Photo Credit: Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports
Having ranked the Vancouver Canucks’ prospect system as totally average earlier this week, ESPN prospect guru Corey Pronman unveiled his individual top-100 prospects ($) and top-10 goalie prospects ($) on Thursday and four Canucks assets made the cut.
It’s probably not the four you think, either. Click past the jump for a recap of how Vancouver’s prospects fared in Pronman’s league-wide comparative ranking list.
The three Canucks skaters who made the list include Jake Virtanen (27), Brock Boeser (69, nice) and Hunter Shinkaruk (74). That’s not far off from the consensus of our writers, aside from Jared McCann – whom our editorial staff is extremely high on – not making the list at all.
On Virtanen, Pronman points out that the Calgary HItmen power forward had a disappointing draft plus-one campaign, and then proceeds to damn the sixth overall pick at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft with what sure sounds like faint praise.
“His skating is one of the best outside the NHL, he plays the game hard, has a great shot, and above-average hands,” writes Pronman of Virtanen. His hockey IQ may never dazzle anyone, and maybe he makes his living in the NHL just going north to south, but he’s very good at particular parts of the game.”
Obviously Pronman’s praise for Virtanen’s speed and physical tools will excited Canucks fans, and rightfully so, but it’s also worth noting that the #6 overall prospect on this list, Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander, was drafted one spot behind Virtanen. Winnipeg Jets prospect Nikolaj Ehlers similarly ranks as a top-10 prospect on Pronman’s list, and was drafted shortly after Virtanen was also…
On Boeser, Pronman is effusive in his praise for the 2015 first-round picks all-around hockey awareness and his deadly shot in particular. He notes that skating could be a concern for the American-born forward though, but that’s true of so many 17-year-old hockey players, many of whom will add a step in the next couple of years (see: Jenner, Boone or Horvat, Bo) and many more of whom will not (see: Philips, Zach).
Generally speaking Pronman has always been higher on Shinkaruk than the industry consensus, and that persists on this years list, even in spite of Shinkaruk’s tough first season of professional hockey.
“I’m still confused about whether he’s a great or simply fine prospect,” writes Pronman of Shinkaruk. “On his best game, he’s a dynamic playmaker who is unique in terms of his agility and creativity. However, he also disappears for long stretches, with major issues in terms of his physical game and defense.”
I suspect that Shinkaruk’s issues in his first season were a healthy mix of brutal shooting luck early in the year, and were then at least partly usage-related in the latter half. Certainly when he got an opportunity to play with Cal O’Rielly on the Utica Comets’ first line for a few weeks, he lit it up. He also went completely dormant offensively in the postseason while playing on a tertiary line with career grinders Brandon DeFazio and Will Acton.
We’ll learn a lot about Shinkaruk’s game and abilities this upcoming season. It’s a testament to Shinkaruk’s unique skills – particularly his unique and shifty skating ability, and sick wrist shot – that Pronman is cutting him so much slack in spite of a very inconsistent first professional season. If he can bounce back in his sophomore AHL campaign, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him rocket up this list. On the other hand, it’s probably the last year that he gets to stay on it based on overall pedigree and skill level, rather than production.
One final note is that 2014 fifth-round pick Gustav Forsling warranted an honourable mention, and falls somewhere narrowly outside the top-100 prospects on Pronman’s estimation. Forsling, of course, was dealt for Adam Clendening in midseason, and Clendening was then used as a sweetener in the Brandon Sutter trade.
Finally on the goaltending side of the ledger, Canucks top goalie prospect Thatcher Demko has jumped five spots on the top goaltending prospects list – from 12th spot on Pronman’s list last year and 10th spot at midseason, to 7th on this summer’s iteration of the list.
“I’ve heard goalie scouts pick him apart on the technical side, but looking at the big picture, Demko is a big, calm, athletic goaltender with excellent hockey sense who has played at a high level the past few years,” Pronman writes of Demko.
I’ve heard similar things about Demko, I’d add, with Jacob Markstrom comparisons being thrown around occasionally. From what I understand Demko is a big goalie who moves quickly, but can struggle to quickly close all of the holes he naturally creates moving his big body across the crease. This isn’t an uncommon problem in a young goaltender, but NHL shooters can pick that sort of deficiency apart, and Demko will probably have to iron out his technique before he takes the next step.
He’s got plenty of time to do it though and it surely helps that Vancouver’s ability to develop goaltenders during the Rollie Melanson era has been solid (to say the least).
Pronman’s must-read prospect lists – both the top-100 skaters list and the top-10 goalies list – can be read in full at ESPN Insider, which costs a bit of additional premium content coin to access. Trust me: it’s well worth your money. Support quality content!