When he first arrived at the Penticton Young Stars tournament in September of 2011, no one knew anything about 5th round draft pick Frankie "don’t call me Frank" Corrado. That changed rapidly as the Woodbridge born two-way defenseman put in a series of impressive performances at the Prospects Tournament. The rave reviews Corrado earned crescendoed with an absurdly competent showing in a pre-season game against the opening day roster of the Edmonton Oilers, in which Corrado was second on the club in ice-time and helped "shutdown" the likes of Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle.
Shortly after that impressive outing in the pre-season, Corrado was sent back to the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL but not before the Canucks inked him to an entry-level deal. Back in Sudbury, Corrado was named an "assistant captain" and put in a quietly remarkable season, transforming himself into one of the single most dominant defensive players in the Ontario Hockey League.
Canucks fans, and those in the "industry" may not have known much about Frank Corrado in September of 2011, but they know about him now. And many expect big things from the feisty, quick-footed defenseman.
One of those people who expect big things from Corrado, is Canucks Assistant General Manager Laurence Gilman, who just this week singled out Corrado as one of the organization’s "sleeper prospects" to keep an eye on. Here’s what Gilman told Matt Sekeres on the Team1040 on Tuesday:
"Frank Corrado is the first guy that comes to my mind [as a sleeper prospect], and you’re always hesitant making these kinds of statements because you don’t want ot put to much pressure on the player. [Corrado is] quite a dynamic player and we think his ascension is far more advanced than it should be for a player picked in the fifth round, and there are those in our organization that think this guy will challenge to make the National Hockey League a lot sooner than most people think he will"
That is high praise, but it’s well deserved. With the Sudbury Wolves last season, Frank Corrado logged major minutes against the toughest opponents, and often came out ahead. We watched Corrado closely last season, and were very impressed with what he was able to contribute to a middling Sudbury team.
Obviously we hate to use +/- as an indicator of anything, but Corrado was a +26 for a Sudbury club that carried a +2 goal differential (GD) on the season. Looking over the top +/- players in the OHL last season, you get a steady list of guys who played for the London Knights (+99 GD), Ottawa 67’s (+52 GD), Niagara Ice-Dogs (+122 GD) and the Plymouth Whalers (+74 GD), and then out of nowhere you have future star Brandon Saad (Saginaw had an even GD, Saad was a +35), and Frank Corrado.
Having watched Corrado play ten or so of games last year, it looked to me like he has all the makings of an ice-tilting, two-way defenseman, exactly the type of blueliner that the Canucks and Alain Vigneault seem to be enamored by. I recently spoke with Brandon Sudeyko of intheoradio.com, and asked him whether he thought Corrado’s +/- numbers reflected Corrado’s possession ability, or were a product of luck or Sudbury’s system. Generally speaking, Brandon agreed with me, that Corrado probably wasn’t just sporting an OHL PDO of 110:
"Even though Corrado wasn’t productive offensively, he was used in every situation. And the way the turnover was with Sudbury’s D, he was paired with a bunch of different defenseman and was often double shifted.
His outlet pass would often help Sudbury turn the puck around and create pressure down-low, and his quick footwork and speed allows him to cut off the angle [in the offensive end] to keep the puck in. He might be the fourth guy to touch the puck, but he’d help Sudbury maintain possession and would get the "plus" that way."
That’s what I like to hear!
I also exchanged e-mails with Brock Otten of OHL Prospects, who offered this scouting report on Frank Corrado’s development and abilities:
"Corrado has developed into a terrific two-way defenseman. His biggest asset is his skating ability and general mobility. He uses it to skate the puck out of pressure situations in his own end, and he uses it to his advantage defensively. His defensive game improved massively this year, to the point where I’d call him one of the better defensive players in the league. He’s not incredibly large, but he’s aggressive and does not back down from anyone. He’ll lay you out on the way to the net, punish you in the corners, and throw a couple of cross checks to your back in front of the net. The only disappointing aspect of his game has been the relative lack of development in his offensive game. He has the puck carrying ability to create offensively, but he still seems a bit tentative to let loose. It seemed like this year he was really focusing on the defensive end. He definitely has offensive potential though."
While we don’t have access to OHL Quality of Competition numbers, in the games I watched last season, Corrado was attached at the hip to the likes of Sam Carrick, Brandon Saad and Tyler Toffoli (i.e. the opposition’s top offensive players). Also, I observed that Corrado was nearly always the first man back for Sudbury – almost operating like a free-safety – and I’d wager that his offensive regression this past season is more reflective of a seachange in his usage, rather than a meaningful sign that his offensive skill-set is limited. For what it’s worth, Brandon Sudeyko agrees with me:
"Corrado’s shot isn’t exactly there. He has a nice wrist shot but he doesn’t have much of a clapper, which, you’d love to see from an upcoming stud defenseman. His offense is coming along though, which is good but his main focus is his defense, which has improved a lot. His vision and IQ has grown a lot, and he was utilizing the outlet pass a lot more this past season. Whatever the reason, he’s started doing it and now he’s comfortably throwing the puck up ice 100 feet, tape-to-tape, which is something we didn’t see in the past.
His offensive regression was there statistically [last season], but that’s not a reflection of his skill level when you watch him play."
While I don’t necessarily think Corrado takes anything off the table offensively, there’s no denying that he doesn’t project as a power-play quarterback type at the NHL level. He’s a solid puck-mover, however, and he does have the potential to be an above average top-four defenseman. For Mike Gillis and the Canucks to have found a prospect like that in the fifth round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft is, to put it mildly, very impressive.