The on-ice sessions of Vancouver Canucks development camp officially got underway today, as did the prospects media availability. For many, it was the first chance to see some of the Canucks newest players and interact with them in person.
One player that has been generating some intrigue is certain factions is Finnish born Petrus Palmu, a 5-foot-7 winger that the Canucks took 181st overall at the 2017 NHL Entry Draft two weekends ago, after he scored 40 goals and 98 points in 62 games with the Owen Sound Attack this past season. Palmu, who was in his third year of eligibility, was the shortest player taken at the entire draft. As surprising as it is that an NHL team would draft a 5-foot-7 player, it’s even more surprising that it was the Canucks that did, after years of rolling the dice on size and character and hard-to-play-against in the later rounds. That certainly speaks to their new mandate of speed and skill.
Palmu’s junior coach certainly didn’t think size was going to hold Palmu back. Owen Sound’s bench boss Ryan McGill, a former NHLer himself, didn’t mince his words, flat out telling TSN 1040’s Blake Price and Jeff Paterson that Palmu “will play in the NHL”.
“Well he’s gonna turn some heads in training camp,” McGill said. He’s quick, he’s dynamic side-to-side. He’s got one of the hardest shots in the league, and I know it’s not pro but he’s gonna surprise a lot of people with his release, and he’s going to surprise a lot of people with how hard his shot is.”
Part of what bodes well for Palmu is how highly skilled he is, but his sturdy build is a boon as well. He weights in at about 180 pounds, meaning that despite his diminutive height, he’s already got about 15 pounds on Canucks’ 5th overall pick Elias Pettersson. “This kid is such a dynamic player, he is so strong, he’s built for sure to play in the NHL.”
Our statistical measures are generally supportive of that bold statement, with pGPS giving Palmu an expected likelihood of success of 26%, as well as a relatively high expected production rate of 55 points per 82 games. All of this leads to an expected value of 14 (the product of Exp. Success and Exp. Production Rate), which is about what you’d hope for in the early-to-mid second round. For a 181st pick, that’s incredible value.
Even if McGill hadn’t accepted a job as an assistant coach with the Vegas Golden Knights, it isn’t likely that he would have Palmu again next season. Though he’s still technically a teenager, Palmu will turn 20 in less than two weeks, making him eligible to play in the American league this fall. He’s technically allowed to play another season as an overager in the OHL, but given that he’s also an import player, that’s highly unlikely. CHL teams are allowed just two import players and four overaged players, and a player that qualifies for both essentially takes up two slots instead of one. There’s also the fact that Owen Sound just picked up another import forward, Belarusian Vasili Filyayev, at the 2017 CHL Import Draft.
With each team eligible to dress two import players, Filyayev could take Petrus Palmu’s spot in the lineup should he not return next season. [Attack General Manager Dale] DeGray expects Palmu won’t be back, though the door has not entirely closed on him. As an import player and an overage player, he is placed on a frozen list.
“I don’t have to discard him. He is still a part of the Attack,” said DeGray. “If Vancouver ever said, ‘Hey, would you ever take Petrus Palmu back,’ then we have to look at that.”
After a 98 point season, it’s likely that Palmu is ready for more of a challenge, and the AHL is far from his only option. In fact, he’s already signed on to play in the Finnish Liiga with TPS Turku for the next two years.
“Maybe AHL or pro league in Finland,” he responded when Canucks Army’s Ryan Biech asked him about his plans for next year. “I have signed with TPS but we need to discuss that with the agent and with the Canucks.”
If the Canucks were to insist that Palmu stay and play in the AHL, he’d join an already formidable looking Comets squad that looks like it’ll get at least a couple of high end forward prospects. On the flip side, if he heads overseas, he’ll be one of a handful of young Canucks prospects plying their trades in Europe, with Nikita Tryamkin and Dmitry Zhukenov in the KHL, Lukas Jasek in the Czech Extraliga, and Elias Pettersson (and possibly Jonathan Dahlen) in the SHL.
You can’t really go wrong with either option, as the two leagues are comparable in terms of quality of competition. The obvious benefit of staying in North America is that he’ll learn Canucks systems under the close eye of Canucks management.
“I’m telling you, the sky’s the limit for this kid,” McGill proclaimed. “He will play in the National Hockey League one day and he’ll be a fan favourite.”
We’ll have to see how (and where) he develops next season first, but at this point I’m inclined to believe him.