We here at CanucksArmy published our top 20 prospects list this past summer, and have provided follow up coverage on a lot of the organization’s prospects 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?
This week, Joe Cannata, Alexandre Mallet, Joseph LaBate, Frank Corrado, and Kevin Connauton are profiled.
Cannata’s calm, steady style of play isn’t just an aesthetic, it’s reflective of his personality. Brian Daccord described Cannata as a guy with an exceptionally short memory (an invaluable asset for a goaltender). "Nothing really phases him," Brian told me, adding that "If [Cannata] was in a house on fire, he would probably stop in the kitchen to make himself a sandwich on his way out." Brian also told us that Cannata "is not a goalie that fluctuated in hot and cold games. Joe’s dependability will be an asset that a head coach will appreciate."
Cannata’s pro career has gotten off to a bit of a rocky start. He was recently called up to the AHL to fill in for the injuried Eddie Lack (hip flexor injury, apparently not serious). It’s possible that Cannata would have been in the AHL to start the season if there had been no lockout, but spending time in the ECHL isn’t the end of the world for a goaltender – especially for a first year professional who refined his game in the NCAA. In five starts with Kalamazoo, Cannata has a 2-3 record with a 3.62 GAA and a .892 save percentage. Not great stats, but the sample size is incredibly small. He was a contender for the Hobey Baker for a reason – so don’t read too much into his slow start.
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 is one of my favorite prospects in the organization – he doesn’t have much offensive upside and his skating isn’t NHL quality yet, but he is big, strong, and fearless. In 11 games with the Chicago Wolves, he has recorded no goals and no assists, but he has been playing a depth role and isn’t getting much of an opportunity to produce. The Wolves have several veteran players who Mallet can learn a lot from, including Andrew Ebbett, Brett Sterling, and Darren Haydar. He has only one fight through 11 games, but it was a memorable one.
Mallet’s slow start isn’t cause for concern. He’s adjusting to pro hockey, and once the lockout is over, he will get his chance to be an every day player for the Wolves.
LaBate made huge strides last season, and most observers seem to think that he’ll be a force in the college game in quick order. As an 18-year-old, his numbers are somewhat comparable to some recent NCAA graduates. LaBate is more comparable to Wheeler or Penner than Read, as he is still growing into his frame. LaBate’s role was limited on the Badgers for much of last season, though he did occasionally play in the top-six. As mentioned above, he should be counted on to score at least 10 goals and add in 20-25 assists in 2012-13.
I provided an update on LaBate’s performance this season a few weeks ago. Wisconsin, as a team, has struggled, and he hasn’t been immune to that. LaBate was a project pick when he was drafted, and nothing has changed. He has an intriguing size/skill combination, and playing in the NCAA will give him the time he needs in the gym to get bigger, stronger, and faster. I’d expect him to spend at least one more year as a Badger before turning pro.
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.
Corrado has carried over his strong play from last season into this one. He now serves as Sudbury’s captain, and he has an outside shot at landing a bottom pairing spot on Canada’s World Junior roster for the upcoming tournament in Ufa, Russia. Corrado is a jack-of-all-trades defenseman, and through 28 games this season he has already matched his goal output from all of last year (three goals in 60 games), and he is fast approaching his overall production (28 points in 60 games, he currently has 21) as well. The Wolves are not a very good team, and they lean on Corrado in all situations – his OHL opponents have even joked on Twitter that Sudbury should let some of their other defenseman sniff the ice occassionally. From a hockey and leadeership perspective, this year will be a great learning experience for the impressive young defenseman.
Connauton’s strength has always been his offensive game. At each level he’s shown the ability to move the puck with ease, produce on the power-play and chip in the odd goal. Like so many top prospects, a coach will tell you that you can’t teach offence; just like many of those other prospects, Connauton has always needed to work on his defensive game. But this is where Connauton’s work ethic and attitude have always shone through. Challenged to get better in his own end, no matter the level, Connauton has never taken a backwards step, and this past season, his defensively play took a major step forward.
Connauton’s offensive production has dried up in recent weeks, but he continues to make strides with his defensive play and his positioning. He has only two goals in 18 games for the Wolves after scoring 13 last season, but he is playing a much bigger role with the team in all areas of the game.
Connauton probably isn’t as NHL ready as many had hoped in the off-season, though. He’s still prone to poor positioning from time to time, and some of the turnovers he makes in the AHL would be goals against in the NHL. However, Connauton has also made huge gains in the gym – he reported to the Canucks informal camp this year as one of the fittest players (including all of the veterans). The question of him playing in the NHL isn’t if, but when.
Check out his sweet assist on a Jordan Schroeder goal from Wednesday night:
- #20-16 – David Honzik, Darren Archibald, Jeremy Price, Adam Polasek, and Yan Sauve
- #15-11 – Alexandre Grenier, Patrick McNally, Billy Sweatt, Anton Rodin, and Alex Friesen