Who Got The Best Undrafted Giant?

Vancouver, Edmonton and Minnesota all have something in common – aside from the fact that they’re all in the Northwest Division. Each of those clubs has invited an unsigned, undrafted Vancouver Giant to training camp on a tryout deal.

The three players invited are as follows:

  • Edmonton – Wesley Vannieuwenhuizen: 64GP – 0G – 8A – 8PTS, 157 PIM, +11
  • Minnesota – Nathan Burns: 59GP – 14G – 9A – 23PTS, 52PIM, +3
  • Vancouver – Brendan Jensen: 30GP, 8-13-1, 0.875 SV%

The Oilers invite goes out to defenseman Wes Vannieuwenhuizen. On the ice, he is a tough-as-nails defensive defenseman; his 157 penalty minutes led the team by a wide margin, and he was the only significant physical force on the blue line. He’s a teammate of David Musil, so the Oilers should be very familiar with him, and he’s regarded as a leader. Head coach Don Hay describes him as a “real warrior” and his plus-11 rating led the Giants’ blue-line.

Vancouver, a team that habitually invites at least one player from the Giants’ roster for a tryout, brings aboard goaltender Brendan Jensen this season. Jensen’s numbers are, at best, forgettable – that 0.875 SV% in particular sticks out like a sore thumb. Head coach Don Hay is pragmatic when he describes Jensen’s chances of starting for the Giants next season:

“I mean, you’d always like to have a proven No. 1 but that’s just not the way the situation is right now. So it’s up to Brendan to show us that he’s ready to handle the position and the situation. He’s got training camp and the exhibition season to do that and then we have to make a decision whether we feel he’s capable of being the No. 1. If he is, great. If he’s not, then we’ll have to look around.”

The Wild’s choice, Burns, is the youngest of the trio – he was born in July of 1993. His offensive numbers aren’t especially impressive, especially given that he got some time on the Giants’ top line, and didn’t come close to his personal goal of 50 points.

He’s had some injury trouble, but faded as the season wore on: in the final month of 2010-11 Burns scored a single goal and went minus-7 in 10 games.

All of these players represent real long-shots to have any kind of NHL impact, but of the group I like Vannieuwenhuizen the best. He had the most impact last season in the WHL, and NHL clubs are always on the lookout for big tough guys that can play a bit and are regarded as good teammates. Given his age, he’s also the guy closest to regular duty in the AHL or ECHL.

After Vannieuwenhuizen, both Burns and Jensen have some nice points. Jensen is the guy most likely to get an opportunity this coming season; goaltenders develop even more erratically than forwards and Jensen’s both very young and likely to get playing time this coming year. Burns might be of interest if his defensive game is very good, but his lack of offense last season is troubling even if he is a phenomenal checker for his age.

The bottom line, though, is that none of these guys is costing the NHL team bringing them to camp very much, and it never hurts to get a closer look at an interesting prospect.