In depth look at QMJHL UFA Zack MacEwen

We’re less than a month from the trade deadline, which means our focus is shifting from what teams are doing on the ice to what moves they’ll make off it.

The march for the playoffs is in full swing, trade rumours are plentiful, and teams are scouting the upcoming draft class. NCAA and CHL free agents are also at the forefront. Teams are looking for players who’ve fallen through the cracks for one reason or another.

Over the coming weeks, I will profile a handful of these free agents. Today, we will focus on one particular player because of a report from Elliotte Friedman’s ’30 thoughts’ this week (It was actually 32!). We will focus on #26 today:

Screen Shot 2017-02-14 at 11.03.08 AM

The first part of that is true, and something I have mentioned a few times when profiling these types of players. There’s usually a reason — or several — why players get passed up in the draft. You have to have your share of warts to get overlooked three times over at the draft.

That said, it’s wise to leave no stone unturned. Whether they pan out as NHL players or not, it’s worthwhile to find AHL depth for your organization that can play if and when injuries or other circumstances call for an extra hand. In a perfect world, some of these players stick and have successful NHL careers.

Still, one needs to be careful about how many of these contracts they sign. A player of this ilk needs to be more of a sure-bet AHL player than an AHL/ECHL tweener. 

It has been reported throughout today that MacEwen may be signing with the Maple Leafs, but at this moment nothing is official. Given that, we will still explore what MacEwen is.

Stats

Zack MacEwen is a 6’3″, 205 lbs centre/right winger who is in his second full season in the QMJHL. He played in the MJAHL during his draft season, which explains why teams passed over him. He only appeared in nine QMJHL games during his draft plus one season, which is obviously why he wasn’t selected then. MacEwen put up limited numbers in his D+2 season last year with just ten goals and 30 assists.

The Moncton Wildcats dealt MacEwen to the Gatineau Olympiques during the off-season for a fifth-round pick in the Bantam Draft.

As mentioned in the image, the Charlottetown native was invited to Anaheim Ducks training camp but eventually released.

Scouting Report

I reached out to Shane Malloy from Hockey Prospect Radio on Sirius XM for a scouting report on the Olympiques centre:

A big strong grinding two-way center with the versatility to move to the wing who possesses the grit and determination to do dirty work on a line. Goes to the net hard, battles for loose pucks and cycles along the boards well and consistently finishes his checks on the forecheck. He is not fun to play against and competes hard with an in your face style. 
 
His offensive puck skills and hockey sense took some time to develop, but he shows the potential to play at the AHL level because he keeps his game simple. His skating will need to continue to improve to play the high pace game at the pro level. He is the kind of player teams need on the fourth line in the NHL and he could player higher in the lineup in the AHL once he develops for a couple of seasons.

The forward has quite the track record of fights throughout his two seasons in the QMJHL, with a total of nine. So he isn’t afraid to play physical and drop the gloves when needed.

As Shane mentions, the centre’s calling card is a hard-nosed two way game that makes him difficult to play against. The scouting report does provide some insight into his later development, and how he might just be slightly behind his peers due to the later arrival in the QMJHL.

Data

MacEwen’s most familiar linemates with Gatineau are Vitalii Abramov (53.02%) and Daniel Del Paggio (34.23%). His estimated time on ice per game is 21:38 minutes, and is running at 0.75 primary points per game.

MacEwen P%

Goals Primary Assist Secondary Assist Total
27 12 17 56

Another look at how MacEwen’s point breakdown based on situational play:

Picture1

PP Goal PP Assist SH Goal SH Assist  EV Goal EV Assist Total
12 8 1 0 14 21 56

Two things are worth noting here. One is 30% of his production is accounted for with secondary assists. Not a huge number, but still a substantial amount. The second being that 12 of his 27 goals have come on the man up that means 44% of his goals this season have been on the power-play.

Coupled with that is that he has doubled his shooting percentage from last year (6.4%) to this year (13.7%). He is averaging 3.79 SH/PG, which is an encouraging sign, but the majority (150/197) are from low danger areas. In those low danger areas, he is running a 9.3 SH%. In medium danger, he is cruising at 31.03%, and in high danger, he is shooting at 22.2%.

