Selected by the Canucks in the second round of the 2009 NHL Draft, before the team became obsessed with drafting, and acquiring size, Anton Rodin is one of the most skilled Canucks prospects in the pipeline.
During the 2009-10 season, Anton Rodin absolutely lit up the World Jr. Tournament with ten points in six games. In 2010-11, he was dynamic in a full SEL season with Brynäs that earned him rave reviews from Swedish hockey journalists. In 2011-12, the Swedish winger who shares a name with "The Thinker" sculptor crossed the pond, and spent his first full season in North American pro-hockey with the offensively challenged Chicago Wolves.
Rodin’s performance in Chicago last season was underwhelming, though he did occasionally flash some of his offensive potential. Size remains a concern for the slight-of-frame Stockholm native, and it didn’t help that he’s battled through a troubling shoulder injury for much of the past three seasons. Partly as a result, Rodin struggled to adjust to the smaller North American ice surface, which is to be expected.
While Rodin appears at #12 on our consensus list, I had him ranked just outside of my personal top-5. Once you get past Jensen, Kassian and Schroeder – I’m not sure there’s a more skilled prospect in the Canucks system. For what it’s worth, Mike Gillis publicly agrees, he singled out Anton Rodin during his season ending press conference as among "the most dynamic, highly skilled players" in the Canucks prospect pool. Gillis then added that, "[Rodin] probably needs another year of development to get stronger."
Looking over my notes from the Chicago Wolves game I covered live in March, I was impressed by Rodin’s speed through the neutral zone, and was surprised by how "crafty" he was battling along the boards for a guy his size. In terms of his speed, hands and intelligence, Rodin has the skill set to overcome his relative lack of heft. Still, Rodin is listed at 175 pounds and his diminutive stature is the main reason why I’d be amazed if he saw a second of NHL time before the 2013-14 campaign (at the earliest).
Canucks Army spoke briefly with Wolves play-by-play caller Jason Shaver about Rodin’s performance last season. Shaver dropped a high-end comparison, and added his insight into Rodin’s skill set, and his improvement throughout the course of last season:
"[Anton Rodin] reminds me of Loui Eriksson when he first came over from Sweden to the AHL with the Iowa Stars. At that time, he was lanky like Rodin and still growing in his body while also working on becoming a consistent scorer.
Bill Gardner, the Wolves color commentator, was really impressed with how well he progressed over the course of last season. He’s got a lot of natural skill which you can’t teach, if he was able to add muscle this off-season in the weight room it would only help his game.
My feeling is a little more body mass would make him more effective in corners and help him avoid injuries."
It’s not just Rodin’s size – or lack thereof – that’s a cause for concern. The fact, high-end skills aside, Rodin really struggled to produce in Chicago last season. In Rodin’s rookie campaign in the AHL, he scored 10 goals and added 17 assists in 62 games, averaging 1.62 shots per game primarily playing a third line role. Those numbers are worrying, and Rodin’s production translates to only 16 NHLE points (the second lowest total among all Canucks forwards prospects).
In addition to his lack of production, it’s clear from Rodin’s deployment that his minutes were protected to help him succeed offensively (to no avail). Wolves head coach Craig MacTavish didn’t obsessively match-lines as Chicago’s bench boss, but looking at the AHL QualComp numbers for regular Wolves forwards (courtesy Rob Pettapiece), it’s clear that even old-school Mac-T made a concerted effort to tailor Rodin’s minutes and keep him away from the opposition’s best players:
|Last Name||First Name||GF/GA ON||Qual Comp||Qual Team|
Despite playing Charmin soft minutes, and carrying the 5th highest QualTeam among regular Wolves forwards, Rodin struggled to produce. That lack of production is worrying, even though I wouldn’t read too much into it – yet. It was Rodin’s rookie season and besides, the Wolves weren’t a team designed to take advantage of Rodin’s skill-set: they were brutal on the power-play, and were loathe to push the tempo in games (mostly preferring to sit back and trap).
Rodin is finally healthy this summer, and he’s got a new bench boss in Scott Arniel. Arniel has experience developing diminutive scoring forwards (see Grabner, Michael), and is likely to install a system that more closely resembles the attacking style of hockey the Canucks prefer. Assuming that Arniel reorients the Wolves approach, plays an attacking style, and irons out the power-play (teams coached by Mac-T are notoriously bad with the man-advantage), it’s not a stretch to imagine that Rodin could have a breakout sophomore campaign in Chicago. There’s no questioning that he’s got the talent to put it all together.