Report: Canucks sign NCAA UFA forward Griffen Molino

The Vancouver Canucks have reportedly dipped their toes into the NCAA free agent market again. John Buccigross is reporting that Western Michigan centre Griffen Molino will sign an entry-level contract with the Canucks.

Due to Molino being 23-years-old per section 9.1 and 9.2 of the NHL/NHLPA CBA, the entry-level contract will be two years.

At this moment, there is no word on if the ELC will start this season or if the Canucks will defer it to next. But it would be the prudent thing to do to have the ELC start for the 2017-18 season, and have Molino sign an ATO with Utica for the duration of this season.

The 6’0″ and 185 lbs forward just completed his sophomore season with Western Michigan where he posted 33 points in 40 games for the Broncos.

He hasn’t followed the ‘standard’ development curve as he played in the CCHL for one year, then the USHL for two before making a move to the NCAA. That combined with an early birthday (January 21) means that Molino leaves college at 23 with only two years under his belt.

Molino’s previously attended the Detroit Red Wings (2016) and the New York Islanders (2015) development camps.

The Trenton, Michigan native was one of the players I profiled earlier this month as a NCAA free agent. I included Molino, as reporters indicated there was a possibility teams sought him as a free agent on a few occasions.

In my piece, I make clear that this isn’t a player I would target as a priority signing. There are a few reasons for that.

Molino’s age was a factor (he will be 24 years old in the middle of next season) as we’ve seen the development curves of forwards means that he is already in his peak performance. Given that he hasn’t been able to put up huge points in the NCAA, likely means that he will not be able to do so at the NHL level.

He is tied for 76th in NCAA scoring and falls below the top 100 players in point per game pace. His 2.3 shots per game are also well below the top 100. Those are concerns.

Molino led the Broncos in shooting percentage but ended the year in 3rd in goals.

That is re-affirmed by pGPS, as it shows that 2.7% of comparable players went on to become NHL players. That number was 1.8% when I profiled him earlier this month.

There is a chance that he is a late bloomer who followed an alternative path to get where he is. He played on the top line for Western Michigan and was effective at times.

Through my handful of viewings of their games, as they play in the NCHC, Molino was noticeable to some degree. He wasn’t dominant in any way, but he was effective at the NCAA level despite those statistical flags.

As we’ve seen this season, this organization desperately needs depth at every level. Molino may present the Comets with some more options next season rather than relying heavily on AHL vets. (which is something I have been advocating for).

As always, there is no asset risk in taking these dice-rolls on players. But you do have to be extremely careful on how many of these risks you take. Every team is limited to 50 NHL contracts.  Using those 50 contracts as effectively as possible is an important part of your organization.

  • Killer Marmot


    I can parse that (mostly) and I’m sure many other readers can as well, but in service to those who do not keep up to hockey jargon you may wish to ease up on the acronyms.

  • The_Blueline

    His numbers are not impressive. Let’s hope he can provide some depth in Utica. I still think that WD Jr will again play some 28y old career AHLers rather than our prospects

    • tyhee

      As I see it they have 30 contracts filled for next year before this signing which would make 31. They presently have the following contracts will be expiring:

      From the Canucks as UFA: Ryan Miller, Jack Skille, Jayson Megna, Anton Rodin
      From the Canucks as RFA: Horvat, Gaunce, Cramarossa, Boucher, Shore, Chaput, Gudbranson, Tryamkin

      Obviously they’ll need to extend some of those and replace some of the others.

      From the minors as UFA: Grenier, Billins, Rendulic
      From the minors as RFA: Garteig, Pedan, Zelewski, McEneny, Nilsson (+ Labate, who I’m listing here even though he’s presently with the Canucks on an injury callup)

      Most of those on AHL contracts with the Comets will also be expiring. That would include Archibald, Valk and Robak.

      Anyway, the Canucks are presently at 31 contracts if they sign this guy. They also have 21 expiring contracts. What concerns me is that that 31 includes rookie pros MacEwen, Chatfield and now Molino as well as Brisebois in addition to several players who haven’t shown well as prospects as minor league pros, including Laplante, Carcone, Sautner, Stewart, Cederholm and Cassels (though some won’t like to see that last name characterized in that way.) It’s also very possible the Canucks sign one or more of their past draft picks to play as rookie pros-and unlikely that they’ll immediately be as good as AHL vets.

      This was alluded to in the main article above, but I really question whether there will be enough contract slots left to give the Comets a competitive roster next season.

      • Andy

        There are some free agents & junior graduated players that really should’ve been signed to AHL contracts – players like Laplante, Carcone, and Stewart.

