With their fourth-round pick in this past June’s NHL Entry Draft, Jim Benning and his scouting staff went an unconventional route, selecting Massachusetts native Jack Rathbone out of the United States High School hockey ranks. Despite deferring his freshman year in the NCAA, he’s put up impressive numbers with Dexter High School and will continue to be a player to keep an eye on in the future. Jack Rathbone checks in at No. 15 in CanucksArmy’s 2018 Mid-term Prospect Rankings.
First, a quick review of how these rankings were formed. Seven lists, including six from Canucks Army writers (myself, Jeremy Davis, J.D. Burke, Ryan Biech, Jackson McDonald, 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).
#15: Jack Rathbone
Preseason Ranking: #17
Age: 18 – Position: Defence – Shoots: Left – Height: – 5’10″ – Weight: 170 lbs
Given that Rathbone plays low-profile high school hockey, it’s obviously challenging to provide a definitive analysis of how he projects. However, what we do know is that, based on several scouting reports, his strengths are his skating and puck-moving abilities — just what the Canucks need.
#Canucks prospect Jack Rathbone is up to 10 goals and 19 assists in 16 USHS Games with Dexter School.
Will be interesting to see how he handles the NCAA next season – but his offensive awareness and skating will be helpful in making the transition a bit easier.
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) March 1, 2018
Based on this highlight video from a game back in November, Rathbone shows well against his peers and is an obvious stand-out. No. 5 in white, his skating ability an apparent strength of his. He’s quick and agile, and generally extremely smooth on his feet. He absolutely loves to get in on the offence, often moving down to the circles to take a shot. He also possesses solid hockey sense and quick decision-making skills which, together with his skating ability, can help him get out of trouble when taking an offensive gamble. It’s hard to predict how his defensive game will translate to the NCAA level, but his offensive abilities are certainly worth taking a flyer on in the late rounds of the draft.
In the Canucks’ behind-the-scenes video at the 2017 NHL Draft, we got a brief glimpse of what the scouting staff, specifically John Weisbrod and Judd Brackett, think of Rathbone:
Weisbrod (to Benning and Brackett): Rathbone, Jack Rathbone.
Brackett: If he’s there in the fourth?
Weisbrod: Yeah, if Jack Rathbone’s there. Rathbone is an elite skater.
Benning: We should take him.
Brackett: And he can absolutely hammer the puck.
Brackett, the Canucks’ Director of Amateur Scouting, actually has quite the history with Rathbone. Both are from the New England area, which means Brackett has been able to watch him play and develop throughout his career. For those hesitant about high school players, the familiarity should undoubtedly create some optimism that the Canucks may have found a diamond in the rough.
Brackett: “I’ve known Jack; he’s actually played some summer tournaments for me back in the day. I have quite a bit a familiarity with him. A tremendous skater, puck mover, likes to get up in the play, has power-play ability, big shot from the point. Very exciting. The (high school) level is the level, but I’m not worried about Jack. He’s a self-starter and a go-getter. I expect him to dominate the way he did this year and continue to push the envelope.”
Speaking of diamonds in the rough, I was driven by curiosity to uncover just how many players drafted out of high school went on to become regular NHL players. Let me preface this by noting that I went through each draft dating back to the year 2000. Considering the total amount of players drafted from high school, the statistics just aren’t in favour of the prospects. Nonetheless, a majority of the success stories didn’t just make the NHL, but they’ve also thrived in the NHL.
Rathbone will attend Harvard next season and suit up in maroon and white. It’s difficult quantitativelyto project his potential, but he’s the first pure offensive defenseman that the Canucks have drafted since Jordan Subban. There’s no doubt that he’s a long-term project whose odds are stacked against him, but it’s exciting to think about his offensive potential and what he could potentially bring to the Canucks in the future.