An Investment Worth the Price

Jeremy Price (right) battles for the puck in an ECAC Conference game against Union College.

Over the last few months, I have been profiling some lesser known Canuck prospects, like Frankie Corrando, Sebastian Erixon, Joseph LaBate, and Patrick McNally. I’ll continue with that theme today, as I want to bring some attention to defensive standout Jeremy Price. Price, like McNally, is a skilled defenseman playing in the NCAA’s ECAC Conference (McNally for Harvard, and Price for the Colgate Raiders). Price was picked in the fourth round (113th overall) by the Canucks back in 2009, and since then has progressed into one of the better defensemen in college hockey. We don’t hear a lot about him, but as we have seen with Kevin Bieksa, unknown college defenseman can have a big impact at the NHL level (like Price and McNally, Bieksa was on no one’s radar in Vancouver while he played in the NCAA).

Price was born and raised in Ontario, but he opted against the OHL route to follow in his older brother’s footsteps (Matt Price is the captain of Boston College, Cory Schneider’s alma mater). Before leaving for Colgate, Price played his final junior season in the CJHL for the Nepean Raiders, finishing with an impressive 12 goals and 41 points in 55 games (for comparisons sake, Bieksa had six goals and 33 points in 49 games at the same age and level before going to Bowling Green). Price was coached by former Sabre and current CBC personality Gary Galley in Nepean, as well.

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He doesn’t regret the decision to take the college route, either.

““I’ve enjoyed the aspect of being able to manage the academics with hockey, it kind of keeps you grounded and focused.”

Price did have to make some alterations to his game after leaving the CCHL to adjust to the pace of US College Hockey. “I’ve had to embrace a more physical role (because of the intensity). That’s how you have to play to be more effective, whereas in Nepean it was almost like my role was to skate the puck, be a more offensive guy. The one thing I’ve learned here is you have to go every single shift.”

Judging by Price’s development at both ends of the ice over the past two and a half years, it would be hard to argue with his take on the college versus major junior route (at least in his case).

At the end of December 2011, Colgate cracked the NCAA’s top-10 national rankings among all Division 1 teams (on December 30th, the club had a 12-4-2 record). Price already has 12 points in 17 games, and is on pace to smash his career high mark of 19 points set last season.

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Like McNally, Price is a long-term investment for the Canucks. Drafting players who choose to take the college route rarely means a fast track to the NHL (although star prospects like Zach Parise and Jonathan Toews have foregone their college careers early, and we have all seen what Chris Tanev has done professionally after leaving college with just one year under his belt). The Canucks are not in a position where they need to rush prospects, which bodes well for the long term success of the club and the prospects they are developing. Bieksa benefitted from the full four years at Bowling Green immensely, as he was able to step in seamlessly to the professional game.

Price scores a beautiful point shot goal about halfway into this game clip.

Even if Price decides to forego his final year of eligibility and join the Wolves after this season, the earliest we could expect to see him in Vancouver would likely be three years down the road. Looking at the current core, it would be safe to assume Bieksa, Edler, and Hamhuis and Shea Weber will be on the team for the foreseeable future. Barring any trades, Chris Tanev should be there as well. Kevin Connauton has come a long, long way defensively and has established himself as a prospect with legitimate NHL upside. Speculating how a roster will shape up in three or four years is really difficult with the amount of turnover we see in the cap era. Four years ago, Vancouver’s starting six defensemen were Mitchell (gone), Ohlund (gone), Salo, Edler, Bieksa, and O’Brien (long, long gone).

With that being said, Price is playing about as well as the Canucks could have expected at this point. He’s excelling in a tough conference against tough opposition. His game is improving in all areas each year, and he’s been adding size and strength to his 6-foot-1 frame as well (playing in college helps for this, as there is a lot more time to spend on off-ice strength training and conditioning).

Like the other prospects who I have mentioned in the previous months, Price hasn’t received a lot of attention from Canucks fans. After a great start to his third season with the Colgate Raiders, it is time to start paying attention to another potential late round gem uncovered by the Mike Gillis regime.