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:
"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.