        I’m in agreement with many CanucksArmy that Curtis Valk has earned a proper contract; though many prospects who still count against the 50-contract NHL limit could still be signed to AHL deals if the market sees them as low ceiling players (Rendulic, Grenier, Nilssonc, are examples who’d be great on AHL contracts)

  • Carl Jung

    If this isn’t a high end prospect, wouldn’t it be better that his ELC starts this season?

    That way it’s really only a one year tryout for the 2017-2018 season.

    • Ronning4ever

      I think the thinking goes (the author can correct me if I’m wrong) that they currently have 48/50 contracts filled for this year and there are some good names to try to sign – specifically the Canucks most glaring need: defence. If they sign him this year, then they are down to one, while if it’s next year they’ll have way more room as a number of the contracts they have signed as of today will expire.

      • DJ_44

        I do not agree that the most glaring need is to sign more d-men as free agents. The Canucks have four prospects that will graduate to the pros next year, including Juolevi, Brisbois, Neill, and Tate. That goes along with Subban, McEneny , and Pedan already in Utica. There really isn’t room.

        • Ronning4ever

          Hmmm. Agree we have boatloads of D-men in the system. Problem is none of them are very good. Other than maybe 1 – 2 prospects, we’re very thin on D. We’ll likely lose Sbisa at the expansion draft and Larsen will hopefully not be resigned. The team has lots to be excited for in terms of forwards in the system, but IMHO they need more Dmen who’s ceiling is more than 2nd/3rd pairing.

          • DJ_44

            Well, Juolevi will be a top pair guy. Tryamkin and Stecher also have that potential. Gudbranson is a top four…and Hutton is bottom pairing…..Other than the first three mentioned, everybody is expendable. Personally, I would like Larsen resigned, but that is unlikely.

            Regardless, you will rarely find the quality defenceman you want in the college free agent market (with Stecher being the exception).

          • Ronning4ever

            Juolevi is a top pair prospect…in like 5 years. Tryamkin and Stecher have top four potential…in like 3 years. Agreed you will rarely find quality defenceman in the college free agent market…but you will rarely find them anywhere ;). This is why I think the Nucks should put efforts in rolling the dice there…and incidentally what I think GMJB has been doing…based on the little I follow hockey. But the market for defencemen (signings and trades) is very very tight.

            We have a good number of top-6 forward prospects in the pipeline (Rodin, Boeser, Goldy, Dahlen, Gaudette, Virtanen, Boucher) and maybe 3 goalies. We need more than 2 maybes in the next 5 years on D!

    • The Canucks could easily let 10 players walk at the end of this season (i.e. Shore, Megna, Skille, Chaput, Larsen + 5 more in Utica) plus another 4 in 2018/2019 so we’re not really hurting for contract spots. If Molino ends up being an emergency 4th line AHL depth call-up, that’s a win compared to players like Nilsson, LaPlante, Stewart and Billins.

  • Jim Benning is a busy man, it’s good to see. He’s building up our prospect pool one by one. No stone is left unturned.

    I’m still happy about the Boeser signing. It gone done early and this takes away some of the anxiety associated with drafting players from the NCAA. Just imagine if Brock held out to become a UFA.

    • Carl Jung

      Especially with Gaudette quite possibly being in the same situation as Boeser next March.

      I would rather get top prospects signed than have contentious negotiations like the Senators are with Colin White.

    • Killer Marmot

      In 2016, Benning made major progress rebuilding the defense. I’m hoping that we look back on 2017 is the year he did that he did same for the offense.

  • black ace

    keep in mind that when Troy Stecher signed this time last year this site said he had an 8.8% chance of being an NHL’er. 6 months later this site said he was our best defenceman.

    • Killer Marmot

      They weren’t too hot on drafting Adam Gaudette either (even though he was a 5th round pick — hardly worth complaining abut). Now he’s burning up the NCAA.

      • Carl Jung

        Wasn’t Tryamkin just supposed to be a depth goon as well?

        Aside from the Virtanen selection, most of the notable picks either look fine like McCann and Juolevi (in that it is too early to tell) or very good with Demko, Tryamkin, Boeser, Gaudette & Lockwood standing out.

        I would say the same is true with young players like Baertschi, Granlund & Stecher that were acquired outside of the draft.

  • TD

    Thanks Ryan, enjoyed the take. Hopefully he a late bloomer. Both Sedins won Art Ross trophies way past 24. Not saying he is anything like the Sedins, but 24 is the average not the max.