With the team’s management group having already accomplished the majority of their work in terms of securing contracts for the 2014-15 season, we can now start to take a(n admittedly premature) look ahead at the contracts that will be coming up for renewal next summer.
Normal standard operating procedures in the NHL dictate that teams re-sign their prospects that have just completed their entry-level contract (ELC); after all, you’d hate to be that team gave up too early on late bloomer that goes on to blow up for another team after having invested years of development in him yourself.
With that being said, the Vancouver Canucks under Jim Benning have shown that they’re not afraid to cut the cord after walking away from someone like Jordan Schroeder this summer, which must’ve put the pressure on the following 12 guys – who are all still technically considered “prospects” and are coming off of their ELCs – if they were paying attention.
This upcoming season will be Zalewski’s first full season in the team’s system, though it’ll still technically mark the end of his two-year ELC. He left the NCAA early after two years with RPI where he scored a relatively unimpressive 0.58 and 0.74 PPG. With that being said, he’s from the Utica area and their fans sure do love rooting for the local boy. He seems like an ideal AHL-depth asset, if nothing else.
Kenins was signed as a free agent in the summer of 2013 but had contractual obligations until the end of the last season with Zurich in the Swiss-A league. In the last two seasons he has put up 17 points in 45 games and 25 points in 39 games. The NHLe for the Swiss A is similar to the AHL so it will be interesting to see how the Olympian adapts to the North American game.
Grenier was a prototypical 2010-2012 Mike Gillis draft pick: bigger, older and named Alexandre. This 6’5” player was drafted out of the QMJHL as a 19 year old (in his first Q season) where he scored 24 points in 31 games with the Quebec Ramparts. Since then he has played half a season in Austria (scoring 13 points in 25 games) and in Kalamazoo (with 31 points in 37 games).
This past year he really stepped it up and managed to score 39 points in 68 games with Utica, looking like the team’s best prospect down there for large chunks of the season. The fancystats all point to him having had normal percentages, so there isn’t really any reason to believe he can’t not only replicate but also build off of his best season yet.
Re-signing: highly likely
Looking at his stats from last season, it’s fair to wonder why the 6’6” centre was so highly touted as an NCAA free agent during the summer of 2013. Lain played three years at Lake Superior State University where he never put up anything even resembling big numbers scoring at 0.21, 0.39 and 0.5 PPG.
Normally those numbers indicate a player is at their ceiling. This last year Lain played the role of the third line centre in Utica scoring 19 points in 63 games (0.30 PPG) and even got a call up to the NHL where he had an interesting go of it (getting ejected a few seconds into his first game, before going on to score a goal in the very next contest).
While not many goals have gone in the net for his team while Lain has on the ice, very few goals have been scored going the other way as well. He has been something of an offensive black hole. One thing to keep in mind with Lain is that he’s already turning 25 years old, so he doesn’t have much time to prove that he’s a legitimate option as a bottom-6 defensive-minded centre which he was touted as once.
Friesen was selected in his draft+1 year where he scored 60 points in 60 games (previously scoring 33 in 64 for a 0.52 ppg). After his overage year in Niagara he joined the Chicago Wolves scoring 5 points in 42 games (0.12 ppg) and in the most recent year he spent the full season in Utica scoring 20 points in 54 games (0.37 ppg).
The biggest concern right now is that he’s 23 and isn’t scoring at a high enough rate to be worthy of an NHL opportunity yet. With the Canucks having casually dropped Jordan Schroeder, Friesen is going to have to do something he has never really shown signs of before during his professional career if he’s going to earn a new contract.
Mallet was taken as a 2nd-rounder in his draft+2 year after he scored 81 points in 68 games in the QMJHL as a 19 year old. There were a ton of red flags about that performance being heavily driven by the fact that he was an over-ager, and it looks like that was in fact the case.
Especially after he managed just 0.65 PPG in the ECHL in ’12-’13, and a measly 5 points in 59 AHL games this past season. He’s 22 years old, and he’ll really need to impress the team’s brass if he’s going to earn another contract. Otherwise it sure looks like he’ll be another draft mishap as a result of the “draft older players” philosophy Mike Gillis borrowed from baseball.
Corrado was our 2nd ranked prospect last summer, which is a testament to how far he has risen since being a 5th round pick back in 2011. He seems to be the prospect people forget how young he is. As a 20 year old in his first full professional season in the AHL he scored 11 points in 59 games playing routinely Utica’s top 4. Look for him to spend another season or two in Utica developing while being given larger and more important roles.
Andersson had some initial success as a prospect bouncing between the Frolunda U18s and U20s in his draft year, as well as making the Swedish World Jr team as a 19 year old.
He then went on to underperform in 2009-10 after having signed with the Canucks the previous summer. The last few seasons he has spent entirely in the AHL scoring 8 points in 42 games with Chicago, and then 13 points in 58 games with Utica.
He was excellent at even-strength in Utica, coming in at second just behind Kellan Lain with a +14.96% Even-Strength scoring differential. Defensemen take time to develop, but Andersson could become a victim of the numbers game this season with younger guys gunning for his spot in the organization.
Tommernes came from the same Frolunda system as Andersson but was drafted two years later than him. This year in Utica marked his first full time season in North America and he performed quite well given that fact.
Offensively he out-performed Corrado and Andersson putting up 18 points in 54 games despite a measly 3.8% shooting percentage. Defensively his ES Gf% was about -1.0% which is fairly normal for defensemen. I’d be surprised if Tommernes wasn’t re-signed, given the upside he appears to have.
I have written much about Markstrom already so I won’t go into much depth on him here. The fact of the matter is that he’s honestly too hard to forecast considering we have no idea where he’ll be come September let alone after next season. He’s currently in the middle of a logjam, and doesn’t exactly have a natural opening to compete for playing time anywhere.
Eriksson just finished his first full season in North America where, after a slow start, he recovered and put up league average numbers with a 0.910% save-percentage on a terrible team. I imagine the Canucks want to keep him, but you can only have two goalies on the team and with Markstrom, Lack and Miller ahead of him (for now) it’s hard to predict if he will be signed or traded or let go (doubtful).
Goalies are hard to predict in many ways and Cannata is no exception. He was qualified this summer for a one-year deal despite posting a terrible 0.901 sv%. He doesn’t appear to be very good, but one thing he has going for him is that Demko is going to take a while to develop, and there’s no one below Cannata to jump ahead of him. He could very well continue to hold down the fort in the AHL moving forward.