading into last season was that his hands and offensive instincts were broaching on NHL level, but he struggled with taking advantage of his size (where have I heard this before) and play within the confines of his own zone. It would seem that his two-way game and the hardness with which he plays improved this season, at least to hear Utica Comets head coach Travis Green tell it.
"He went from being a player I’d never use in the last five minutes of a game, to a guy that had two empty-net goals for us (on this playoff run),” Green told Thomas Drance back in June. “I think that tells you a lot about how his game has developed.”
Grenier has a keen nose for the net and is very active in the offensive zone, often shifting in and out of passing lanes as a constant outlet for his linemates. For a player of his stature, 6-foot-5 and 200+ pounds, one might expect more of Grenier physically - although, he took a major step towards shedding the 'gentle giant' label this last season.
Using this imposing size and continuing to refine upon an already impressive offensive toolkit, Grenier put together a hugely impressive 14-15 campaign. Playing primarily in the Comets' top-six forward group, Grenier posted a 17G 26A 43P in 67GP last season - good for .64 PPG that season. These totals acquit themselves nicely when factored into his PCS score - a tool which uses statistical and stature based historical comparisons to draw a percentile chance of making the NHL (while simultaneously projecting his likely output in the event that Grenier makes it):
There's certainly an encouraging trend here, especially looking at the two years which follow his all-too-brief stay with EC Salzburg - a campaign which was cut short by an awful concussion.
In speaking with the Army's dedicated Comets observer, Josh Weissbock, there's certainly a sense that Grenier is on the cusp of breaking through. Weissbock hasn't any doubt in his mind that Grenier is deserving of an NHL opportunity. He went on to add that Grenier will likely slide into the first line with the Comets should he slip from the Canucks roster.
On the bright side, Grenier won't require waivers to travel between the two clubs. Then again, we're encroaching on the point where that won't be worth worrying about at all. That's more than you could ever realistically expect from an overage third-round selection, so that's something worth be excited about.