Photo Credit: Canucks TV

CanucksArmy’s 2018 Midterm Prospect Rankings: #15 Jack Rathbone

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.

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.

  • apr

    Urgh, I hate that Jordan Subban and Rathbone are in the same sentence. I’m calling it now – he’s Brian Leetch part 2. Seems like a tremendous character kid as well.

  • Fred-65

    I’m guessing that this is some thing like shooting at the moon. He was a 4th round pick so although they may all drool over him they weren’t that confident to try a 2nd or 3rd round pick on him. He’s playing in a poor league ( comparatively ) There’s a built in excuse if he doesn’t make it. I suppose time will tell. What is interesting to me is they’re depending on his future development by looking at what he has now, but all players hit a plateau at some point for some it’s late teens other it maybe late twenties ie he may never be any better than he is now, that’s why high picks are high picks what they have now is the more complete package …. now. FRankly I tend to believe there are few diamonds in the rough at that stage and you should draft for character

  • TD

    I think there was a back story to Rathbone playing high school hockey. I think his brother has a disability and he stayed home to spend more time with him and help at home. The list of drafted high schoolers was impressive for the talent level. I wonder how many others became undrafted free agents? I like the pick, but he’s a long shot to make it.

  • argoleas

    What is good about this pick is not just his potential, but the fact that Canucks have 5 years from draft day until they lose his rights. Plenty of time to see him develop without having to make a decision.

  • Frank

    He’s got some upside and I like that Brackett knows him well and has watched his development. It’ll take a few years before we will have a sense of whether he can make the leap to professional hockey but he seems to have the raw skill set.

  • Peachy

    Love this pick and prospect. Take a chance, and shoot for the moon. Odds of him making it are probably less than 10%, but I wish him all the best and hope he beats the odds.

  • wojohowitz

    Every time Rathbone is discussed I think of Phil Housley – an eighteen year old high schooler that Scotty Bowman drafted in the first round that shocked everybody. Housley made the Sabres the next season and had a great career.

  • UKCanuck

    I don’t get this. He deferred on Harvard to play HS hockey? If he finished HS last year how can he still be playing HS hockey? I find it worrying that he has torched a year of development when he could be playing NCAA or USHL.

    • SJ

      It’s a prep school, so he’s basically doing “grade 13” University prep courses at a private school while he plays high school hockey. It’s somewhat common for kids at these prep schools to stay for the extra year, just kind of rare that an athlete on a scholarship to Harvard would choose to do it. Though, if you read the story Black Ace posted below, he has his reasons. Good ones.

  • Jimjamg

    This is the type of high risk high reward pick that CA writers are always saying Benning needs to do more often, so lets give him credit where credit is due. Hope it pays off. Be fun to follow Harvard next year.

  • Bud Poile

    3. Top underrated prospect

    Defenseman Jack Rathbone, No. 57 on Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters, had 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists) in 22 games serving as captain at Dexter School in Massachusetts. The left-handed defenseman, who jumped 21 spots from No. 78 on Central Scouting’s midterm ranking, will attend Harvard University in 2018-19. Rathbone, who has 18 team interviews at the combine this week, also had one assist and was plus-1 in four games for Youngstown of the United States Hockey League last season. He’s a dynamic skater who moves the puck quickly and possesses a good shot, according to David Gregory of Central Scouting.