Photo Credit: Twitter / @zalews73
The Canucks have signed forward Mike Zalewski to an NHL contract. Zalewski, a 6-foot-2 centreman, has played the last season and a half as a member of the Utica Comets. He’s moving up the ranks, most recently being deployed as the top line center with the absence of Linden Vey.
Zalewski had been playing on an AHL deal to this point, but with the trade of Nicklas Jensen, the demotion of Chris Higgins, and the drama with Brandon Prust, the Canucks may have felt that they needed to shore up potential call up depth. Zalewski has certainly earned that honour.
— Scott Bartlett (@SCGscott) January 20, 2016
This is actually Zalewski’s second NHL contract with the Canucks, having signed his first one out of college at the conclusion of the 2013-14. He even played two games at the conclusion in that campaign and earned an assist, his lone NHL point.
Zalewski was also technically under contract with the Canucks last season, but compiled just three goals and nine assists in 55 games in 2014-15. As a result, he was not given another NHL deal and instead signed with the Comets at the beginning of this season.
Zalewski has looked like a new man this year. Two weeks ago, I labeled him as the Player of the Week for the Comets in my January 5th Weekly Report. In about two thirds of the games played this season, Zalewski has already shattered his goals and points totals from his rookie year. After 36 games, he he eight goals and nine assists for 17 points.
“With one year of pro hockey under your belt, you come in hungrier for offense,” Zalewski said earlier in the year. “On top of that, I try to keep focus on the little things.”
Those little things are endearing him to Utica head coach Travis Green, and that can really take you places in this organization. “ I think he’s close to being a guy who can be a consistent scorer for us,” Green said in the above article. “He’s becoming really reliable for us. He’s starting to find his way defensively, as well.”
The scoring touch that he seems to have stumbled upon is among the most impressive things about the Comets this season. Check out this goal that Zalewski scored: it was short handed in more ways than one.
Almost as impressive are his advanced stats. Zalewski is third among Comets regulars in on-ice goals-for ratio (GF%). With a GF% of 60.6 per cent, he trails only Hunter Shinkaruk and Taylor Fedun. His estimated points per 60 minutes is 1.96, also good for third among Comets who have played at least ten games.
The eTOI metric suggests that he’s been playing about 14 and a half minutes per game. That’s probably a fairly accurate assessment, as he spent a lot of the earlier parts of the season in the bottom six. He has consistently been one of Travis Green’s main penalty killers (often paired with either Alex Friesen or Brendan Gaunce), and has been seeing more and more power play time, mostly on the second unit.
When I wrote about Zalewski in the aforementioned weekly report, I noted that it would be hard to consider him a prospect because he wasn’t on an NHL deal. Well that’s changed now, and although most people aren’t going to be jumping out of their seats to see Mike Zalewski, he still has the potential to work his way into an NHL club’s bottom six some day. At just 23 years old and producing at about 0.5 points per game, it puts him in a similar spot as Alex Grenier. At 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, he’s got some good size to him as well.
If the Canucks do end up getting actively involved at the trade deadline this season, Zalewski might be a guy that they give a short look to if injuries occur late in the season.
— General Fanager (@generalfanager) January 20, 2016
With the addition of the Zalewski deal, the Canucks are now at 47 contracts out of the 50 contract limit.