When Will Brock Boeser Sign with the Canucks?

If you are
paying attention to the news around the hockey world this summer, you know that 2015
NHL draft picks (primarily first rounders) are being signed in droves over the past few weeks. One player that hasn’t signed is 

Vancouver Canucks prospect Brock Boeser, a forward drafted in the first-round out of the USHL who is committed to the University of North Dakota.

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NCAA
athletes take a slightly-different development path in sports, since the NCAA has
strict rules on who is and is not an amateur athlete while leagues do their best
to continue to allow their prospects maintain the eligible status.

With that
it leaves us to wonder when will the Canucks will sign Brock Boeser to an entry-level contract?

“The Enigmatic
NCAAer”

In order to
maintain amateur status in the NCAA, players are not signed to an entry-level contract until they are ready to leave school. 
This is risky for teams since, after August 15th of their class’ graduate
year, if the prospect is not signed to a contract then they are eligible to
become an Unrestricted Free Agent and can sign with any team they choose.

From the Collective Bargaining Agreement:

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8.6 (c) (iv)

If a Player drafted at age 18
or 19, who had received a Bona Fide Offer in accordance with Section
8.6(a)(ii) above, becomes a bona fide college student prior to the
second June 1 following his selection in the Entry Draft and does not remain a bona fide college student through the graduation of his college class, his drafting Club shall retain exclusive rights for the negotiation of his services until the later of:

(a) the fourth June 1 following his selection in the Entry Draft,

or (b) thirty (30) days after NHL Central Registry receives notice that the Player is no longer a bona fide college student;

provided that **IF** the Player ceases to be a bona fide college student on or after January 1 of an academic year and the Player:

(1) is in his fourth year of college and has commenced his fourth year of NCAA eligibility,

or (2) is in his fourth year of college and is scheduled to graduate from college at the end of his fourth year,
then in the circumstances described in (1) or (2), the Club shall
retain the exclusive right of negotiation for such Player’s services through and including the August 15 following the date on which he ceases to be a bona fide college student.

We’ve seen
this many times and it seems to have become more popular for hockey players to choose
this route.  Basically if a prospect is not signed by
the end of their fourth year, it becomes an attractive proposition for them to play their fourth year, wait until August 15th, and then
sign with any team they choose. Blake
Wheeler refused to sign with Phoenix and signed with Boston instead. Justin Schultz would not sign with Anaheim
and signed with Edmonton. The list
continues with names such as Kevin Hayes, Zach Hymen, Mike Riley, and the names just keep on flowing.

This leaves
teams in a tricky situation as they want to sign their prospect as early as
possible, to risk not losing them, but they don’t want to pull them out of the
NCAA until they are ready.

The
Sophmore Class

To get an
idea of what this space is like, the best place to start is to look at
history.  I pulled all USHL/NCAA drafted
forwards, from the first round, between 2004 and 2011.  This era of time was selected as it was part
of the salary-cap era and players have been given plenty of development time to
guess their future.  The players are as
follows:

Year Player Position Pick NCAA Yrs Points GP PPG Next Season
2004 Travis Zajac C 20 2 47 46 1.02 NHL
2004 Kris Chucko RW 24 2 13 33 0.39 AHL
2005 TJ Oshie RW 24 3 45 42 1.07 NHL
2005 Andrew Cogliano C 25 3 50 38 1.32 NHL
2006 Trevor Lewis C 17 0 75 56 1.34 OHL
2007 Riley Nash C 21 3 35 30 1.17 AHL
2007 Max Pacioretty LW 22 1 39 37 1.05 AHL/NHL
2007 Patrick White C 25 4 10 27 0.37 Germany
2007 Jim O’Brien C 29 1 15 43 0.35 WHL
2008 Joe Colborne C 16 2 41 39 1.05 AHL
2008 Daultan Leveille C 29 4 9 21 0.43 ECHL
2009 Louis Leblanc C 18 1 23 31 0.74 QMJHL
2009 Chris Kreider LW 19 3 45 44 1.02 AHL/NHL
2009 Jordan Schroeder C 22 2 28 37 0.76 AHL
2009 Kyle Palmieri RW 26 1 17 33 0.52 AHL/NHL
2010 Nick Bjugstad C 19 3 36 40 0.90 NHL
2010 Beau Bennett RW 20 2 13 10 1.30 AHL/NHL
2010 Riley Sheahan C 21 3 25 37 0.68 AHL
2010 Kevin Hayes C 24 4 65 40 1.63 NHL
2010 Charlie Coyle RW 28 2 14 16 0.88 QMJHL
2010 Brock Nelson C 30 2 47 42 1.12 AHL
2011 Tyler Biggs RW 22 1 17 37 0.46 OHL
2011 JT Miller C 15 0 15 21 0.71 OHL

On average
NCAA forwards have signed their contract and left the NCAA after 2.13 years
of playing college hockey.  What
is interesting is, where the player spends their next full season is highly
predictive of how their career will go.

NCAA
players who spend the next full season in the AHL (or lower) rarely (in this
sample) become better than AHL regulars. 
Players who spend the next full season in the NHL or split half of the
season between AHL and NHL typically become NHL regulars.  This makes sense as by this time the player
is 20 or 21 they should be ready for the NHL if they’ll ever be, which is similar to a CHLer who would spend
the 2 seasons post-draft in the CHL.

