With the NHL draft fast approaching, there should be no stone left unturned and that includes overage players. This past season, the Canucks only invited four players to Young Stars. All four players were undrafted, but were players that the Canucks may have had some interest in and were looking to have a bigger sample size to evaluate them.
Former Canucks Army writer and current Florida Panthers employee Josh Weissbock, looked at these players in early November, so I figured we should take a quick gander at their full seasons and see if they are worth possibly drafting or signing as free agents now that the season is over.
Rodrigo Abols made the jump to the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL this season with hopes of catching some NHL teams eyes. He didn’t have a bad season per se but didn’t bust down the doors. Abols was someone who many fans were interested in, simply because he was a big bodied (6’5″ and 185 lbs) player who skated very well and seemed to use his size effectively. He had shown well in the KHL and MHL before, outscoring Canucks prospect Lukas Jasek at the same age.
As Josh mentions, he started the WHL season off with a bang with 11 points in the first 11 games, but it fell off from there, where he posted just 38 points in the 51 games that followed. 49 points, including 20 goals, in 62 games is a decent pass, but given that he is almost 20 years old, you would hope for better production.
He did represent Latvia in the D1 U20 WJH and posted 5 points in 5 games – which isn’t surprising given his size, experience and level of competition in the division below the championships. Abols also represented Latvia at the World Championships in May, where he was held to one assist in 7 games.
Given all of this, Abols pGPS took a massive plummet finishing the season at 2.78% (n=36). For reference sake, when Josh used PCS in November, Abols was at 14.37% (n=160).
Given his lacklustre production and how pGPS reflects on him, I think Abols isn’t someone that should be on the Canucks radar anymore. Which is disappointing, as the excitement for him was valid at the time.
On the opposite side of the spectrum is Prince Albert Raiders centre and occasional winger Reid Gardiner.
Throughout the Young Stars, Gardiner was playing a limited bottom six role, but he was noticeable. Using his speed to create chances, including this goal against the Winnipeg Jets:
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) September 13, 2015
He went back to the WHL and tore it up, posting 23 points in the first 13 games on his way to finishing the season with 92 points in 71 games. Those 92 points were 9th in the WHL, while his 43 goals were ranked 5th. Lastly, 80.4% of his points were primary points – which is right in the wheelhouse of what you are looking for.
Gardiner is a little on the smaller side, measuring in at 5’11”, but he has the speed, work ethic and tenacity that he should be able to overcome his size at the AHL level.
He is ranked as the 173rd North American Skater the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.
Using our trusty pGPS, we find that 23.76% (n=101) of Gardiner’s matches went onto being NHL regulars. That is a very good rate, that should make teams consider taking a flyer on him.
Given his production, skill-set and very favourable pGPS rating, Gardiner may be worth a late round flyer, as you will not get any better gambles in the 6th or 7th round. If he does pass through the draft again, which is likely, the Canucks would be wise to invite him to development camp again and then possibly offer an AHL contract. (which is one of the main benefits of owning your AHL team)
Jon Martin was invited to the Canucks Young Stars roster after posting 24 points in 56 games in 2014-15 with the Kootenay Ice. He was mostly unnoticeable in Penticton and returned to Kootenay for the 2015-16 season.
Martin was in his D+3 season, thus a UFA – whereas Abols and Gardiner just completed their D+2, thus are eligible for the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.
He was traded to the Swift Current Broncos early in the season and exploded offensively, finishing the season with 73 points in 70 games between the two WHL clubs. That offensive output caught the attention of a couple of NHL clubs, and Martin was signed as a UFA by the San Jose Sharks.
He played 11 games of regular season and playoff action in the AHL to end the season where he was held pointless.
What is surprising is that Martin’s pGPS is only 7.3% – so the rate of success isn’t high. But like any overage CHL UFA, the odds are stacked against them. I don’t think the Canucks missed out here, as Martin didn’t show a track record of offence and only saw the higher output when he was much older than most of his competition.
A goalie that has been invited to Young Stars for two years, Jackson Whistle is obviously someone the Canucks have been keeping an eye on.
After leading the Kelowna Rockets to the WHL Championship and to the finals in the Memorial Cup in 2014-15, Whistle was either going to turn pro or return to the WHL for his overage season with hopes of re-capturing the title.
Whistle was decent at the Young Stars tournament but did ultimately return to the WHL and appeared in 27 games for the Rockets. He was injured in February, required two separate surgeries to repair torn labrum muscles in his hips and missed the remainder of the season and playoffs.
It was a very unfortunate situation for a player looking to make an impression.
Personally, I always felt that Whistle was worth an AHL contract over Clay Witt, who was the other goalie invited to Young Stars and who the Canucks signed to an AHL deal and then spent the majority of the season in the ECHL where he won 2 games and posted a 3.80 GAA and 0.833 SV%.
Now the Canucks have added Thatcher Demko and Michael Garteig to their organization, and Whistle has committed to attend University of Alberta – so that door has shut.