First Look: Canucks Acquire Sven Baertschi from the Calgary Flames

Moments after Monday’s NHL trade deadline had passed, Trader Jim pulled another prospect out of left field, trading Vancouver’s second round pick in this year’s NHL entry draft to the division rival Calgary Flames for young forward and 13th overall pick in the 2011 NHL entry draft: Sven Baertschi. Baertschi seemed to have fallen out of favour with the Flames brass of late, as he never really received a fair shot under Bob Hartley after an extremely promising CHL and AHL career.

What kind of asset are the Canucks acquiring in Sven Baertschi? Is he another Linden Vey? What’s the value of the pick they’re giving up? Find out after the jump.

Baertschi in Junior

Joining current Utica Comets head coach Travis Green with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks as a 17-year old in 2010-11, Baertschi scored 85 points in 66 games, good for a very impressive 1.29 Pts/GP. As a very old player in his age group, his age and era adjusted points per game was less impressive at 1.03 Pts/GP, which is a similar total to other former 13th overall picks like Shane Doan and Daniel Cleary. Jordan Eberle, Mikkel Boedker, Tyler Ennis, Radim Vrbata, Mark Scheifele, and Patrice Bergeron were also comparable at 17 years old, though guys like Eberle and Bergeron outpaced his development shortly thereafter.

Baertschi showed significant positive growth in his Draft+1 season, scoring an astounding 94 points in just 47 games, roughly matching the age and era adjusted output of P-A Parenteau, Joffrey Lupul, Bryan Little, Alex Tanguay, Jason Pominville and Mathieu Perreault. With a strong scouting pedigree too, Baertschi looked well on his way to be a future top-6 winger on a good team, but likely not quite a cornerstone piece.

It’s also worth noting that while most guys that produce like Baertschi did in the CHL eventually play in the NHL, not all of them become stars, or even regular players. Certainly there’s still the risk with Baertschi that he doesn’t take the next step and follows the path of guys like Cory Emmerton, Pavel Brendl, and Brett Lindros.

Baertschi in the AHL

Baertschi started off his AHL career very strongly, scoring 10 goals and 16 assists in 32 games with the Abbotsford Heat in 2012-13, and added 10 points in 20 NHL games with the Calgary Flames as a call-up. ESPN’s Corey Pronman wrote this about Baertschi at the end of that season:

Year in Review: Baertschi was arguably the top offensive player on his AHL team. After being called up, he was just decent at the NHL level, as he clearly went through an adjustment period.
The Good: Baertschi is a very well-rounded offensive player, with the ability to dazzle. He displays great creativity with the puck, showing high-end puck skills to couple with his top-of-the-line hockey sense and finishing skill. Baertschi is also energetic and speedy, with grit, and he gives it his all every shift, while working hard in the corners.
The Bad: Size is Baertschi’s only real weakness, as he can struggle at times in the physical game despite his good work ethic. He needs to gain a lot of bulk while continuing to adjust to the pro game.
Projection: He could be an average top line forward.

Unfortunately, his offensive output stagnated shortly thereafter, as he scored at a rate of 0.71 pts/GP in 2013-14 and 0.62 Pts/GP this season. It’s definitely concerning, and likely the reason why the Flames soured on him, but we know offense can be fickle and it’s not out of the question that Baertschi’s just in a prolonged slump. Of course, it’s also possible that Baertschi’s rookie AHL season was percentage-driven too.

His “disappointing” year this season is still a higher rate than any current Canucks prospect has scored at in the AHL since the still-young Linden Vey, and it alone would place him around the top-5 Canucks prospects, and that’s to say nothing for his impressive pedigree.

Baertschi in the NHL

Baertschi’s HERO chart isn’t exactly inspiring, but it’s what you’d expect to see from a young player playing on a pretty poor team:

Baertschi

Since his rookie season in 2012-13, Baertschi has spent most of his 5-on-5 time with another promising young player in Sean Monahan, and a more veteran forward in Jiri Hudler. Monahan isn’t exactly a strong possession player either (his HERO chart looks surprisingly similar to Baertschi’s), and while 43% CF% looks brutal on paper, Baertschi’s CorsiRel isn’t actually that poor. In fact, he’s doing about as well as the rest of the Flames are, so his possession numbers are being pretty heavily influenced by his teammates. In terms of Stephen Burtch’s dCorsi metric, Baertschi has had a positive impact compared to what could be expected of him, given his teammates, zone starts, opponents, and situations.

His scoring has been strong, but his shot rate could also stand to be better too. Some of this is Calgary being unable to generate shots on the whole, but some of this is also on Baertschi. With more shots and an uptick in personal shooting percentage, goals will come as it is.

Going to Calgary

There are definitely some promising CHLers that project to be available around where Vancouver’s 2015 2nd rounder will be, but it’s not really accurate to say that the quality of players available this season in that range is exceptionally different than in years past. In fact, the only forward that should be available in the second round and seems to have a really strong chance at becoming the player Baertschi still could be is Anthony Beauvillier, and other than that, you’re likely looking at a lot of depth and mid-to-low roster guys.

Some of the guys I had on my radar in the middle of the second round other than Beauvillier included D Ryan Pilon, F Dennis Yan, F Nikita Korostelev, D Mitchell Vande Sompel, F Dmytro Timashov, D Nicholas Meloche, D Parker Wotherspoon, D Noah Juulsen, and D Rasmus Andersson. I’m a big fan of Andersson, Vande Sompel, and Pilon in particular, but given his production thus far in his career as well as his pedigree, I’d rate Baertschi as the more promising asset of all of these guys, though I’d be given pause for Beauvillier.

All in all, Calgary is going to be hard pressed to not only find an impact NHLer with the pick Vancouver has dealt them, but to find a better asset than what Sven Baertschi currently is. Flames GM Brad Treliving confirmed on TSN that Baertschi had requested a trade away from the Flames and was unwilling to re-sign with the Flames this offseason as a RFA, so perhaps that had a role in driving his price down too. Given that a player in a similar situation in Brett Connolly netted Tampa Bay two second round picks, Vancouver looks like they came out with a pretty good deal.

Conclusion

Baertschi will report to the Utica Comets, presumably until the end of this season, where he will help Cal O’Reilly and newly acquired Cory Conacher lead the Comets attack into the playoffs and be a huge upgrade on a guy like Nicklas Jensen. Jim Benning will obviously work to sign him to a bridge deal in the near future, and lock him up for years to come.

While it’s looking unlikely that Baertschi can still develop into a high-end first-line winger, he’s still young enough that explosive improvement is possible. Hell, Nino Niederreiter was in a similar situation and was traded for less, but has developed into a very good middle-6 scoring and play driving winger after a change of scenery. This is the type of player the Canucks will look for Baertschi to become, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Playing devil’s advocate, Niederreiter is also virtually the same age as Baertschi, but began making huge strides last season. This isn’t a zero-risk pickup for the Canucks, and it’s not the clear win we think the Forsling-Clendening trade could be either. Still, Baertschi has very, very good upside, and should grow into an extremely nice complementary scorer if everything goes well, similar to a Radim Vrbata or Joffrey Lupul. It won’t be until 5-6 years down the road when we can definitively say who won this deal, but as it stands today, I like Vancouver’s chances.

Some highlights for you: