We’ve turned the page on another calendar year, which can only mean one thing. You guessed it, it’s mid-term prospect rankings again and we’re counting down the Canucks 20 best. In this year’s edition, the ten lowest ranked prospects will be grouped in pairs; the top ten still get individual profiles.
We created this list based on the consensus of participating contributors, with the only parameters being that the player is Canucks property (meaning players on AHL contracts don’t count) and Calder Trophy eligibility next season. This means that players like Troy Stecher, Nikita Tryamkin, and Brendan Gaunce are considered to have graduated.
So, without further ado, here are the 19th and 20th ranked prospects in our consensus rankings.
#20: MICHAEL CARCONE
Clocking in at #20 on our consensus ranking is Utica Comets forward Michael Carcone. Carcone went unselected in back-to-back NHL Entry Drafts before making an impression at the Canucks’ Young Stars Classic as an invitee. Carcone was signed out of training camp by the Canucks, and was subsequently assigned to the Comets.
Since then, he hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire, struggling to make it into the lineup at times and scoring just three points in 26 AHL games. That’s more or less the reality of looking at the 20th prospect in a pool that’s already relatively thin. That said, Carcone shouldn’t be written off just yet. He’s still a rookie, a 20-year-old in a men’s league, and Travis Green is notorious for refusing to play young players in high-leverage situations. Consider that when the Canucks signed Ben Hutton, he was unable to make it into the Comets’ lineup on a regular basis, but made the Canucks’ opening lineup that October.
When viewed through the lens of pGPS, Carcone does have a few comparables despite his uninspiring boxcars from this season, carrying an expected success percentage of 12.4%. The good news is that’s a decent find for an undrafted free agent. The bad news is his most successful statistical cohort is Mike Brown, and his expected production is just 9 points per NHL season.
Carcone flashed enough skill in his final year in the QMJHL to indicate he’s worth keeping tabs on, scoring 47 goals and 89 points in 66 games as a 19-year old, with the bulk of his production coming in the form of primary points. He was an older player who shot over 20%, though, which is why he isn’t higher on our list. He’s young, has a decent amount of skill, and speed to burn, so it’s still possible he can overcome his 5’9″ stature and exceed the expectations set out for him by pGPS.
#19 ASHTON SAUTNER
Another player that’s struggled to get into Utica’s lineup this season is defenceman Ashton Sautner. He’s played just 14 of a possible 36 games, and managed only a single assist. This could be seen as somewhat of a step back for Sautner, who had a genuinely promising rookie season in the AHL, playing 50 games, scoring 11 points and getting significant minutes at both even-strength and the PK.
Taking a step back has been somewhat of a theme among Canucks prospects this season, who seem to have all regressed simultaneously. It’s unclear why exactly Sautner has struggled to see the ice so much this season, but it could simply be that the Utica Comets have struggled mightily and Travis Green feels as though he simply can’t afford to give any rope to players he doesn’t trust. Sautner’s also suffered from some concussion issues this season, which has kept him out of game action at times.
Sautner was a standout at the Canucks Young Stars Classic for all the wrong reasons this September, looking generally shaky and blowing a tire on the final play of the tournament, which directly contributed to a goal against in overtime.
It’s not all doom and gloom when it comes to Sautner, however. He played well enough in his rookie season to earn a call-up with the Canucks, and has plenty of time to grow. Using pGPS, he carries an expected success% of 5.2%, and an expected points/82 of 16.5. Most of Sautner’s statistical cohorts did not play over 200 NHL games, but a few had decent careers, with Aaron Ward and Mark Fistric being the most notable.
By my eyes, Sautner’s true capabilities are probably more in line with the player that showed flashes of potential last year than the one that’s been a disappointment this season. If Sautner hopes to have a shot at the NHL, he’ll have to work on his consistency and increase his offensive totals. Sautner has a fairly strong transitional game, so this isn’t out of the question.