Photo via PHT
On Monday our pal Corey Pronman published his "midseason top-50 NHL prospects" list (Insider only) over at ESPN, and three Canucks prospects made the list (or two did, and a third player was an honourable mention). While CanucksArmy favorites Ludwig Blomstrang and Brendan Gaunce were inexcusably snubbed (and now Pronman has to fight Tom Sestito, which sucks for him); Frank Corrado, Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk all made cameo appearances in the top-50.
Let’s discuss the respective seasons those three prospects are having, and breakdown Pronman’s comments after the jump.
While Horvat’s showing at the World Junior Hockey Championships was nothing to write home about (his performance was neither poor nor standout), Vancouver’s first pick at the 2013 NHL entry draft is having a massively impressive season for the OHL juggernaut London Knight. Pronman clealry rates Horvat’s season so far, and Vancouver’s prized prospect – who ranked as the 28th best prospect in Pronman’s preseason rankings – has leap-frogged the likes of Mikhail Grigorenko, Oscar Klefbom, Hunter Shinkaruk, Andre Burakovsky and Ryan Pulock in Pronman’s estimation; rising all the way to the 9th slot.
While jumping from 28th to 9th seems like a quantum leap there’s some critical context here, namely the high rate of attrition from Pronman’s preseason list to his midseason list as a result of NHL graduation. Pronman’s midseason list doesn’t count any players currently on an NHL roster, which disqualifies 13 of the prospects who were ahead of Horvat on the preseason list (so even if Horvat had just held steady he’d have risen from 28 to 15).
Of course Horvat didn’t just hold steady, he legitimately passed a handful of prospects who’ve battled injury (Shinkaruk), pouty-ness (Grigorenko), and poor play (Klefbom). He also surpassed a couple of OHL forwards who’ve had successful seasons in Burakovsky and Domi and a WHL defenseman who has always impressed me in Pulock.
Here’s what Pronman has to say about Horvat’s play this season:
Horvat didn’t perform all that well at the WJC, but based on what he’s shown in the OHL over the past year, it’s hard to not be very optimistic about his future. Horvat projects to be a significant two-way NHL center. He isn’t a dynamic skill player, but he can make a lot of plays with the puck, on top of a good power game. His skating shows good flashes, but it’s roughly average.
That matches up pretty well with what we’ve seen and said over the course of the season. Horvat’s two-way ability is standout and it’s what really makes him a special player. While he produces some pretty cool higlights at the OHL level with his go-to toe drag move, I’m a lot less confident about the flashy element of Horvat’s game translating at the professional level. Horvat’s dominance of the faceoff circle, his uncanny ability to read the play, and his passing ability, however, those skills are already pretty close to NHL caliber.
Looking over Horvat’s statistical profile, I can tell you that based on a "goal events" ice-time estimate he appears to be London’s first-line center (by our estimate he seems to play more than Sharks prospect Chris Tierney and Domi do when he’s in the lineup). That matches up with what we’ve observed in past viewings as well. With Horvat on the ice this season the Knights have outscored opponents by 18 goals, a mammoth number considering his deployment and usage (Horvat rarely starts a shift in the offensive end, and always faces the toughest matchups).
The Knights play in the OHL’s dynamite Western Conference and will host the Memorial Cup this May. So Horvat will have an opportunity to test his mettle against some extraordinarily tough competition this spring, and it’ll be very interesting to see how he fares.
Hunter Shinkaruk was bothered by a hip-injury throughout this past fall, and the ailment was at least partly responsible for his atrophied production and effectiveness in his Draft +1 season with the Medicine Hat Tigers. Shinkaruk has since undergone surgery to fix the issue and will miss the rest of this season.
While the Medicine Hat Tigers forward was a first time draft eligible player during the 2013 NHL entry draft, he’s also a relatively old prospect thanks to an October birthday. That Shinkaruk turns 20-years-old this fall has a good deal of relevance for the Canucks, since it means that the prized prospect will be AHL eligible next season and also ineligible to have his contract slide. Add it all up and it seems safe to conclude that Shinkaruk’s major junior career is over.
Shinkaruk checks in at 18th on Pronman’s midseason rankings, up from 22nd in the preseason. Of course due to the graduation rate (10 players ahead of Shinkaruk in the preseason list broke camp with their respective NHL clubs), we can actually describe Shinkaruk as having been slid roughly six spots in Pronman’s estimation. Here’s what the prospect guru had to say about Shinkaruk’s injury and how it impacted his ranking:
Shinkaruk looked great at Vancouver’s training camp, in the preseason and at the beginning of the WHL season before he suffered a hip injury. After that, his play really tailed off and he ended up needing surgery. Some may believe there are red flags on him, and though he’s higher than his preseason ranking, I’ve dropped him moderately from where I would have slotted him due to these risks. But I want to see him next season before getting too alarmed. When he is on his game, he’s a dynamic puck possessor, though not the best physical player.
So Pronman still rates Shinkaruk despite his struggles this season. Pronman’s favourable view of Shinkaruk’s upside is essentially based on his stellar track record of quality performances prior to this season, which is sort of the same reasoning behind Brent Sutter bringing a clearly hobbled player to Europe for the World Junior Championships (Shinkaruk was one of Team Canada’s final cuts).
At the very bottom of Pronman’s top-50 list is an honourable mentions section that includes twelve names, Corrado among them. Presumably that means that Corrado would rank somewhere between the 51st and 63rd best NHL prospect in Pronman’s estimation, up from the 73rd overall slot Corrado held down in the preseason list.
In 30 games with the very young and generally awful Utica Comets, Corrado has managed five points this season including two power-play markers. He’s also played to a -3, which is pretty good considering that Corrado is playing major minutes against tough competition on a club that has been outscored by 28 goals this season.
Corrado recently spent a couple of weeks with the big club, getting into six games and playing a very limited role. While the Canucks outscored the opposition with Corrado on the ice during his six game stint, they generally got their teeth kicked in by shot attempt differential in those minutes.
Corrado appeared to be rather close to "NHL-ready" before this season started, but it’s clear that he hasn’t quite yet earned the trust of Vancouver’s coaches. Still, Corrado has had a mostly solid season and it’ll be interesting to see how he plays over the balance of the campaign on an improving Utica Comets club.
I highly recommend that you pay to read Pronman’s Midseason Top-50 list in full here.