Zack Kassian Leapfrogs Cody Hodgson in Young Player Rankings

Tanev and Kassian celebrate their bright future.
Photo credit: Gerry Kahrmann, Vancouver Sun.

Since the Canucks traded Cody Hodgson (and Alexander Sulzer) for Zack Kassian (and Marc-Andre Gragnani), friend of the blog and ESPN and Hockey Prospectus prospect guru Corey Pronman has consistently stated that Buffalo "recieved the best player in the deal." That is until today, when he released his top-50 rankings for players under the age of 23. On that list (which, features two Canucks skaters in Zack Kassian and Chris Tanev) Zack Kassian has leapfrogged Cody Hodgson, who only appeared as an honorable mention.

Read on past the jump.

First off, here’s Corey Pronman on Chris Tanev (who he’s ranked at #38 on the list):

Tanev is an extremely smart defenseman with good mobility, and he looks the part of a blueliner with significant value despite not being your ideal power play quarterback. His ability to be a positive possession player while playing tough minutes at his age has certainly been impressive.

And here’s Pronman on Zack Kassian (who he’s ranked at #48):

I’ve been impressed with Kassian’s development over the last year or so from a pure power forward into a player whose gotten quicker and has shown better offensive elements to his game. He was OK at best in the NHL, but if he comes together he could be a quality player.

As we mentioned in the intro, Hodgson only appeared on the list as an "honorable mention." In between folks retweeting photos of Hurricane Sandy (many of which are not, in fact, photos of Hurricane Sandy), the Hodgson snub generated significant chatter on Twitter. Here’s how Pronman defended his list to those curious about Hodgson’s place on it:

We’ve previously discussed how Cody Hodgson’s production last season was inflated by his usage and percentages while the Canucks were "showcasing" him in early 2012. Those factors appear to have had some impact on Pronman’s evaluations, however, it’s Kassian’s impressive performance of late and not Hodgson "falling off," that has caused the two to flip in Pronman’s estimation. Pronman elaborated on his reasoning in an e-mail to me earlier today:

At the time of the trade I thought Hodgson was the better player due to his talent level, although I noted that his production in the NHL was certainly inflated. He hasn’t done anything to make me more pessimistic about him, I still see him as a quality #2 C, but I’ve heard more positive things about Kassian from his AHL play. 

Update: Corey e-mailed me to clarify, that he was talking about Kassian’s performance in the AHL last season (not in the early going this year).

While he took the pedal off a bit in terms of physical play, [Kassian] was showing more in terms of offensive creation with consistency – which he did at times did during the latter parts of his CHL career.

This essentially turned it into a coin flip for me, in which I leaned Kassian because he has less question marks than Hodgson – who had the average first pro season, and an interesting second season to say the least. With that being said as I mentioned, at that part of [my] evaluations it’s a coin flip, and I could still see a very plausible and solid argument to favor Hodgson.

Perhaps that will temper our excitement somewhat. Also, for what it’s worth, Cody Hodgson has 10 points in 8 AHL games so far this season for Rochester (despite shooting at a 5% clip), while Zack Kassian only has 5 points in the same number of AHL games (and he’s shooting at a 25% clip).

But it’s still good to hear that Zack Kassian is "showing more in terms of offensive creation with consistency" so far this season, than he did last year. It has been noticeable to those of us who’ve followed the Wolves closely this fall, and it has impressed Wolves head coach Scott Arniel as well. Arniel recently said of Zack Kassian:

“He’s really impressed me with his hands… he can do good things with the puck and that’s a little bit of a surprise to me. I thought he was more just a shooter and a banger, but he’s got a complete game.”

Hopefully for Mike Gillis, who took a lot of heat for trading Cody Hodgson last season, Zack Kassian continues to develop his "complete game." Player rankings aside, it certainly looks like he’s on the right track.

Read Corey Pronman’s: Top-50 under 23 list here.

  • 24% body fat

    Sounds to me like a good start has Pronman flopping like a decked flounder.

    Don’t get me wrong, I like Kassian. He is exactly the type of prospect every team would die to have.

    But to suggest Kassian is somehow infinitley better based on a week and a half’s worth of AHL games is pretty weak, IMO.

    Cody Hodgson is still a better player than Kassian and only NHL games will prove otherwise.

    Also, pretty impressive what Tanev has accomplished considering where he started from. Not easy to climb up the depth chart of any team, let alone a stacked one like Vancouver. Good on him.

  • @Kaybee exactly. It’s not about production, it’s about the process (and what Kassian has showed in terms of his possession game, puck battles etc.). Kassian is, beyond production, flashing skill and upside that he’d only previously hinted at.

  • Maybe I just don’t see what exactly it is that suddenly propelled Kassian ahead of Hodgson. He’s driving the net more? He has soft hands?

    I get it. Kassian is figuring out how to use his tools to get the job done. He’s a big boy with hands, and when those guys start to make it click, it is pretty exciting and impressive.

    But Hodgson was a NHL player last year. All year. And he put up points. This kid was on a deep team and held his own.

    So far this year, both players are off to decent starts, but Kassian gets a push? I don’t get it, is all I’m saying.

    As far as I’m concerned, both players should be on the list.

    Do you guys really think Kassian is better than Hodgson as of right now? I haven’t been swayed……yet.

  • 24% body fat

    This is actually the best players under 23 and not 25. Kassian would not be on it if it was under 25.

    Also, this list is actually quite stupid and biased. Adam henrique have has one good year. Not outstanding. They should not be that high. Repaeat it than fine. Also Kane needs to balance out his game more.

    • 24% body fat

      Try not to be such a dumb-dumb. The purposes of this is to evaluate the best NHLers, its to rank the young players who are just starting their career.

      If this was best NHL players under 25, there’s at least 25 names that could easily overthrow most of those players, many of them All Stars.

      • 24% body fat

        This article is based on Kassians ranking. The original article said top 25 under 25. (now corrected). My point was there was no reason for this article if it was under 25. Yes a lot of people would not be on there I agree.

        The NHL achievement fact is a extremely good argument regardless of starting careers or not. It is the best league in the world. Adam Henrique was no where on this radar until his season last year. Jordan Eberle and Kane would have been. They both had better or equal seasons to Henrique so why are they below him.

  • 24% body fat

    Codys dad isn’t gonna be happy about this. Pronman should expect a phone call …… lol

    Glad to see Tanev, kids a beast. He’s the only undrafted guy on the list isn’t he? Pretty impressive for the only RIT guy to make the NHL.