The CHL playoffs kick off later this week with the majority of teams getting ready to make a quest for the Memorial Cup. One of the teams that failed to qualify for the post season, the Calgary Hitmen, had a Canucks prospect on their roster and thus decisions had to be made.
2016 6th round pick Jakub Stukel was on the first line for the Hitmen, setting career highs in goals (37) and points (64), but has reportedly been informed that the organization will not sign him to an entry-level contract:
The #Canucks have told 20 year old F Jakob Stukel that they are not signing him. A 6th round pick in 2016 by Van, Stukel camp trying to see if they can get to pro hockey, they are talking to the NHLPA.
— Rick Dhaliwal (@DhaliwalSports) March 19, 2018
This move is not surprising in the slightest as Stukel wasn’t going to be a player that was going to be effective at higher levels. He has the speed to play professional hockey but skates too fast for his hands, lacks physicality and was mediocre in the defensive zone. Based on his production, his pGPS showed a success rate under 2%, which just affirms the thought that his NHL aspirations were a long shot.
Since the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, it has been mentioned that the organization wanted to target players that had an elite skill (at the junior level) and then work to round out their game. Hoping that since the prospect had a step up in one area, if they can hone other skills, they could extract value. That fits perfectly with Stukel. His speed was noticeable in the WHL but nothing really else stood out.
The organization does retain his rights until June 1st, he will then re-enter the 2018 NHL Entry draft, and if unselected, becomes an unrestricted free agent. Which is likely why he wants to find a spot in professional hockey, to show that he can play at that level before being available for the draft again.
The 2016 Entry Draft is quickly eroding for the Canucks – Olli Juolevi will be an NHL player while William Lockwood is recovering from another shoulder injury and could be an NHL player. After that, there isn’t much value.
Cole Candella struggled mightily this year and likely won’t be signed to an ELC, the organization has chosen to not sign Stukel and lost the rights to Rodrigo Abols last summer. That leaves Brett McKenzie, who has been good in Owen Sound but lacks any NHL upside.
At this moment, the Canucks have 30 contracts on the books for the 2018-19 season but have a handful of restricted free agents and other prospects to sign. Decisions had to be made and it’s clear that it was decided that Stukel wasn’t someone that they saw having a future in the organization.