The Vancouver Canucks haven’t had a true power forward since the halcyon days of the West Coast Express and Todd Bertuzzi. They hope to have found his heir in Owen Sound Attack winger Jonah Gadjovich, whom they selected in the second round, 55th overall, in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
Canucks Select LW Jonah Gadjovich 55th Overall https://t.co/VuyrNtoLZ4
— CanucksArmy (@CanucksArmy) June 24, 2017
How Gadjovich fell to the Canucks with the second of their two picks remains something of a mystery. Gadjovich was at or near the top of his league among first-time draft eligible skaters in most statistical outputs. Beyond that, he has a projectable 6’2″ frame — the type scouts often fawn over, and general managers fall over themselves to find.
Whatever the case, the Canucks could do worse than to pick up a player with Gadjovich’s profile for the pick that the Columbus Blue Jackets surrendered for John Tortorella. Talk about finding something for nothing.
Gadjovich: “I’m a Power Forward” https://t.co/MrlSjixVpd
— CanucksArmy (@CanucksArmy) June 24, 2017
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.
So here’s the tale of the tape statistically from Gadjovich’s last season. Among first-time draft eligible skaters from the OHL, Gadjovich ranks fourth in five-on-five scoring, fifth in primary point production per hour and second in shots per hour. If you run Jeremy Davis’ SEAL (Situation Era Age League) adjustments on Gadjovich’s scoring last season, he checks out as the 15th most productive player among first-time draft eligible skaters in his class.
As one of my astute Twitter followers once told me, while there is a direct correlation between point production and the likelihood of NHL success from draft prospects, that production doesn’t necessarily determine the quality of that prospect. I think this applies to Gadjovich, who’s a fair amount less dynamic than his counting stats suggest.
Part of the reason I’m skeptical of Gadjovich’s ability to independently produce offence and create plays has to do with the situation he relished in last season. Getting to play alongside Nick Suzuki and Petrus Palmu is as cushy a gig as you’ll find. Gadjovich had one of the highest QoT (Quality of Teammate) ratings by www.prospect-stats.com among first-time draft eligible players in his class.
There’s obviously a baseline talent that a player has to have to find himself at the top of his team’s lineup, and undoubtedly most high-end prospects are going to land in good situations along their path to the NHL. We shouldn’t be too hard on Gadjovich in this light.
It is, however, distressing from the Canucks’ perspective that Gadjovich’s ability to produce offence away from Suzuki haemorrhaged to about half its rate on a per hour basis. Suzuki, meanwhile, suffers no such dip in scoring away from Gadjovich. It couldn’t have been more obvious watching the Attack that Suzuki drove that line, but I couldn’t have guessed the extent of that control. Gadjovich is a completely different player away from Suzuki; one far more suited to the end of the second round than the first.
Nation Network 2017 Prospect Profile: #40 Jonah Gadjovich https://t.co/xche4YMDAQ
— CanucksArmy (@CanucksArmy) May 31, 2017
As it currently stands, much of Gadjovich’s scoring is done by picking up the garbage in front of the net. He has a great set of hands and protects the puck exceptionally well; he has a knack for deft deflections that really is something. I also think getting to the right spot at the right time is a skill attributable to hockey sense, and in that light, Gadjovich is a fairly intelligent hockey player.
If he can improve upon his skating and start to use his size and power to take the puck to the net rather than get there after the fact, Gadjovich could become an absolutely dominant player. Apparently, the Canucks and Gadjovich have a plan to improve on that element of his game, which is encouraging to say the least. Easier said than done, though.
Gadjovich has scored enough to show he’s a cut above his peers and that matters a lot in projecting his NHL chances. The fact that he plays a solid two-way game, and takes pride in doing so, certainly bodes well, too. He might not be the next Bertuzzi, but one scout I spoke to after the draft said he reminded him of Chris Kunitz. Having some time to think on that, I think that’s a fair comparison. Kunitz has had a hell of a career.
When we look at Gadjovich’s draft season, it carries with it a 43.6% Exp. Success rate and 45.2 Exp. Points per 82 games in the pGPS lens of analysis. That kind of value, by the way, would be great for a first round pick.
Next season, Gadjovich will return to the Attack in a similar role to the one he enjoyed last season. The good news, for now, is that he hasn’t proven an anchor to an otherwise effective line. Next year, though, for us to start to take him seriously as a bona fide power forward prospect, we should start to see him take on more of a driver role than that of a dependent player. Gadjovich has the tools, certainly.