When we use pGPS to look at MacEwen:

Pasted image at 2017_02_15 01_52 PM

Only 3.3% of his matches, one out of thirty, went onto becoming NHL regulars. With Ryan Clowe being the match, he was younger and saw higher production.

That number is very low for a UFA to be attracting such interest, but aligns with the thought process that if there was something there, he would’ve been drafted.


I touched on the subject a bit above, but it’s important to maximize value on your 50 contracts. It’s okay to have a few contracts devoted to players who will only ever be AHL depth, but it’s a fine line between AHL, AHL depth and ECHL/AHL tweener. You need those players signed to NHL deals to be on the higher end of that scope instead of the lower end. If you think he may only be a depth piece for your AHL, then use the advantage of owning your AHL team. Sign him to an AHL SPC, and see if he can develop. If the players doesn’t feel that’s worth his time, then it’s not the end of the world.

Since the ELC rules are rigid due to age, you have to commit three years to a UFA like this, and those three years can seem long.

MacEwen seems like one of those players that could become an AHL regular, but it’s a risk. His pGPS, point distributions and shooting percentages could be harbingers worth taking heed of.

Another part to keep in mind is that MacEwen is playing a lot with Abramov, who is a very talented offensive player. That can make someone like MacEwen seem like he has more to give, but take Abramov out of the scenario, and it could be a different picture. Last year, the Canucks signed Yan-Pavel Laplante from Gatineau, and it’s fair to say that he was the beneficiary of Abramov.

Laplante can’t hold down a full-time roster spot in the AHL, even when the organization suffered a slew of injuries.

Abramov was available to the Canucks when they selected William Lockwood 64th overall in the third round of last year’s draft.

With four teams reportedly interested, it’s clear that the eye-test sees something that isn’t coming through with the statistical look. But looking at his development curve, it’s more likely that MacEwen will never amount to an NHL career.

For the Canucks specifically, it’s probably best to put MacEwen on the secondary list of UFA prospect targets. If he is signing with the Leafs, then it shouldn’t be viewed as a huge loss. I broke down their contract situation earlier this month, and yes, they have breathing room, but that could disappear quickly. This is something that I will discuss in the coming weeks, as there are quite a few factors in that conclusion.

They would better suited to target NCAA free agents instead of CHL free agents, as they have statistically seen a far greater success rate. Look no further than Troy Stecher. That isn’t to say that MacEwen isn’t worth a look, but with the Laplante and MacKenzie Stewart under contract for next season, the Canucks can’t afford another super long shot in the 50 contract limit.


QMJHL advanced stats from prospect-stats.com

  • Fred-65

    I’d have to think that while following Gaudette Vcr must have noticed

    Zach Aston-Reese
    Birthdate
    8/10/1994
    Hometown
    Staten Island, N.Y.
    Height
    6-0
    Weight
    204
    Position
    F

    24+28 in 30 games. Looks like a fire hydrant 6′ and 204 lbs. He’s 2 year further down his development curve and in a league that doesn’t produce a lot of PIM’s he has 62 … a full game in the box

  • “It’s okay to have a few contracts devoted to players who will only ever be AHL depth…”

    Given that the Canucks own the Utica Comets, I can’t see the rationale. Better to ask Utica to sign those types of players to an AHL-only contract and save the NHL contract space for legitimate prospects or AHL call-ups. If you lose an AHL-only player to another NHL team that wants to offer a two-way NHL contract, so be it, it’s not a significant loss.

    • Ryan Biech

      You mean like this \/\/\/

      If you think he may only be a depth piece for your AHL, then use the advantage of owning your AHL team. Sign him to an AHL SPC, and see if he can develop. If the players doesn’t feel that’s worth his time, then it’s not the end of the world.

      • Steamer

        So then why not sign such an example to an ELc when they have proven that their development is continuing at the AHL level – ie: Curtis Valk. Has shown he can play & may have an even higher ceiling – would be a shame to lose him & could be a ‘significant loss’.