Who is Nathan Longpre?

Winger Nathan Longpre is off to a terrific start with the Chicago Wolves, having scored two goals through the first three games (including a beautiful short-handed tally against Rockford this past weekend).

Is Longpre a player that the Canucks may have some interest in signing at some point in the near future?

The skilled winger played four years at Robert Morris University before turning professional in 2010. At 6-1 and 185 pounds, Longpre isn’t going to intimidate with his size, but he has a skill set that has allowed him to make a relatively successful transition to pro hockey.

In 2010-11 after turning pro, he signed a tryout contract with the Sharks organizaton, playing eight games with the Worchester Sharks of the AHL. 

He wasn’t retained by the Sharks organization for 2011-12, but he did earn an invitation to Vancouver’s 2011 prospects camp. He impressed the team enough to receive a contract offer with the Chicago Wolves. In 39 games in Chicago last season, Longpre scored eight goals and added 10 assists. Here is what we thought of his first half performance from 2011-12:

The 23-year-old Ontarian is another in a long line of Canucks late bloomers. He was invited to prospects camp, played himself into the main camp, and now has himself an AHL contract. He’s spent some time centring the first line and a bit on the wing, but of late, has mostly been used to centre the third line. He’s been steady as an AHLer but nothing suggests he’s anything more than NHL-replacement level at this point.

He was traded at the deadline to Columbus, even though he wasn’t technically Vancouver’s property (the Jackets wanted him as a part of the Sammy Pahlsson trade). Vancouver GM Mike Gillis had to receive the blessing of Chicago GM Wendell Young in order to move Longpre, and the Canucks helped the Wolves out by acquiring winger Andrew Gordon (on a one-way contract, meaning the Canucks footed the bill) at the trade deadline).

After the trade, Longpre struggled, scoring only three goals and zero assists in 20 games for Columbus’ AHL affiliate in Springfield.

Longpre has been used in a more significant role by Chicago coach Scott Arniel this season.

“[Longpre is a] real valuable guy you can use in a lot of situations and showed his scoring touch,” Arniel said. “Great short-handed goal. “He works hard. He’s a great skater, good speed.”

Arniel has been impressed through the first three games.

He’s one of those guys who isn’t a Vancouver guy, but he’s a real valuable guy who you can use in a lot of situations,” Arniel said. “He’s a great skater and works hard. Not knowing him, just seeing him here the last couple weeks, I like what I see.”

Longpre isn’t really a prospect at the age of 24. He does seem to possess skills that could see him find his way into the NHL in the coming years. He is a good skater, a really smart player, and skilled with the puck on his stick. He likely won’t stick as a scoring line player in the NHL, but he could develop into a very solid secondary scoring threat. Hockey sense is such an important attribute, and it will be the trait that carries Longpre forward in his career if he hopes to continue progressing through the ranks of pro hockey.

While at Robert Morris (a university located in Pittsburgh), Longpre was a key player on the hockey squad. In his final two years there, he led the team in scoring, with 31 and 42 points, respectively.

Here are some highlights from Longpre’s college career:

The competition level in the Atlantic Hockey Association isn’t comparable to the other top conferences in the NCAA, though. Robert Morris was a member of the College Hockey Conference before jumping over to the AHA in 2010-11. All that being said, Longpre did make the most of his time there. He is the leading scorer at Robert Morris since 2004, with 138 points in 136 games.

His opportunity in Chicago is going to come if and when the NHL lockout ends. Right now he is playing a third or fourth line depth role with some penalty killing responsibilities. If the Wolves see a few of their top six forwards up with the Canucks, some spots become available for players like Longpre. If he can build off his strong start and not fizzle out like he did last season, he could be in line for a contract offer from the Canucks (or another NHL club) at some point in the near future.

More Longpre news and notes from CanucksArmy days gone by: