Prospect Profile: #10 Kellan Lain

Image via Matthew Henderson

Last week, I wrote about Patrick McNally, the 15th ranked prospect in this series. In the lead-up to the profile itself, I mentioned the internal debate of ‘reliability/safety vs. upside/potential’ that needs to be had when ranking these guys. 

I professed that I personally value prospects that possess the sorts of physical tools and ceiling that allows us to believe that they could conceivably turn into "home runs" one day. However, there’s a caveat; at some point, a guy projects so safely as a useful NHL role player that you can begin to overlook the potential lack of upside that he may have.

Which is a perfect transition to our 10th ranked prospect in Vancouver’s system, Kellan Lain. Read on for more on what we can expect from the 6’6” behemoth.

The term "project" has been bandied about quite a bit on this platform in the past few weeks. When we say that, we’re basically referring to a player that has an intriguing set of raw skills, who will clearly need some time at the lower levels to hone his craft before he’s anywhere near polished enough to compete at the NHL level.

Lain, the 24-year old – who is listed at a massive 6’6”, 220lbs – is someone who you won’t see get label next to his name, that’s for sure. And that’s the reason he’s as high on this list as he is. We feel fairly confident that we know what he is, and what he’s going to be. Let’s take a look at a couple of scouting reports before we proceed.

Here’s Corey Pronman’s write-up on him at Hockey Prospectus:

"Lain is an older than usual Junior, a 23 year old who turns 24 in July. His main asset is his physical game, at 6′6′’ 222 not only is he tall and strong but tough as well. He’s a big center who can win battles and make opposing defensemen aware of his presence on the ice. He also skates at a decent level for a man his size. Lain doesn’t have a whole lot of offensive upside, notching 39 points over 108 NCAA games, but he does have some defensive value and I think he can stay at center at the pro level. He actually led Lake Superior in face off % this season, winning 56% of his 571 draws. That’s not a great sample, but it is nevertheless intriguing."

Here’s the scouting report that Hockey’s Future has for Lain:

"At 6’6”, Lain obviously has size. And he has used his size; strength and long reach very effectively in protecting the puck, stripping pucks from opponents and creating space for his teammates. One area where Lain really excelled this season was on face-offs, where he won 313 of the draws that he took. Lain is also a tough body to move, whether standing in front of the net or along the walls. He has great net-front presence and many of his goals this season have come on rebounds and tip-ins. He has shown a willingness to pay a price in front of the net too. Lain is a tough competitor that brings a physical element to his game. He can deliver some bone-jarring hits and is strong on the forecheck.

The greatest improvement in Lain’s development has been in his skating. His strides are now smoother and more powerful. He has added speed and is more agile on his skates. In addition, his feet have vastly improved as well. Lain does an excellent job of following and staying with plays, which has been further enhanced by his great stick work. He is defensively responsible, does a good job of killing penalties and is willing to block shots. While Lain saw time on Lake Superior State’s penalty killing unit this season, where he was even more dangerous was on the Lakers power play. Five of Lain’s eight goals have come on the man-advantage. Lain possesses hard, powerful shot and can get pucks to the net."

For the visually inclined section of our audience, I’ve attached his highlight package from this past season below:


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I also reached out to Chris Peters – whose work can be found over at The United States of Hockey – to get his take on Lain as a prospect:

"Kellan Lain was such an interesting college free agent and I think the Canucks did well to get him. I hadn’t seen him play much, but spoke to an NHL scout who was watching him closely much of the year. His size obviously is the draw and he can play with a lot of bite. I don’t think he’ll be scared to drop the gloves and continually expand on the physical elements to his game. Lain probably won’t ever be more than a fourth-line plug-in kind of guy, but there were several NHL teams trying to sign him for a reason. Even though he’s 23, he still has some upside and if he rounds out well in the AHL, he’ll have a real chance at being a serviceable bottom-of-the-lineup player for the Canucks."

I know what you’re thinking: so why exactly is he coming in at #10 on our list, then? None of the things we’ve said about him thus far are exactly all that inspiring. I highly doubt that Lain ever amounts to anything more than a 4th line center who can soak up some minutes without being a liability. That’s not sexy, I get it. 

