The Canucks surprised many at the 2012 NHL Draft with their second round selection (including the guy they selected). Typically players who have been passed over in previous drafts do not go in the first couple of rounds, but that is exactly what happened to rugged center Alexandre Mallet.
The Canucks didn’t want to miss out on Mallet, a mature player who they coveted, partly because of his potential "readiness" as well as his Liam Neeson-esque "particular set of skills." This past season, Mallet dominated the QMJHL from a physical and offensive standpoint and was widely regarded as one of the most intimidating players in the league. For good reason.
Mallet turned 20 back in May – so he is a full two years older than many of his fellow 2012 draftees. His selection continues the trend of Gillis selecting older players and late bloomers, and in Mallet, the Canucks picked a guy who prides himself on being able to contribute in a variety of ways.
Mallett finished 2011-12 with 34 goals, 81 points, and 132 PIM in 68 games for the Rimouski Oceanic. He then added 11 goals and 26 points in 21 postseason games. He was the only player in Rumouski to eclipse the 30-goal mark, and the only player to record over 100 PIM, as well.
Canucks assistant GM Laurence Gilman explains why they took Mallet so early:
"The way we run the draft, we’ve taken the most skilled player, the highest guy on our list, in the first two rounds. In the case of [Alexandre Mallet] we had him ranked high, and one of the reasons we liked him is that he’s a big physical center who is going through a rapid development path at this point."
Gilman is exactly right – Mallet’s development has taken off in the past year. In 2010-11, he scored a modest 10 goals and 19 points in 60 games for the Oceanic – less than one qquarter of his 2011-12 production. Of course he was a fourth liner up until this most recent season when Mallet took the opportunity given to him (increased ice time and offensive responsibilities), and ran with it.
Although he has been compared to Burrows (like every Quebec born late-bloomer in Vancouver’s prospect pool), Mallet doesn’t have much in common with the former pest, turned clutch goal scorer. He is much bigger, stronger, and more physically intimidating.
Here’s Red Line Report’s scouting report on Mallet:
“Late-blooming 1992-born forward is a powerful skater who hits like a truck and is one of the most feared fighters in the Q. Plays a north-south game and likes to take the puck straight to the net, where he cashes a lot of garbage goals on rebounds and tips. Relentless forechecker brings it every night in terms of compete level and physicality, and really asserts himself in the corners.”
As Fred Poulin from the Hockey Writers explains, Mallet is more than just a fighter.
“Mallet is not simply a fighter that picks up garbage goals around the net, he can also score beauties thanks to a booming slap shot and soft hands, and his goals often come in bunches; he scored an impressive five goals against Chicoutimi on March 16, 2012, a feat that NHL All-Stars and former Rimouski Oceanic players such as Sidney Crosby, Brad Richards and Vincent Lecavalier never even accomplished during their stellar junior careers. Mallet will certainly receive several offers from professional teams and it would not be surprising to see him play in the AHL as soon as next season as he is physically mature and ready to play against bigger men. He was even invited to the St. Louis Blues training camp in September 2010.”
I think that "maturity" had a lot to do with the Canucks going off the board to pick Mallet in the second round in Pittsburgh. The Canucks system lacks both depth and size at the centre position, and if Mallet is able to contribute sooner rather than later at the AHL level (Gillis indicated in his post-draft press conference that Mallet would be given a long look in Chicago this upcoming season) then he could be a big part of the solution. The other side of the coin, however, is that most of the prospect writers and scouts I’ve spoken with don’t consider Mallet to be a guy with "top-six upside."
Mallet’s handy work can be found on Youtube – here is an example:
The hope is that Mallet won’t need a lot of time before the Canucks are able to insert him in to the lineup. He is big, mean, and skilled. And because he is two years older than most draft-eligible prospects, his game is much more polished.
At worst, Mallet looks like he could be a physical, fighty, fourth line centre who can pot 10 goals. His top end upside is more limited, but perhaps he could eventually turn himself into a top-9 forward, who contributes the odd goal and intimidates the opposition with his physicality and fighting ability.