I have to admit that when the Vancouver Canucks selected Jack Rathbone with the 95th overall pick in the fourth-round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, I was taken aback.
Canucks Select D Jack Rathbone 95th Overall https://t.co/aYvPQHxVrS
— CanucksArmy (@CanucksArmy) June 24, 2017
For starters, Rathbone was a high school prospect, and everything we’ve learned about players coming from that set of leagues indicates they’re usually not the soundest bets at the draft. Only compounding matters is the fact that Rathbone won’t even be going to the NCAA next season, as he plans to spend another year at Dexter High School.
It’s not just hard to figure out what Rathbone is as a prospect now, but it’ll likely be difficult to gauge where he’s at for at least another season. Rathbone won’t have faced high-level competition until his draft-plus-two season. That’s concerning.
The Canucks have certainly earned the leeway to make seemingly iffy decisions when drafting from the United States, though. So let’s try and see it their way, and find out what qualities in Rathbone’s game drew them to the undersized blue liner. I think you will be pleasantly surprised. Certainly, I’m starting to see the light.
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.
I haven’t had the chance to watch Rathbone live, yet, but much of what I’ve read suggests he’s worth the price of admission. Standing at just 5’10”, Rathbone is an offence first rearguard. He generates his offence more through his skating and his intelligence than a booming shot.
Observing Rathbone at Canucks Development Camp practice on Tuesday and the game on Thursday, his skating was immediately apparent. He was very fluid in his movements and had the ability to pivot with speed. Despite his smaller stature, he was able to use his noticeable skating skills to keep forwards to the outside. His first pass out of the zone was usually right on the tape of his teammates, or he was able to take a couple of strides to create lanes.
Those observations align closely with the ones that www.HockeyProspect.com makes in their BlackBook for the 2017 Draft.
Rathbone stands under the 6-foot mark although moves well on his skates with acceleration, lateral movement, pivots, and agility. He handles the puck well showing poise and will outlet the puck up the ice with good decisions. Rathbone has the ability to escape pressure very well. He shows good offensive awareness as he will rush pucks or jump in the play. His shot is adequate and he will find shooting lanes with his mobility from the blue line. Rathbone has good potential to grow his game and is set to enter Harvard for the 2018-19 season.
On the negative side of the ledger, Rathbone was physically outmatched by many of the Canucks prospects at the development camp. That was to be expected, though. As an 18-year-old who played almost his entire draft season in high school, Rathbone hasn’t faced many physically developed players at this point in his career.
If he adds some muscle and works on the defensive side of his game, Rathbone can fix these ills.
Of course, the high school element of Rathbone’s development arch means that getting to that point will be a slow burn. As Biech pointed out in an article about Rathbone earlier this summer, though, his delayed college debut grants the Canucks an extra year to evaluate the player before they lose their rights. It’s a double-edged sword.
I should also add that part of the reason Rathbone has foregone college next season is to spend another year with his brother, Teddy, who has autism. The two are downright inseparable by all accounts, and it’s as endearing a story as you’ll ever find. Rathbone certainly has his priorities straight.
Judd Brackett’s Post-Draft Wrap Up https://t.co/pGCAbi6zbT
— CanucksArmy (@CanucksArmy) June 24, 2017
There’s a lot to like about Rathbone’s game; whether those qualities will prove enough to warrant the Canucks investment in him is a story still in the making. It’s easy to get behind a player like Rathbone, though, even if it takes a little longer than usual to find out the ending.
Submit your NFL lineup in this FREE Draft Kings by September 10th for your chance to win $100,000 for the highest scoring player. If your roster matches up perfectly in Week 1 then you could walk away with $1,000,000,000 from Draft Kings! Enter your lineup today.