Source: Vancouver Canucks
The oft-mentioned former Canucks prospect Anton Rodin is currently injured with a skate cut suffered in practice last week. Rodin is expected to miss 6-8 weeks, which means his season in Sweden is likely over; although, a return in time for the playoffs hasn’t been ruled out. These developments don’t seem to have altered the discourse surrounding Rodin, who the Canucks are rumoured to be circling the wagons on.
Rodin has seen his name spent in this space often of late. J.D. Burke suggested this prior to the season that Rodin might be a worthwhile gamble and I reasserted this myself much more recently. Of course, I’ve been advocating for the Canucks former second-round draft pick frequently on several different platforms, for quite some time.
Our interest was merely speculatory at the time though, as there was no telling where the Canucks interests lied with Rodin. The Canucks would have to offer a one-year contract and there was nothing that suggested this was imminent. That’s since changed though, as Jason Botchford dropped this delightful piece of information in last night’s “The Provies”:
Excuse me for one second…
In Rodin, the Canucks have the ability to pick up free money and that’s always a win. This is exactly what we hoped for when Rodin came back on everyone’s radars.
From a roster standpoint, it makes sense for the Canucks to offer Rodin a one-way contract on short-term. Ultimately with Radim Vrbata, Adam Cracknell and Brandon Prust being unrestricted free agents, the Canucks will have an opportunity for Rodin to see if he can translate his success in the SHL into an NHL career. It does create a bit of a crowded top-nine, but that is something that can quickly be solved by relinquishing veterans at the deadline – a discussion for another day.
If this does happen – which would be an extremely good use of resources by the Canucks – the question is, what can we reasonably expect from Anton Rodin?
Some comparisons to come to mind that recently made the leap over the Atlantic include Bud Holloway, Carl Soderberg, and Melker Karlsson. All of these players were successful in the SHL before coming to North America or trying for the first time to make it in the NHL. Prior to his injury, Rodin was averaging 1.15 PPG for Brynas while playing just under 20 minutes a game. When he was on his game, he was shooting a lot and driving Brynas’ finely tuned offensive machine.
Holloway was a former LA Kings draft pick who took his talents to the SHL after struggling to make it in the NHL. Not long after, Holloway won the SHL scoring title in 2012-13 with 1.29 PPG at the age of 25. A slightly higher rate than Rodin, but still a comparable figure; to his credit, Rodin was second (by only one point) in the SHL scoring race prior to his injury. Holloway is currently playing for the St John IceCaps of the AHL and is just under a PPG there. He got into one game with Montreal, where he was held pointless. This would be the low-mark for Rodin. If he doesn’t crack the Canucks roster out of camp, the hope is he would go to the AHL and dominate. The Canucks would be forced to eat salary, but aside from him getting his contract bought out and returning to Sweden, this is the worst case scenario.
Melker Karlsson was an under the radar signing by the San Jose Sharks in the summer of 2014 that paid immediate dividends. Karlsson did come a full year earlier than Rodin would, as Karlsson is five months older then Rodin but had only put up 0.52 PPG before coming over to the bay area. He had a respectable 24 points in 53 games with the Sharks last season. So the Sharks were able to get a middle-six forward, who can play first line minutes, from a player who was averaging less than half what Rodin put up this season. If the Canucks can convince Rodin to make the leap, this would be a safe expectation for Canucks fans. A player who can play throughout the lineup and chip in offensively.
The last comparable is current Colorado Avalanche Carl Soderberg. Although Soderberg is not a very good possession player (43.9% CF%, which isn’t exceptionally awful on the Avalanche), he still has 34 points in 51 games this year after two 40+ point seasons with the Boston Bruins. Aside from him being a centre while Rodin is a winger, he is the most closely aligned to Rodin, having produced an eerily similar 1.11 PPG before coming over. Soderberg was 27 when he made the leap, so Rodin does have a full year and a half on him. This would be a dream scenario: the Canucks add a top-six forward in a ‘found money’ scenario. (Thanks to @jobjoman for his help with those comparables)
This said, Rodin’s strength has been and always will be a concern. He struggled to battle through physical play when he played for the Canucks affiliate Chicago Wolves. There was still the odd flash of skill, though…
Through watching Rodin a few times this season, he has developed his game to handle that physical play and added an element of escapability to his repertoire. He will find that soft spot in coverage and then bury his chance. If he plays with a player like Jake Virtanen, there may be a match as Virtanen will do the battling, so that Rodin can use his skills to be effective.
Rodin will be 25 to start next season, so he’d slot in on the fringes of the developing youth movement. A lot closer to the nucleus, than away, though.
With all players like this, there is always a level of concern of translating success on the larger ice to the North American game. Players are bigger, faster and stronger here, so time and space are at a premium. Rodin has shown enough sustained production in the SHL that the risk well outweighs the cost of the one-way contract.
Signing Rodin would be a great use of resources. If he doesn’t work out, no harm. But if he is able to carry over his offensive success from the SHL, the Canucks just added a piece without giving up anything in the organization.
That should always be considered a win.