It was announced this afternoon that the Vancouver Canucks have signed unrestricted free agent defenceman Jalen Chatfield from the Windsor Spitfires in the OHL
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) March 13, 2017
The entry level contract for the right handed defenceman will begin for the 2017-18 season.
As always, from a purely basic process outlook at the signing – adding a prospect at no asset cost, other than money, is always a wise venture. You never know what could happen in the future as players do not always follow a linear development curve and thus some players may fall through the cracks.
This may be the case for Chatfield, as he plays a good two way game, who reads the ice well and moves the puck with efficiency. He has attended the development camps of the Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks.
Elite Prospects had a scouting report after the 2014-15 season:
Chatfield is a prototypical 2 way defenceman. He has average height but is slight in frame. He skates well, has a good stick and makes a good first pass. He will benefit on an improved Windsor team and should have a big year in 2015-2016.
He did see an uptick in offence, posting 10 goals and 27 assists last year with the Spitfires.
Unfortunately he has seen a drop off in offence this year, but that is most likely attributed to Windsor having such a deep team.
Chatfield is currently ranked 44th amongst OHL defenceman scoring, with 50% of those points being secondary assists. He is ranked 56th in Sh/GP (1.63), and 21st in SH% (8.16%) amongst that same peer group.
His most common defensive partner this season have been Logan Stanley (27.97%).
Josh Khalfin was able to post the above visual to give some great context on how Jalen produces.
All of Chatfield’s offensive numbers are below league averages, while seeing 1st pairing ice time. That is a bit of a concern, as the success rate for overage defenceman relies a lot of their production. Generally speaking, if you are not producing as a twenty year old in the CHL, then your chances of ‘making it’ in the NHL are quite low.
Unfortunately at this time, pGPS is not available, but it would likely back up this theory.
With that being said – what sets Chatfield apart is his excellent skating, good read of the play and puck movement. Those three things are valuable skills to have at the professional hockey level. Although his point production isn’t there, the way he plays does work in his favour. From my handful of viewings of Windsor games, Chatfield was always a player who was noticeable for the aforementioned reasons.
The Michigan native might be one of those players that is able to buck the trend. From a purely eye-test standpoint, the signing is easily justifiable. When you add the numbers to the argument, there are some red flags but not enough to make you run away. This entry level contract appears to be a reasonable risk to take, despite the probable outcome that Chatfield doesn’t become an NHL regular.
Windsor is hosting the Memorial Cup this year, so Chatfield will be occupied with that until late May. So Canucks fans won’t be able to see him within the organization until development camp this summer.
The Utica Comets are expected to get an influx of young defensemen next season with Guillaume Brisebois signed and likely turning pro, and Carl Neill having to turn pro (although still unsigned). It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out over the summer and into next season, as it’s becoming quickly crowded there.