Prospect Profile: #17 Yann Sauvé

Image via Matthew Henderson

I’m well aware of the fact that, up until now, our series has been a tad bit underwhelming. But hey, we can only work with what we’ve been given. We currently find ourselves wading through the back-end of a team’s system that I’d somewhat generously describe as hovering around "average".

That’s not to say that the guys we’ve covered – and will continue to cover over the next few days – lack importance, because that’s not the case. Having organizational depth is meaningful, and that’s exactly what guys like Alex Friesen, Peter Andersson, Cole Cassels, and today’s prospect, Yann Sauvé, are. Depth prospects. But prospects nonetheless.

Read on for more on the team’s 17th ranked prospect.

Here’s an excerpt of the profile Hockey’s Future has on him, which sums up his game quite succinctly: 

Originally expected to be a two-way defenseman with good size and skating, Sauve’s offensive game has not developed as fast as the rest of his skills. Sauve is a big, mean defender in his own zone who is physically strong and good positionally. However, he tends to get into trouble when he has the puck. His puck-handling skills could use some improvement and his decision making with the puck is generally poor. Right now he is on track to become a one-dimensional defensive d-man. The Canucks hope the other facets of his game can evolve over time.

I think it’s fair to say that at this point the bloom has come off the rose with Sauvé, who the Canucks selected 41st overall in the 2008 draft. At the time of his selection, Sauvé was considered to be a blueliner with legitimate top-4 potential, and a two-way game that was blossoming (particularly on the offensive side of things; his numbers in the QMJHL weren’t exactly eye-popping). His biggest strength was clearly his size, but he was also considered a strong skater given the frame he was working with; at worse, even if the puck handling and decision-making didn’t fully develop, he’d be able to play a shutdown-type role.

Unfortunately, things kind of went off the rails for him after he was drafted, though, with a series of unfortunate circumstances taking place that surely impacted his development. After finally recovering from being hit by a car, he bounced around from the ECHL (8 games) to the AHL (39 games) to the NHL (5 games) in his first season of professional hockey, played for a handful of different coaches, and was never really given a chance to settle in and acclimate himself. There’s no question that he has gotten a raw deal thus far, but professional hockey is a cutthroat business in which there’s no room for excuses.

The direction he has gone in since that fateful season has been disconcerting, as it appears that his development has stalled. While there’s little doubt that the man with the accent aigu in his name can still handle his business in his own zone, his game on the offensive end has not come along the way scouts (and I’m sure, the Canucks) figured it would. While it’s a commonly known fact that defensemen tend to develop at a more drawn out pace, at this point, it’s hard to imagine him ever reaching that ceiling that he was believed to have a few years ago.

In 141 professional game heading into this season (spanning 3 leagues, and including playoffs), Sauvé managed just 6 goals and 27 points. In only 17 games for the Chicago Wolves last season, he put up a measly 2 assists. So what gives with the 10 goals and 19 points he posted in only 32 games at Kalamazoo, then? Seems like a pretty unexpected outburst from a guy whose offensive performance up until that point had been dormant.

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I’m going to go ahead and attribute it mostly to the competition he faced, and the fact that it took place in the ECHL. In case you’re not familiar with the league, here’s the nitty gritty from Justin Bourne, who actually played there for a few years. When considering ECHL production you need to roughly cut it in half to translate it over to an AHL equivalency. We can’t just look at the numbers in a vacuum.

At the end of the year, Thomas Drance put together a post looking at the quality of competition the members of the Wolves faced throughout the year, and the quality of the teammates they got to spend the majority of their time with. While Sauve’s 17 games are admittedly a relatively small sample, the news isn’t all that positive:

Wolves Defenseman GF/GA On QualComp QualTeam
Danny Groulx 18 0.306 0.305
Jeremie Blain 26 0.295 0.307
Jim Vandermeer 38 0.291 0.275
Chris Tanev 39 0.282 0.35
Peter Andersson 32 0.281 0.28
Derek Joslin 58 0.278 0.306
Mark Matheson 80 0.271 0.315
Yann Sauve 25 0.271 0.317
Adam Polasek 20 0.269 0.31
Kevin Connauton 79 0.268 0.321
Zach Miskovic 17 0.264 0.349
Brad Hunt 65 0.256 0.318

Here’s the analysis from that particular post, which is spot-on:

Yann Sauve and Adam Polasek didn’t play much, spent time in the ECHL this season, and appear to have been mostly third pairing guys. I’d imagine that has to be frustrating for the Canucks when guys like Brad Hunt, Zach Miskovic, Jeremie Blain and Danny Groulx were soaking up lots of blue-line minutes. On the other hand, neither Sauve nor Polasek really projects as a future NHLer at this point anyway.

So what’s next for the 23-year old defenseman? He was an RFA heading into this summer, and the team decided to bring him back on a one-year, two-way deal in which he is set to make his customary $65k should he remain in the AHL. I do think that it speaks to just how much his stock has fallen that nobody seemed to really care all that much when the news of his re-signing broke on July 25th (though, to be fair, the news was likely overshadowed by Dale Weise and Jordan Schroeder both signing on the dotted line on that very same day).

This is his third straight season appearing on Canucks Army’s prospects list, and if you read the previous two, you’ll notice that the content gets noticeably more grim as you go from year-to-year. That lines up with what friend of the blog Corey Pronman – whose work can be found on Hockey Prospectus and – has been saying in his yearly evaluations of Vancouver’s system, as well. In 2011, he had him as the 4th ranked prospect, before dropping him all the way down to 12th last year.

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I had him 16th on my personal list when we aggregated our rankings a few weeks ago, with the thinking being that I was willing to give him one more year to show me something. With that in mind, I think the likelihood of Sauvé, who came in as the 4th oldest guy in our Top 20, not being mentioned when we do this again next year is quite high.

In his write-up on the the 20th ranked prospect Alex Friesen, Cam Charron said the following:

"As No. 20 on any list, or No. 13 on my list, Friesen represents somebody where it would be a win if he played a single NHL game in his career."

While Sauvé technically has 5 career NHL games under his belt (all coming in 2010-11), I think that point still holds true for him. If he’s to have any sort of even remotely consequential moment in a Canucks uniform, he’ll be considered a success. Excuse me for not being overly enthused about a player who the team’s director of player development Dave Gagner – who should in theory be in the business of pumping his young players’ tires in the media – says has "the upside to be a No.6 or No.7 NHL depth defenseman". It’s possible that happens, just don’t be holding your breath waiting for it to happen.

Other Prospect Profiles in This Series:

  • Fred-65

    I really dont understand this. Suave, in his limited time with the Canucks, actually played quite well, and (at the time) it seemed to be a toss up between him and Tanev to make the jump. Too bad his game has fallen off, he has the size and physical ability, but really needs to work on his puck skills.

  • Fred-65

    Tanev…Sauve shouldn’t be allowed in the same sentence. I watched him when he came up in Vcr and he reminded me of the old quote chicken with his head cut off. No positional play, ran around, and heck didn’t engage or seem to want to engage some one. He’s an ECHL player heading in the wrong direction why MG signed him again is a mystery. Polasek who get’s little recognition long since passed Sauve and is will to engage if need be and still has a further year before he becomes a RFA

  • Fred-65

    I’m still hoping he’ll be a depth player eventually. He has the ability. He just needs some stability. He should get the chance in Utica to have a proper year to play, something he hasn’t had in years.