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Bringing us down into the single digits of prospects within the Vancouver Canucks’ pool is Ronalds Ķēniņš.
Kenins is such a good prospect that even his own name is plural. Ronalds Kenins is so sneaky good that in the mid-term review and in last summers review Kenins did not even make the top-20. Quantum leaps forward are possible though when you start the season in the bottom-6 in Utica and end it in the NHL, scoring key playoff goals.
Having seemingly come out of no where, let’s continue past the jump to see what we have in this Olympic Latvian.
While Kenins went undrafted, he continued to play in the Swiss junior and Tier 2 senior leagues producing over a point a game. In his 20-year-old season, Kenins jumped to the top senior Swiss league, the National League A. After putting up 17 points in 45 game he was signed by the Canucks to an entry-level contract as a 21-year-old (and thanks to Marc Crawford for pointing him out to Vancouver).
Due to having a contract with the Zurich Lions, Kenins remained in Switzerland for one more year where his team won the league championship and he put up 4 goals in 18 playoff games. Kenins’ resume also includes a tonne of international hockey experiences, as the young forward has played on Latvia’s World Junior team, U18 World Junior team, representing Latvia at the National level, the Olympics Qualifiers, and even at the Olympics joining the elite group of Canuck Olympians in 2014.
Last season was Kenins’ first season in North America and he had quite the year. Kenins started the year in Utica playing in a depth forward role. In that time he scored 5 goals and 7 assists in 36 games – nothing that really jumps off of the page.
Halfway through the season Kenins was the “unlikely” player to first receive a call-up when Vancouver started to get bit by injuries. After receiving his call up, Kenins managed to make himself stand out by scoring 4 goals and 8 assists in 30 games (all even-strength, 10.53% shooting percentage). He was also called upon to skate in 5 playoff games where he scored a goal and an assist.
At even-strength Kenins was averaging 12:03 a game, so he was logging serious minutes. While his possession numbers were not positive (47%) this looks to be a factor of teammates, as his CF% relative to his regular line-mates was positive (0.6%). Kenins’ most common linemates were Jannik Hansen and Bo Horvat (and that fourth-line was really good), with Lucas Sbisa as his most common defenceman on the ice.
forward who plays every shift with a lot of dynamic and high intensity.
Ronald Kenins creates scoring chances using his explosive acceleration
and good speed. Battles hard for the puck and is not afraid to go into
hot areas to score goals. He has a lot of offensive upside and is a
perfect addition to an energy line. (Rafik Soliman, Elite Prospects)
Kenins continues to be a unique case for PCS% given that a relatively small number of players from the Swiss system have emerged to become long time NHLers. This is why we aren’t able to say much on his past, but given his season in the AHL and NHL it’s likely the Canucks found a gem. One name that kept coming up in his cohort from his NLA days is Damien Brunner.
Using his NHL comparables from PCS some of the names that pop up from his past season include Christian Berglund, Alex Steen, Jan Bulis, Jay McClement, Maxime Talbot, and many other well-known players. His AHL cohorts based on his PCS data from the past season include lesser known players Brandon Prust, Marc Crawford, Eric Nystrom, Paul Bissonnette, and Alex Burrows. It’s more likely he will turn out like the players in the AHL cohort, in my opinion. His PCS% for his 23-year-old AHL season was 10.36%, but it’s definitely starting to look like he is part of the 10% that make it.
In only a year Kenins has jumped from a relatively unknown to a prospect who is looking to be an energy third-liner who can improve his teammates and score. After this past year’s performance Kenins received a one-year one-way NHL deal and will start in Vancouver. Should he continue to play like he has he will easily earn himself a larger payday and a longer contract next summer. Should he falter he can easily be returned to Utica (risking waivers) and be replaced by a younger prospects.