It is said that Canucks GM Jim Benning never drafts a player he hasn’t seen in person, so when it was announced that he would be on an extended east coast scouting trip last week, I thought it would be fun to follow along and see if we can learn a little bit about who the Canucks may target based on Benning’s in-person viewings.
After catching Windsor and Erie play last week, Benning was off to Sarnia to catch the Sting play the Saginaw Spirit, two teams that are neck and neck in the OHL’s West division standings.
Sarnia went on to beat the visitors 3-1, but more importantly, this was an opportunity to catch Jakob Chychrun in person, arguably the most likely prospect to go number 2 overall in the 2016 draft, a player I profiled recently in my piece on PCS juggernauts.
Jakob Chychrun – D – Sarnia Sting (GP 18, G: 4, A: 8, Pts: 12, PCS pace: 43% PCS)
It was none other than Jakob Chychrun who opened the scoring with a lethal wrist shot. Not a great look for Saginaw here, as we see Chychrun cruise in from the blue line to receive a near perfect pass from undrafted overager Dan Nikandrov who was just traded to Peterborough. When Chychrun has that much time and that much space, he’s going to make good use of it:
Next we see a nice net front presence from 2017 draft eligible center, Ryan McGregor, who finds himself in the right spot to pop in a rebound. It will be interesting to see how his year progresses since the Sting have sent former Captain Dan Nikandrov to Peterborough, which should open up more ice time for McGregor. So far McGregor has 4 points in his first 15 games.
Keaton Middleton – D – Saginaw Spirit (GP 18, G 1, A 2, Pts 3, PCS pace 9% PCS)
The Spirit finally got on the board due to this power play snipe from Keaton Middleton, his first goal of the year.
Middleton is a pretty interesting prospect. Weighing in at 6’6 and 235 lbs, there’s clearly no doubts that he has NHL size, and according to CHLstats.com, he’s second among Spirit defensemen in estimated ice time. Given that he doesn’t produce much offensively, we can infer that he’s looked to for his defensive acumen. At a 9% PCS, it’s not completely unprecedented for a player like Middleton to go on to be an NHLer. Would this be the type of guy Benning would target with a late pick as he did with Mackenze Stewart in 2014?
Takeaways from Benning’s Eyes
I can’t say this game would have really changed many perceptions for the 2016 draft eligible prospects. Jakob Chychrun once again lived up to his top billing, although I doubt the Canucks will be in a position to draft him, unless things really come up Torts. The truth is that this one was a bit of a snooze-fest, especially in the second frame where the two teams combined for only 11 shots.
I was hoping to see more from finish defensemen, Markus Niemelainen (PCS pace 26%), but other than finding himself swimming on the Chychrun goal, he had a pretty quiet game.
Middleton was the surprise for me in this game. He isn’t really a guy that should be on the Canucks radar, but he had a pretty strong game in this one and picked a pretty good night to score his first goal of the year. Will he be the type of project that Benning gambles with on with a 7th rounder? I guess we’ll see.
Benning Eye for the Stats Guy Prospect of the Game: Jakob Chychrun
Others in this series: