According to the Vancouver Canucks Twitter account, the Vancouver Canucks have acquired D Adam Clendening from the Blackhawks in exchange for prospect D Gustav Forsling.
— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) January 30, 2015
Read past the jump for initial thoughts and analysis.
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) January 30, 2015
The Canucks swung a surprising deal late Thursday night, acquiring one of the best defensive prospects in Chicago’s system (and the oldest looking 22-year old on the planet) in exchange for Gustav Forsling, an 18-year old D who has shown rapid improvement playing in the SHL this season and had a fantastic World Junior tournament just earlier this month.
The 22-year old 6’0, 190 lb Clendening is in his 3rd year of professional hockey after being drafted 36th overall in 2011 by Chicago. As an AHL rookie, he scored a very strong 46 points in 73 games for Rockford, leading all AHL D in assists with 37, and finishing T-3rd for points. Last year, Clendening finished second in AHL defenseman scoring behind T.J. Brennan, tallying a Rockford Ice Hogs record 12 goals and 47 assists in 74 games.
Clendening’s offensive ability has been described as “special” by his AHL coach, but his defensive ability has been called into question. From ESPN scout Corey Pronman last season:
“The offensive ability with him is truly high-end,” Pronman said. “You don’t lead your AHL team in scoring — one that isn’t bad that is — if that’s not the case. He’s got great puck skills and tremendous offensive instincts. With Clendening, it’s always been about his own-end play and decision-making. The latter I think has improved somewhat, but Chicago will need confidence he will be able to check average NHL forwards before he makes that next jump.”
Pronman had Clendening ranked as the NHL’s 85th best prospect over the summer, which was good for 3rd among Blackhawks and 5th among Canucks, behind Bo Horvat, Hunter Shinkaruk, Jared McCann, and Jake Virtanen. In short, he’s a legitimate high-end prospect with as good a shot as anyone at being a top-4 defender 5, 6, or 7 years down the road. He immediately becomes Vancouver’s best blueline prospect, and likely slots in to their top-6 tomorrow.
Here is Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman and other Chicago brass on Adam Clendening from mid-2013:
Clendening is a very similar player to Forsling in many ways, as both are about the same size and are talented offensive players with questions about their play in their own zone. Chicago likely did not want to deal Clendening, but a cap crunch next season, waiver eligibility concerns, Clendening’s expiring ELC deal, and Forsling’s soaring value thanks to a great World Juniors likely made him available.
Even though Forsling is a very good prospect, I can’t help but think this is a big win for Vancouver. Clendening is closer to NHL ready now, has been more highly regarded than Forsling has, and has a track record of success in a North American pro league. There is likely less risk with Clendening, and likely more upside too.
Clendening has struggled offensively a bit for the Ice Hogs this season, and has one goal and one assist to go along with a 48% Corsi in four NHL games with Chicago. I wouldn’t be too concerned about his AHL slump this season, and he’ll have plenty of time to learn the NHL game in Vancouver. The Clendening era will likely begin in earnest on Sunday, when Vancouver plays host to the Minnesota Wild. Here’s to hoping for a long and prosperous Canucks career for Adam Clendening!
- Click here to see our Prospect Profile for Gustav Forsling from the summer
- Clendening’s AHL stats page
- Second City Hockey on the Clendening/Forsling trade
- Clendening interview from the 2011 Draft Combine (h/t @CaptToeDrag on Twitter)
- Here is Clendening working the Chicago PP on his first NHL goal: