Here at Canucks Army, we love three things more than anything in the
world: prospects, prospect rankings, and whining about prospect
rankings. Every summer we vote on and rank the top-20 Canucks prospects to
take stock of what’s in the system, and every summer we hear vocal
complaints from our readers they disagree with our rankings.
So this year, in our mid-term ranking, we gave you the chance to vote on prospects and
have a say on these players. Since our summer rankings, we’ve
simplified the definition of “prospect” to any player in the Vancouver
Canucks’ system that is eligible for the Calder Trophy if they were to
play in the NHL this year. This means that players like Linden Vey and
Joacim Eriksson who were not rated over the summer will be covered in
Without further adieu, here are the Canucks prospects that were rated 6th and 5th.
#6 – Linden Vey
Previous Ranking: Unranked
Coming in to the regular season, we were relatively bullish on Linden Vey’s chances to become a strong and consistent contributor to Vancouver’s middle-6 forward group and based on his very strong production with the Manchester Monarchs the past few seasons, didn’t see a regular second line role as out of the question. Unfortunately, Vey hasn’t quite performed as expected, struggling to find his game at the NHL level.
His puck possession game in particular was weak early in the season, but he has since appeared more at home after being moved to right wing on a more consistent basis. Vey has also been steadily improving his possession game all season, and had a strong month of January in terms of shot differentials, finishing the month with a 52.1% Corsi.
Offensively, Vey has been a bit of a sinkhole at even strength, and as a pass-first type of player, doesn’t appear to be a natural fit on the first powerplay unit either. Suffice to say, Vey has so far fallen a bit short of our initial outlook. From October 12th, 2014:
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.
Vey is currently on a per-game pace that would put him at 30 points over an 82-game season, which isn’t too far off from what we thought he’d generate. What is concerning though is that Vey is dead last among all regular Canucks forwards in 5-on-5 points per 60 at 1.1, which is below even the much maligned and unlucky-until-recently Zack Kassian.
The young forward is T-13th in NHL rookie scoring with 18 points on the year, but at 23 years old, Vey is inching closer and closer to the “he is what he is” point in his career. Zack Kassian has been around long enough to tantalize and frustrate Canucks fans, and he is just six months older than the former Medicine Hat Tiger. In that sense, Vey likely doesn’t have a lot of untapped upside left.
But, as with all young players, there is still room to grow. The highlight video above showed what type of player a confident Vey can be – a slick playmaker and opportunistic shooter, similar to what Mason Raymond provided Vancouver’s second line five years ago. In the latter portion of the season, the Canucks will be banking on continued improvement from Vey in all aspects of his game, in hopes that he can build on his solid January and add some much needed offense at 5-on-5.
#5 – Jared McCann
Previous Ranking: 6th
Despite my initial reluctance at the pick last summer, I’ve been higher on McCann than most other writers here at Canucks Army. I had him ranked 3rd among all Canucks prospects back in August, and was extremely tempted to place the 18-year old centre second in the Canucks’ system behind Bo Horvat in the mid-term re-ranking. Like Horvat, McCann has seen his boxcars jump to 1.35 points per game in his draft+1 season, and is a main cog in the engine of an OHL powerhouse.
The Greyhounds look primed to take a run at the Memorial Cup this season, and added high-end OHLers Nick Ritchie, Anthony DeAngelo, and Justin Bailey at the trade deadline. McCann was a major factor in putting the Hounds in this position, as his two-way game has remained extremely effective while he has also grown into one of the more dangerous offensive players in the OHL too, just as his former GM Kyle Dubas predicted in the summer time:
The numbers are the numbers, they don’t lie. Jared will be the first to say, as I have seen him say quite often to the press, that he was not happy with his offensive production. As detailed above as he asserts himself up in the play and hits the net more, you’re going to see his offensive totals really take off. Sheldon has spent a lot of his off-season breaking down every single shift Jared had at even strength and has a plethora of development areas which will only add to Jared’s offensive prowess and be really exciting to watch.
The 1.35 points/GP I mentioned earlier is good for 19th best in the OHL, and virtually identical to Bo Horvat’s scoring rate from just one year ago. We know that the comparisons for Bo Horvat included guys like Mike Peca, Ryan O’Reilly, Mike Fisher, and Brandon Saad at the very high end, and Raffi Torres, Jonathan Cheechoo, Mikkel Boedker, Jan Bulis, and Wojtek Wolski in the mid-range, so we can infer that there players are fairly accurate comparables for McCann too.
McCann’s strong offensive development this season hasn’t come at the expense of his two-way game either, as noted by OHL scout Todd Cordell:
Jared McCann is one of the best two-way forwards in his draft class. He’s a very good skater who reaches top speed in a hurry, and is the definition of a 200-foot player. He’s strong on the back check, is always back to be an outlet for his defenseman and is excellent on the penalty kill. McCann has a high hockey IQ, understands his responsibilities on the ice and is always in position defensively. With the puck, he reads plays exceptionally well and has good vision with the puck. He regularly sets up his teammates using his vision and good playmaking ability. McCann possesses good puck handling skills and uses them create chances for himself or get a lane to utilize his high-end wrist shot, which is both powerful and accurate. He’s relentless in pursuit of the puck, and when it’s on his stick good things tend to happen.
McCann doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses in his game. He’s not an elite offensive player, so he won’t put up huge numbers at the NHL level, and he needs to put on some weight, but there isn’t much that should prevent him from being an effective NHL player. McCann projects to be a possession driving two-way forward who can produce some offense and play in all aspects of the game
There isn’t a particularly good reason why McCann should be regarded in a lesser light than fellow Canucks first-rounder Bo Horvat, and it’s well within the realm of possibility that McCann turns out to be the better player of the two four or five years down the road. His defensive game remains well-rounded and projects well to a bottom-9 role at the NHL level, and he is still harnessing offensive tools that could give him middle-6 offensive upside as well.
Jared McCann may have the benefit of being the first line centre on a stacked Soo Greyhounds team, but a large part of the reason why the Hounds are so stacked is that Jared McCann is their first line centre. Here’s to hoping that McCann’s season ends with a Memorial Cup run.
Stay tuned for part six of this series, which will run on Friday and cover the 4th ranked prospect in Vancouver’s system!