Image via Matthew Henderson
For my debut post on this platform – which came just under a year ago, on August 30th, 2012 to be exact – I was charged with writing a profile on the 2nd ranked prospect in the team’s system, even though I hadn’t even participated in the rankings process. I had disagreed with how the ranking team had evaluated the system, and in particular the player in question, making the assignment a rather unenviable one for yours truly.
Here’s the result of said profile. The handful of Canucks Army writers that had been responsible for setting the rankings had Swedish goaltender Eddie Lack as the team’s best prospect behind Zack Kassian heading into this past season, which I thought was a little bit overzealous. I had him somewhere in the 5-to-7 range; but that had more to do with the position he plays – and my philosophy when it comes to valuing goaltenders – and less to do with Lack himself, who is a fine talent.
Suffice it to say that I feel far more comfortable with where we have him in this year’s edition of the series. Read on past the jump for more on "The Stork".
Lack, a 6’5” Swedish goaltender, is the highest ranked goaltending prospect on our list this season – with Joe Cannata coming in at #16, and Joacim Eriksson at #11 – despite what can only be characterized as an disappointing 2012-13 campaign. At this time last year, he was not only coming off of a (second straight) sterling season which saw him post a .925 save%, and 2.31 goals against average for the Chicago Wolves in the AHL, but was also thought to have a very legitimate shot of backing up Cory Schneider for the Canucks once Roberto Luongo was dealt.
Well, that never happened. Instead he went back to a dysfunctional Wolves team that was marred by all sorts of issues in nearly every facet of the game. Some of the blame has to be placed on Lack, who simply wasn’t very good (.899 sv%, 3.00 GAA) in the 13 starts he made before being shelved with a hip injury that ultimately required surgery (resulting in a "Tragically Hip" headline from Drance, which was truly an all-timer).
Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to chat with our go-to guy when it comes to all things goalies, Kevin Woodley, about Lack this time around, but I think that the quotes that he provided us with last year regarding the lanky Swede, and his development, still apply:
"We have seen this in other ‘late-blooming’ Scandinavian goalies. He didn’t have the skill and instinct coached out of him, becoming too reliant on his size. Now that he’s learning how to use that size and technique more efficiently and effectively, it should improve his consistency. Most importantly, he has maintained that extra layer of skill, especially with the hands, and the willingness to throw technique to the wind and scramble if necessary. That’s needed to succeed long-term in the NHL."
You always hate to see guys essentially lose full seasons during their most important development years (Patrick McNally is nodding his head, somewhere), and that’s basically what 2012-13 was for Lack. Getting games in to refine his technique and hone his craft were of utmost importance for him, and pretty much all of last season was a throw away. I guess only time will tell how much that impacts him going forward.
This coming season is a monumental one for the 25-year old; with the departure of Cory Schneider, there’s a back-up gig up for grabs, and I’d guess that Lack is the front-runner for the spot heading into camp. Especially due to his contract status. If you’ll recall he signed a rather savvy 2-year contract last summer, which ensured that he’d be on a 1-way deal this year(*). He’s making his $850k, regardless of where he plays, while his biggest competition, Joacim Eriksson, makes a significantly smaller figure (only $70k) if he gets send down. Lack is two years older than Eriksson, and becomes an RFA again next summer, so it stands to reason that the team would like to see what they’ve got in him before reaching another crossroads next year.
(*) Thanks to the CapGeek waiver calculator, we know that Lack is exempt waivers for 54 more games, or 1 more year. This means that he can still be safely sent down to the minors.
While this technically has nothing to do with stopping pucks, Lack’s social media game and personality are off the charts, and nearly rival that of the incumbent. In the past he has blogged for the Canucks’ official team site, had some memorable 140-character exchanges with Strombone on Twitter, acted like a goofball while interviewing his teammates, and even participated in The Stanchion’s "Fake Season" (seriously, watch that video if you haven’t already). I even got to personally chat with him last summer, and he was a joy to talk to. If he does make the team, I’m sure that he’ll do his part in turning what many people are expecting to be a largely unentertaining season into a somewhat palatable one.
Total tangent that I wanted to throw in because it sort of applies here alert: I don’t know about you, but for some reason I’ve always had this preconceived notion that Sweden is a nation that has produced great goaltending talent over the years. However, that really hasn’t been the case. That list is, um, less than stellar. It seems that things are about to change in that regard, though, as they have a handful of highly touted young goaltending prospects on the way (Lehner, Markstrom, Svedberg, Lack, etc.).
I did get a chance to briefly exchange some words with Woodley about this, and he basically said that their top-down national development program (modeled off of the Finnish equivalent) didn’t start until the mid-2000’s, and that there’s a whole generation of intriguing talent just turning pro/hitting draft age. It just confirms what we all knew – Sweden is awesome.