Another day, another prospect profile, as we at CanucksArmy bring you our 2018 Mid-Term Prospect Rankings with the 13th ranked player in the Canucks’ system, Zack MacEwen.
Now, if you told me when the Canucks signed MacEwen as an undrafted free agent from the Gatineau Olympiques of the QMJHL that he’d rank this highly in about a year’s time, I’m not entirely sure I’d have believed you. Jeremy Davis would have been downright incredulous! At the time, MacEwen seemed a low probability bet even relative to other undrafted prospects, and because of that, an entry-level contract seemed excessive.
— CanucksArmy (@CanucksArmy) January 20, 2018
What a difference a year makes. It’s looking more likely by the day that MacEwen wasn’t a lost cause, just a late bloomer.
It’s been a steady progression for MacEwen, who’s impressed at every turn since joining the Canucks organization. Down the stretch and in the QMJHL playoffs last season, MacEwen flashed silky-smooth mitts regularly and put up gaudy counting stats; in the Young Stars tournament at Penticton, he was one of the Canucks better forwards; he’s transitioned seamlessly to the AHL with the Utica Comets. Now his merits as a prospect are inarguable.
With that, let’s breakdown MacEwen’s first year-plus in the Canucks’ organization, and what the future holds. But before we do that, let’s reassert the ground rules for this project.
First, a quick review of how these rankings were formed. Seven lists, including six from Canucks Army writers (myself, Jeremy Davis, 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.
#16: Zack MacEwen
Preseason Ranking: N/A
Age: 21 – Position: Forward – Shoots: Right – Height: – 6’4″ – Weight: 212 lbs
With the call-ups and injuries that the Comets have suffered this season, MacEwen has stepped up at each occasion. He’s an everything player — the Comets use MacEwen a lot at even strength and on the first-unit power play.
In the 62 games MacEwen’s played in this season, he’s contributed 32 points (10 goals and 22 assists) with a significant portion of those points coming at 5-on-5. According to the excellent prospect stat website aptly named Prospect-Stats.com, in his first 60 games (it’s not entirely up to date) MacEwen had 20 points (six goals and 14 assists) at 5-on-5, good for the second-best rate on the Comets.
Using the pGPS (prospect graduation probabilities system) to project MacEwen’s chances of developing into a full-time NHL’er, we can see that he carries a 36.7% Exp. Success rate of developing into a full-time NHL’er. Based on his cohort, MacEwen’s Exp. Production at the NHL level should he make it is 27.6 points per 82 games.
That makes intuitive sense given, based on the members of his cohort. There are a lot of pugilists and career third-liners in his comparables chart. That said, if you can find a bottom-six player with an undrafted CHL free agent, that’s an excellent find.
One area where MacEwen will need to improve significantly is his two-way game. Based on the With or Without You charts developed by Jeremy Davis, his impact on his linemates’ ability to control goals at 5-on-5 isn’t exactly inspiring. A lot of the players MacEwen shared the ice with most frequently fared worse at managing the on-ice goals with MacEwen than without, and the ones that benefitted from his partnership didn’t do so at an exceptional rate.
Assuming MacEwen’s going to make it at the NHL level, it’s going to be in the bottom-six, and taking care of things at your own end of the ice carries significant import in that role.
The one caveat I’d include is that we have to allow for the possibility that MacEwen’s on-ice goal numbers are being negatively impacted, by no fault of his own, by things like sampling issues or on-ice percentages. We just don’t have access to those numbers, so we have to work with what we’ve got to make these assumptions. That said, based on what I do know about MacEwen and my viewings, it doesn’t seem outlandish to suggest he needs to work on that part of his game.
At the AHL level, MacEwen’s playing like a prototypical power forward. When I spoke to Utica Comets head coach Trent Cull a short time ago for my piece in The Athletic Vancouver about Alexis D’Aoust, he brought up MacEwen as an example of someone who’d earned his power play time and who fills the role excellently as a net-front presence. That makes sense given his 6-foot-4 frame and silky-smooth mitts.
As our resident Utica Comets expert Cory Hergott has told me, MacEwen’s offence has dried up a bit of late, but he’s adding other dimensions to his game to make him a valuable contributor all the same. Most notably, Hergott said that MacEwen’s skating is improving of late. It’s not consistent, but it’s getting there. And Hergott sounds confident that he’ll be a threat when he puts that together with his imposing frame.
It’s looking less and less likely like MacEwen will get a call-up with the Canucks to close out the season, but he absolutely has a chance to get a glimpse next season as injuries mount. Here’s hoping he puts it all together and makes a lasting impression.