After another lengthy delay to the CanucksArmy Mid-Term Prospect Rankings (this one’s all me, sorry), we’re back with the seventeenth ranked prospect in the Vancouver Canucks system by our consensus rankings, Sudbury Wolves defenceman Cole Candella.
Candella is in the midst of his second season in the Canucks system, after answering their call to the draft podium with the 140th overall pick in the fifth-round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. To the Canucks credit, it was the exact type of bet we often advocate for in the later rounds of the draft. Going into his draft year, Candella was expected to go as early as the second-round by many draft services and produced accordingly before injuries cut his season short.
— CanucksArmy (@CanucksArmy) June 25, 2016
Our expectation, generally speaking, was that with a full season on an improving Hamilton Bulldogs, Candella would showcase what had him so relatively high on most people’s list going into his draft year. The problem? Candella did no such thing, matching the 20 points from his draft year in an extra 28 games and looked every bit his fifth-round selection status.
Today we’ll take a look at what’s happened since with another year in the Canucks system and fresh start on a new team in the OHL after a September 20th trade to the Sudbury Wolves.
First, a quick review of how these rankings were formed. Seven lists, including six from Canucks Army writers (myself, J.D. Burke, Ryan Biech, Jackson McDonald, Vanessa Jang, and Janik Beichler) plus the reader rankings, were consolidated into one list. The parameters are that each prospect must:
- be under the age of 25;
- have played fewer than 25 NHL games; and
- be under contract to the Vancouver Canucks or on their reserve (e.g. as an unsigned draft choice).
Now let’s dig deep into the next member of our list.
#17: Cole Candella
Preseason Ranking: N/A
Age: 20 – Position: Defence – Shoots: Left – Height: – 6’1″ – Weight: 190 lbs
When we last saw Candella make the cut for the CanucksArmy’s rankings, he was the 12th ranked prospect in the Canucks’ system. That was in the summer that followed his draft year, and it’s proven to be the high point of Candella’s value, which in a vacuum doesn’t project confidence in the Canucks’ investment. In an ideal situation, one would want to see steady improvement.
That’s been hard to come by for Candella, who’s struggled to elevate his game in consecutive seasons with relatively clean bills of health.
About the kindest thing one could say at this stage is that Candella’s production this year on a meekly productive last-place Wolves team suggest he’s regressing towards where he should be at this stage. In 62 games with the Wolves, Candellas has 30 points, matching his career-high of four goals from two seasons prior and adding 26 assists. Those point totals put Candella in a tie for fourth in points and give him an eight-point lead on their second-most productive blueliner.
Those are hardly exceptional numbers, though, even with the bleak context in which Candella’s produced them this season. That’s reflected in his pGPS Exp. Succ rate of a paltry 6.3 %, meaning that he’s about a one-in-twenty shot to make the NHL based on statistically similar players that share his stature.
In this case, the stats align relatively well with my qualitative analysis. There are some good qualities in Candella’s game; he’s a good skater, can rip the puck and play in all situations. The issue is that Candella doesn’t bring any dynamic, exceptional skills to the table and his inability to process the game at speed impedes his ability to be a gamechanger at even the OHL level.
There just isn’t a lot there to convince me we’re looking at a legitimate NHL prospect.
I’m not alone in that assessment, either. I reached out to the author of “The Art of Scouting” and co-host of Hockey Prospect Radio on Sirius XM Radio, Shane Malloy, for his thoughts on Candella, and he thinks that he profiles as more of an AHL defenceman.
“[Candella] is a solid defensive defence man that makes a safe first pass and shows consistent defensive habits in gap control, taking correct angles, head on swivel with an active stick.”
“He has the potential to be an AHL defenceman, which is good value for the Canucks in the fifth-round”
The only question now is whether the Canucks believe in Candella enough to warrant signing him to an entry-level contract. They have until this summer to decide, and if they don’t put pen to paper, Candella will re-enter the NHL Entry Draft — sort of like Tate Olson and Carl Neill last season.
Were the decision mine to make (I think we’re all glad it’s not), then I would probably save the contract spot and use it for an NCAA or undrafted CHL free agent that could make the jump to the AHL in short order. Then again, spending an entry-level contract on Candella isn’t the worst possible outcome given the dearth of prospects on the Canucks blue line — there’s something to be said for depth.