It’s been a bit of a down year for a lot of Canucks prospects, especially defenders. Carl Neill has bucked that trend, scoring at over a point-per game this season in the Q, with a relatively unimpressive supporting cast. The caveat is that he’s done so as an overager, so that type of production is more expected than it is encouraging. He’s also cooled off a bit since being traded from the Sherbrooke Phoenix to the Charlottetown Islanders, but he’s still shown enough to clock in at #9 on our consensus rankings.
For those of you that are joining us partway through, here’s a quick review the criteria for a qualifying prospect:
- 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.
By now, the lack of NHL success for former QMJHL defenders is well known. Neill is no exception, as his expected success percentage has decreased from 6% all the way down to 0%. Neill had 15 height and production-based cohorts from his current season, and none successfully made the jump from junior player to NHL regular. So, it may seem odd that we have a player of his profile as high as ninth in our rankings. On one hand, it illustrates the dearth of high-end prospects in the Canucks’ system; on the other, it also speaks to the limits of draft analytics.
As we can see from Neill’s year-to-year pGPS chart, Neill’s expected success percentage hovered between 10-4% throughout his first four years in the Q. The reason for Neill’s lack of successful comparables is mainly because the Q simply doesn’t have a history of producing NHL defenders, especially in their overage season. In other words, Neill’s expected success percentage was probably going to be 0% from the moment he returned to the Q for his overage season.
So, it would be a major leap in logic to imply that Neill’s jump from .8 points per game to 1.2 is somehow a bad thing. A player on Neill’s current development path becoming an NHL regular would be more or less unprecedented, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. In fact, Neill’s tools were impressive enough to me that I ranked him as the Canucks’ second-best D prospect.
Multiple viewings of Neill have shown a player that sees the ice very well, has great puck skills, and an accurate, booming slap shot, second only to Cole Candella in the Canucks’ system in terms of power. Neill isn’t going to “wow” you with any particular skill, but he does a lot of things well. For what it’s worth, he seems like a high-character kid as well, captaining the Sherbrooke Phoenix for a season and a half, and overcoming heart problems in his draft+1 year.
When I covered Neill in last year’s prospect profiles, pGPS churned up a couple of interesting matches for Neill’s last full season with the Phoenix in Jason Demers and Johnny Oduya. So, there’s enough upside there to be cautiously optimistic in spite of how things look right now. Hopefully, Neill will play in Utica next fall and start on the path to increasing his low success percentage. Until then, Neill will get the chance to play for a contending team in the Q for the first time in his junior career.