I think Jason Botchford put it best, though: "Lain has two things going for him: he has size, and he’s a centre. And the Canucks need both." In that same article, Laurence Gilman gave his take on what they’re expecting of Lain – "We see him as a bottom end centre, more like Paul Gaustad or maybe a David Steckel type of player. That kind of guy."

While it’s hard to be overly excited about a guy who projects to fill that role, the fact of the matter is that fielding a competent 4th line gives your team a noticeable advantage in today’s NHL. I feel fairly confident that Kellan Lain will be able to fill that role adequately, maybe even as soon as this coming season. He’s 24-years old, he’s mature, and he’s only making $600k. Don’t be surprised if you see him up with the Canucks for a large chunk of the 2013-14 season. All of which means that he has legitimate value. Especially as the 10th ranked prospect in an average-to-below average system.

Other Prospect Profiles in This Series:

  • orcasfan

    Didn’t Lain play a few games for the Wolves at the end of the season? Why not get an opinion from the Wolves beat writer or someone from the coaching staff?

    I have to say that these rankings are not making much sense. Ranking this guy above guys like Eriksson and Andersson makes no sense at all.

  • asdf

    I don’t see how this guy would be higher than someone like McNally.

    His ceiling is 4LC.

    Most prospects fail to hit their ceilings.

    A “safe” 4LC prospect doesn’t exist.

    Depth/role players are fungible commodities and guys come out of nowhere to fill that role.

    Often times these are guys that reinvent themselves (i.e. Malhotra or Lapierre).

    This is like a relief pitcher in AA. Most of them are not really prospects since many of the better relief pitchers in the majors are failed starters.

    His floor is organizational fodder. That may very well be the most likely outcome as well.

  • orcasfan

    I disagree with the above two comments, I think Dimitri explained quite clearly the difference between a potential offensive dman who is still putting it together, and the kinds of depth players who are useful even though they probably won’t develop much more. These are different kinds of “prospects” and yet get ranked together.

    But, on a language policing kind of note, I think you meant “segue”. “Segways” are a kind of standing scooter that you see at airports.

    • orcasfan

      He’s 24 and MIGHT be a 4LC.

      It would be a stretch to call a 24 year old might-be middle reliever a prospect.

      And that’s in a sport where nearly every single prospect doesn’t make an impact until their early-mid twenties.

  • orcasfan

    I don’t know if this guy should be our #10 prospect. If he projects as a 4th line centre, maybe a third line centre, then he might be ranked a bit lower.

    Again, you never know with young players and he could up his game. His size and toughness are huge assets and if he can skate and take faceoffs…well…he might turn into our third line centre.

    If our young players develop then chances are we will have a nice mix of players.

  • Fred-65

    You can’t judge all players by goal assists and point. Lain likely fills a role needed better than a depth Defensman. Because of what he brings he might be currently more important than say McNally who is 2 years away and battling with some equally skilled D. Plus Tortorella has expressed interest in Stiffening the Vcr line up with more bite, so could be Lain fits that position. He’s what Vcr needs right now so he goes up the rankings

  • Fred-65

    Lain, in the context of the Canucks system is intriguing. With young Two way centers like Gaunce and Horvat , a large defensive center that can be a beast on the 4th line is great. The Sedins have a few more years left in them and it is good to see that they will be able to pass the torch like naslund and the West Coast express did with the twins. Except the younger Canucks team of Gaunce, Horvat will be a tougher team and I like it!

  • I’m with NM00 completely here, and didn’t even have Lain ranked.

    It’s really rare for a player with Lain’s statistical profile to become a regular top-9 presence in the NHL. Even in terms of being a “good” fourth liner (i.e. the sort of player who can at least kill penalties and take a semi-regular shift in the third period of a close postseason game), most of those types are point-per game players somewhere along the line in Major Jr.. Even a guy like David Steckel, who appears to have hands of stone in the NHL, put up *double* the number of points per game in the same NCAA conference when he was in college…

    Maybe Lain will be tough enough and good enough in the dot to make it as a one-dimensional physical presence/enforcer/faceoff specialist. But I see very little evidence suggesting that he’s much more than that.