Also its interesting to note is that in this sample players are typically signed to a
contract when they are scoring around 0.9 – 1.1 points/game in the NCAA.

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Brock
Boeser

Using our
PCS database we can identify two players in this sample who are most similar to
Boeser: Louis Leblanc and Kyle Okposo. 
Leblanc finished his season in the USHL and spent 1 year in the NCAA
playing for Harvard. He left school
early to play in the QMJHL before splitting the following season between the
AHL and NHL. Since then his career has
trended downhill.

The second
player, Kyle Okposo, who left the USHL with a scoring rate more similar to
Boeser.  He played two seasons in the
WCHA with the University of Minnesota before splitting the season between the
AHL and NHL. Since then he has become
quite a good regular player for the New York Islanders and looks to be a
marquee free agent next summer.

Looking
back to Brock Boeser, we can start to identify what
his future is most likely to look like. 
Ultimately it depends how Boeser performs and develops in the NCAA but
it is most likely to see him sign with the Canucks in the summer of 2017, or
two years from now and slightly less likely is signing in 2018 – again all
depends how he performs.

Right now
the Canucks have to hope that he develops more similarly to Kyle Okposo than
Louis Leblanc.

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  • elvis15

    A bit of a weird choice for an article since we aren’t expecting him to sign this summer like other 1st rounders. Or maybe it’s just the title and the topic of when and how he’d be eligible to be signed is a useful discussion to keep people from freaking out he’ll pull a Justin Schultz.

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    Again the “comparables” drive me crazy!

    The kid hasn’t even played one minute in college and he is being compared to a FA next year or a guy named LeBlanc? Seems like hedging… He is either going to be a success or failure? Hmmmmm!

    Can you compare Brock’s teammates vs Kyle’s, level of competition, work ethic, future coaching, height and weight gained over the next 3 years?? Would people be as excited about Cole Cassels if he hadn’t competed against Conner McDavid this past playoff.

    This on going attempt to predict the future is entertaining if not futile. I’m not a scientist, but I play one on Hockey blogs. It seems to me that Brock, Kyle and Louis are three completely different people that played in completely different times with and against completely different USHL players. It’s a numbers version of the eye test. His size, skill and style remind me of………

    Entertains though guys.

    • elvis15

      I wish these guys would stop writing every bloody article so it reads like a spread sheet. Hockey is more than just numbers. As Charles Barkley says, “Analytics are for computer nerds that want to get into sports”.

      • elvis15

        Tony Gallagher just wrote a column in the Province about useless stats and Linden Vey said in a TSN interview that on other levels of hockey you don’t have to “bring it” every night. Determination and work ethic can’t be quantified.

        Wonder how many Trashes my first post will get… A record probably!

        • elvis15

          I can’t remember who said it but one player noted that the difference between the NHL and major junior was that in junior, you could afford to take long shifts and float because of a lower level of competition. When he transitioned to the NHL, the shifts were far more intense and significantly shorter. I took that as meaning lazier players can succeed in junior but when you’re at the NHL, you need to be disciplined and bring your A-game every night or you’ll be a noticeable liability to the team.

      • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

        Guys like you and JFR make me laugh.

        Would you go to an airport and complain they don’t have any trains to your chosen destination? Would you walk into a Korean restaurant and complain they don’t have any chili dogs?

        Because that’s exactly what you’re doing here.

        Canucks Army is a blog about Canucks hockey with a statistical and analytical leaning. Simply put, you’re clearly reading the wrong site for your tastes. There’s plenty of other sites out there (actually, pretty much all other Canucks sites now that I think about it) where the guy writing it used to play in junior and writes about intangibles like grit, intensity, leadership and how stupid nerds that have “never played the game, man” are for coming up with these spreadsheets and trying to quantify things when they could obviously just watch the game.

        Go read one of those instead of complaining on Canucks Army comment boards that their writers aren’t just doing what everyone else does and leave them and us readers who enjoy it to our numbers. We won’t bother you, I promise. We won’t hurt you, we’ll just enjoy our spreadsheets and graphs in peace.

  • elvis15

    One thing I do like about Bennings draft picks, especially the higher ones, are their personalities. Benning drafts leaders and hard workers.

    Guys like Kassian are always bigger stronger and faster than their competition at every level until they get to the NHL. it’s like the kid that gets A’s and doesn’t have to study in Middle or High School, but then goes to Harvard and can’t compete.

    Intangibles like work ethic and leadership won’t be quantified anytime soon.

  • elvis15

    The above posts are all correct about work ethic and intensity and how they apply at the junior level compared to the NHL. As far as the title thread is concerned, the Canucks and Boeser will both know when the time is right to sign. The Canucks and Brock will both agree when the time is right to take his game to the next level. Much the same way they are doing with Thatcher Demko. This is not rocket science.

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    What an odd article. You might put into context that Wheeler and Schultz are the exception not the rule. A ton of players get drafted play a couple of years or more in the NCAA and then sign with their teams; more of the high end ones don’t always graduate but make the jump in their junior season. It’s hardly a risky strategy – you write this as though the Canucks are raking a risk on Boeser because he’s a college player – does that mean Eichel and Hanifin shouldn’t have been drafted or we should engage in idle speculation about when they’ll be signed? Or that Winnipeg-widely credited with one of the best drafts this year-were fools to draft four USHL grads heading to the NCAA? What a non story. If you want to write something interesting perhaps analyze the success rate of players taking the U.S. developmental leagues to college route.