Acquired in a trade that saw Jason Garrison go to the Tampa Bay Lightning and Tampa’s 2nd round pick (Roland McKeown) dealt to Los Angeles, Linden Vey became the second “Linden” drafted out of the Medicine Hat Tigers to don a Canucks jersey, and the second Canuck roster player to play for Willie Desjardins’ Tigers, after the club acquired Derek Dorsett in a separate deal.
The 23-year old playmaker doesn’t have much in terms of an NHL track record, but has previously performed well in the CHL and made major strides towards becoming a very good pro in the AHL. Can Vey translate his strong junior and minor pro play into a full-time NHL position with the Canucks? Read past the jump.
To be honest, Linden Vey’s 2013-14 NHL numbers don’t really tell us much of anything besides what happened when he was on the ice. Vey broke even in GF%, had a slightly positive Corsi on a far above positive Corsi NHL team, and was pretty awful with his most frequent linemate in Trevor Lewis as far as puck possession goes.
Vey, however, only appeared in 18 NHL games prior to this season, so as far as determining what his actual talent level was last season, well, we simply can’t do that. Even though we want players that drive GF% and Corsi% generally allows us to make that determination sooner by rapidly expanding the sample of events we can look at, 18 games of pretty limited ice time isn’t nearly enough to form opinions on whether Vey was actually good or bad last season. Looking at WOWYs reduces this sampling further and creates a ton of noise, as evidenced by Vey’s WOWYs being all over the map.
As a result, Vey is still very much a prospect, and had he been rated in our Prospect Profiles series, he would have surely been among the top-5 guys the Canucks have in their system. The 23-year old centre/right winger was a point-per-game player in his draft year for Willie Desjardins’ Medicine Hat Tigers, but fell to the LA Kings in the 4th round due in large part to a fairly deep draft in terms of CHL forward talent – 80% of the CHL forwards drafted ahead of Vey have appeared in the NHL. Vey had a solid draft+1 season, narrowly eclipsing a point-per-game once more, before exploding for a WHL-leading 116 points and 1.68 pts/GP as a 19-year old in 2010-11.
While his CHL offensive totals were encouraging, they weren’t significantly different enough from what a guy like Brendan Shinnimin did during his WHL career to say that Vey was a definite NHLer. Unlike Shinnimin, however, Vey kept improving in the AHL, becoming a #1 centre and the top scoring threat on an extremely strong Manchester Monarchs team in 2013-2014. Although he wasn’t able to crack an incredibly strong LA Kings squad, this seems like it had more do to a stylistic choice by Darryl Sutter (going with guys like Kyle Clifford and Dwight King and Jordan Nolan in his bottom-6) than it did with Vey’s hockey playing ability.
If preseason and the first couple of games (against admittedly weaker opponents) are any indication, Vey looks ready to be a strong contributor to Vancouver’s middle-6 forward group. His point totals throughout his career indicate that he’s a pass-first type of guy, so it seems like he could have good chemistry with shooters like Alex Burrows, Radim Vrbata, or Chris Higgins. He’s also started the year as the high-slot guy on Vancouver’s 1-3-1 powerplay, which has looked refreshingly not futile in the early going and through preseason.
If Vey continues to see time on the first powerplay unit, it’s not out of the question that he is among the NHL leaders in rookie scoring by season’s end. He was among Vancouver’s top scorers in the preseason, and has his first NHL goal and one assist through two regular season games as well. 50 points is first-line production, and that’s probably too much to ask of a guy with 18 NHL games under his belt, but production similar to what we expect from Nick Bonino – roughly 35 points – would be a very positive season.
What remains to be seen is if Vey’s 200-foot game is complete enough to enable Willie Desjardins to play him in every 5-on-5 situation. Young players aren’t frequently in the black for puck possession, but Vey isn’t quite a young player any more. At 23, he’s approaching his prime years, so an acceptable two-way game isn’t too much to expect from the rookie.
It wouldn’t surprise me to see Vey out-perform Nick Bonino this year, which would be very promising for Vancouver. They’ll never have a second line centre as good as Ryan Kesler was, but if Vey develops into the solid middle-6 player he has the potential to be this season, it will go a long way to taking some of the pressure off of Henrik Sedin, and giving Vancouver some of the depth scoring they sorely lacked last season.