We here at CanucksArmy published our top 20 prospects list this past summer. We have provided coverage on a lot of them this season, especially those playing in Chicago with the Wolves. However, there are many notable prospects in the organizaton playing elsewhere – the CHL, NCAA, or over in Europe. Although the season is only a few months old, why not check in and see how the top 20 prospects are faring? It sure beats Luongo-to-Toronto speculation.
David Honzik is a mammoth goaltender from the Czech Republic who Gillis selected with a third round pick in the 2011 draft (the highest Gillis has ever selected a goaltender). Honzik’s physical tools are beyond doubt, however, his technique is (and remains) very raw and his development appears to have stalled over the past twelve months. Entering his "contract year" (under the current CBA, if the Canucks choose not to sign Honzik before June 1st 2013, he’ll re-enter the draft) Honzik looks like the definition of a "boom or bust" prospect.
Honzik only recently returned to game action after suffering a shoulder injury and appears to be in tough to earn a contract from the Canucks – he hasn’t improved all that much since the Canucks drafted him over two years ago, and he isn’t even the full-time starting goaltender for Cape Breton. The Q is notoriously tough on goaltenders, but Honzik’s statistics over the past two seasons are brutal. Cape Breton isn’t much better than the struggling squads Honzik played behind in Victoriaville, either. He has his work cut out for him.
NHL scouts have long been impressed by Archibald’s skill with the puck, but his skating has always been a concern. Like 2012 draft pick Alex Mallet, Archibald is a different skater with the puck than without and both players have difficulty pulling away from defenders while they are carrying the puck. It’s a challenge Archibald will have to overcome if he’s going to make the NHL. To make it to the NHL level, scouts generally believe that a player can take no more than four strides to get up to top speed, while being pressured and at the moment Archibald falls short of that standard.
Archibald was a victim of the NHL lockout this season, as the added depth in Chicago pushed him down to the ECHL for a second-straight year. It is rare that a player spends multiple seasons in the ECHL before making it as an NHLer (Alex Burrows being the obvious outlier). Archibald is a point-a-game player at the ECHL level, which is a good sign, but he needs to prove himself against better competition if he still wants to be considered a legitimate prospect. And he is unable to do that thanks to the lockout.
While Price’s promising development over the past few years has gone largely unnoticed in Vancouver, you can bet that Canucks management and the coaching staff have been paying close attention. As we see each season, you can never have enough quality defensemen. Especially defensemen who are reliable in their own zone, and appear capable of moving the puck up the ice.
It is a bit early to get a full picture of how Price is playing this season, as the Raiders have only played 11 games. Price, who is Colgate’s captain this season, has one goal and four helpers. This is his final year at Colgate, and I would expect the Canucks to offer him a contract once his season concludes. He could find himself in the AHL with Chicago next year, assuming the lockout is over at that point in time.
One area to watch will be Polasek’s offensive game. While Polasek’s offensive skills are never going to be "the reason" he makes it to the show, he’s got solid offensive instincts and in his Major Junior days, he featured heavily on PEI’s powerplay. Polasek would regularly jump up into the rush and he occasionally flashed some finish too, recording 20 goals and 80 points in his two years with the Rocket.
Like Archibald, Polasek was a victim of the numbers game in Chicago before the season started, and he was ultimately demoted to play in Kalamazoo. He is a rugged two-way defenseman with limited upside (as noted by his ECHL demotion). He has a single goal and only three points through 12 games with the Wings. It is too early to completely write him off as a prospect – particularly because he’s got the size and fists to make the NHL as an enforcer – but he should be considered a long shot to have any sort of NHL career beyond that.
Since Mike Gillis selected Yann Sauve with the club’s second round pick in the 2008 NHL draft – a draft that featured one of the deepest talent pools of defenseman in recent memory – Sauve has dealt with an awful lot of instability and some excruciating bad luck. Following a concussion which, Sauve suffered when he was struck by a car during training camp in the fall of 2010, the former Saint John Sea Dog spent time in three professional leagues during the 2010-11 season (the ECHL, AHL and a three game NHL stint). That has to be difficult, and certainly it’s exceedingly rare.
Sauve’s once-promising hockey career has been derailed by injuries. He simply hasn’t developed as hoped. He is big, strong, and a great skater, but he doesn’t play the position very well. At the AHL level, his weaknesses can be covered up a bit because the opposing forwards don’t always bury scoring chances, but Sauve would be exposed at the NHL level, I think.
He has one assist through seven games with the Wolves – he isn’t playing every night thanks to a log jam of defensemen on the roster. Like Polasek, Sauve should be considered something of a long-shot to crack the Canucks roster.
The players from the rest of the top 20 list will be updated in the coming weeks.
- #20 David Honzik
- #19 Darren Archibald
- #18 Jeremy Price
- #17 Adam Polasek
- #16 Yann Sauve
- #15 Alex Grenier
- #14 Patrick McNally
- #13 Billy Sweatt
- #12 Anton Rodin
- #11 Alex Friesen
- #10 Joe Cannata
- #9 Alexandre Mallet
- #8 Joseph LaBate
- #7 Frank Corrado
- #6 Kevin Connauton
- #5 Jordan Schroeder
- #4 Brendan Gaunce
- #3 Nicklas Jensen
- #2 Eddie Lack
- #1 Zack Kassian