Alright folks, we’re back in the saddle once again for part three of our Midterm prospect rankings. Just to recap the parameters for consideration for the rankings are as follows:
- The player must be 25 years or younger, and
- The player must be eligible for the Calder Trophy next season.
As a result, players that are considered to be “graduated” to the NHL (Brendan Gaunce, Nikita Tryamkin, Jake Virtanen, Anton Rodin) are not eligible.
I’ll be covering the 15th and 16th prospects on our consensus ranking after the jump.
#16 COLE CANDELLA
Cole Candella is just another in a long list of defensive prospects in the Canucks’ system that is having a disappointing season thus far. After putting up 20 points in just 37 games, Candella’s production has been slashed nearly in half, potting just two goals and ten assists in 38 games, something that’s reflected in his pGPS success percentage of 2%, down from 14% in his draft year.
That’s not a great sign from a player that was billed as being an offensive defenseman at the time of his selection. Candella struggled at times with defensive play and reading the game in his first two OHL seasons, so to see his offensive game deteriorate at such a rapid pace doesn’t bode well for his chances of making the NHL.
Based on my viewings of Candella, his single strongest attribute is his shot, both in terms of strength and his ability to get the puck on net through traffic. If his 1.75 shots per game this season is any indication, that isn’t something that’s changed.
There’s only so much information available on prospects mid-season, and the OHL’s data tracking is still lacking, so I can only speculate as to whether Candella’s dip in points is percentage-driven for the results of his own play. It’s possible that Candella’s impressive draft-eligible season was driven by a run of good luck, but it’s equally possible that his teammates are struggling to capitalize on their chances with Candella on the ice. We’ll have a better idea of just what exactly the Canucks have in Candella at the end of the season, but for now there’s still reason for optimism based on his shot rate and how he fared in 2015-16.
#15 ALEXANDRE GRENIER
In just about every organization there’s a player that’s produced at a strong clip in the AHL that, for whatever reason, just hasn’t been able to make the jump to the big club. For the Canucks, that player is Alex Grenier.
For the better part of four seasons now, Grenier has been one of the Comets’ best offensive forwards. He’s on pace to lead the Comets for the second year in a row, 5 points clear of Curtis Valk. By now, Grenier’s attributes are well known: he’s big, skates reasonably well, and has some skill. You’ll never come away from the rink feeling impressed, but he’s a steady contributor at the AHL level.
The issue is simply that Grenier hasn’t gotten much of a shot, and couldn’t make the most of the limited opportunities he’s been given. As a result, his chance at becoming an everyday NHL’er is withering on the vine. With every passing day, Grenier edges closer and closer to “no longer a prospect” territory.
Grenier’s relatively low spot on these rankings has more to do with reward than risk. When viewed through the lens of pGPS, 33.3% of Grenier’s production and stature based cohorts went on to play over 200 games in the NHL. When adjusted for similarity, that number is closer to 18%, but that’s still nothing to scoff at. Grenier could still develop into an NHL’er, but if he does, it’s likely he becomes the type of player that’s available on the waiver-wire or in Free Agency ever year. Based on Grenier’s history, it’s more than likely that if he does develop into an NHL player, it will be in a depth role.
It should be noted that Grenier’s six games of NHL action are six more than many of the players ahead of him on our rankings will play. Still, there’s also nothing in particular about his performance over that span that suggests he deserved a further look. He had zero points, 9 shots, and was 43.5% by score-adjusted shot shares while averaging 10 minutes a night over a six-game span.
Grenier’s chances of making the jump are quite high, but many of us, including myself, felt as though his ceiling was quite low relative to other players in the Canucks system, which is why he clocks in at #15 on our consensus ranking.