Andrey Pedan has had a tough couple of seasons. After being brought into the Canucks organization in 2014, he rose to become one of the Canucks’ best defensive prospects. But instead of seeing what they have in Pedan, his time on the NHL roster has mostly been squandered. Now, after a tumultuous season and flagging production numbers, Pedan’s stock is on the decline. After being ranked eighth before last season and sixth during the midterm rankings, Pedan has tumbled all the way to 18th in our prospect list.
We’ve changed the qualifications up just a little bit this year. Being under the age of 25 is still mandatory (as of the coming September 15th), but instead of Calder Trophy rules, we’re just requiring players to have played less than 25 games in the NHL (essentially ignoring the Calder Trophy’s rule about playing more than six games in multiple seasons).
Graduates from this time last year include Brendan Gaunce, Troy Stecher, and Nikita Tryamkin, while Anton Rodin is simply too old now, and Jake Virtanen is not being considered solely as a result of his games played.
When the Canucks acquired Andrey Pedan from the New York Islanders a couple of years ago, he was a pretty raw defenceman with a whole lot of potential. After integrating into a powerhouse Comets lineup in 2014-15 that went to the Calder Cup Finals (though an injured Pedan missed the entirety of the playoffs), the 6-foot-6 Lithuanian thrived under Travis Green in 2015-16 as a punishing, minute-munching, penalty killing defender. Large and mobile, Pedan accomplished the highly unlikely feat of winning both hardest shot (believable, the guy has a cannon) and fastest skater (now you’ve got our attention) at a Superskills competition in January of 2016. By the way, this way the Canucks’ skills comp: the NHL, not the AHL, and Pedan cleaned up.
Yes, 2015-16 started off wonderfully for Pedan, even earning him his first NHL call up – though what should have been one of Pedan’s greatest achievements instead looks like it was the beginning of the end for him.
Former Canucks coach Willie Desjardins played Pedan as a forward in his NHL debut, kicking off an asinine idea that Pedan should be some sort of “swing man”, capable of playing both forward and defence. As a result, for roughly half of the 13 NHL games Pedan suited up for that year, he did so out of his natural position, with minimal fourth line minutes. The decision to play Pedan up front was, as my colleague Ryan Biech put it (rather conservatively), misguided at best. Desjardins squandered the opportunity to evaluate one of the team’s best defensive prospects if favour of foolishly experimenting with “swing” players.
The second blow to Pedan’s future came during last year’s training camp, when the Canucks chose to waive Pedan and assign him to Utica for the sake of keeping Alex Biega, an expansion-based maneuver borne out of the fear that Luca Sbisa wouldn’t meet his required number of games played. So Pedan was sacrificed, while Biega spent the vast majority of the first half of the season in the press box. (I advocated for waiving Biega and advised against waiving Pedan prior to the start of last season, seen here.)
By many accounts, being jerked around like this didn’t sit too well with Pedan. While a player’s attitude towards his situation is mostly conjecture for people in our position, the discontent that was relayed to us through hearsay certainly did manifest itself on the ice, and in the numbers. Pedan regressed in a myriad of ways last season, from his point totals to aggression to the responsibility handed to him by the coaching staff.
Over the course of the season, the percentage of the Comets’ offence for which Pedan was on the ice plummeted, a sure sign in leagues that don’t release TOI information that a player’s TOI is falling.
A good chunk of that ice time was transferred to Evan McEneny, an unexpected rising star in the Comets ranks last season. Barely able to stay in the lineup at the beginning of the season, McEneny ended up taking a lot of Pedan’s ice time at even strength, as well as taking over as the first-shift penalty killer on the left side (in addition to taking the top powerplay quarterback spot from Jordan Subban – McEneny really did have a heck of a year).
Pedan, who scored an AHL career high 21 points the season previous, tallied a paltry five goals and ten points in 52 games in 2016-17. He started off and didn’t get a whole lot of momentum going throughout the season, save for a small spurt in February.
He did receive a couple of courtesy call ups by the Canucks, but didn’t suit up a single time for the NHL team last year, despite being on the roster for a total of 30 days, and instead of getting necessary ice time in either league, he twiddled his thumbs in the press box, sitting in a state of limbo.
We can put a little bit of context to the nosedive Pedan’s point totals took. For the first chunk of the season, Pedan played with a different defensive partner almost every night, and they were frequently lefties, like him. Pedan saw almost no consistency in who he played with until Colby Robak arrived in mid-November. Though Robak was also a lefty, he typically played the right side, allowing Pedan to settle in where he belonged. It didn’t do much to fix his absent offence, but it at least sorted out his on-ice results – Pedan and Robak operated with a goals-for percentage of about 50% while together.
Pedan’s lack of production has translating in a lack of faith from pGPS, our in house prospect projection model. Despite the size that has typically aided him in this regard (NHL insiders have loved them some big defenders, paving the way for an increased projected rate of success), Pedan’s expected likelihood of success fell to just 10% in 2016-17, the lowest it had ever been since playing in pGPS certified leagues.
There are two things of note here. One is the remarkable consistency of his cohorts’ point production, year after year, ranging between 19.5 and 22.5 points per 82 games in every season between 2010-11 (his draft year) and 2015-16.
The other is how his value rose year by year, following a steady path indicating consistent development as a prospect. It peaked in 2014-15, the year he was acquired by the Canucks. By rights, 2015-16 should have been the year he cracked the Canucks to show what he could do. Instead, he was prevented from even testing his potential by the likes of Matt Bartkowski, Alex Biega, and yes, the outrageous “swing man” experiment.
The plummeting of Pedan’s projected numbers indicates to me that he may have missed the boat in terms of transferring his status from prospect to NHL player, and the Canucks may have missed out on a perfectly serviceable defencemen.
Things got so bad for Pedan that he ended up being a healthy scratch for four games in a five games stretch in early March, as coach Green tried to snap him out of the malaise that had set in. Pedan responded by getting into fights in back-to-back games when he drew back into the lineup. Green has never been one to outwardly celebrate pugilism, but it at least demonstrated that Pedan was engaging himself again.
By the end of the season, it seemed that the message was at least getting through. Despite him stagnant production and the bad look of the series of healthy scratches, I don’t think that Pedan is a total write off yet. He’s still a talented player with a lot of size and raw ability, and the loss of Nikita Tryamkin may make the Canucks yearn for another towering European. The additions of Michael Del Zotto and Patrick Wiercoch on defence, as well as an overcrowded group of forwards, are going to make it very difficult for Pedan to break camp with the Canucks barring some injuries, but he should at least be competing with McEneny and Subban for a call up when injuries inevitably arise. And this time, he should actually get a chance to get into the lineup and play his proper position. Pedan’s stock may have fallen, but I don’t think his story is over quite yet.