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CanucksArmy’s 2018 MidTerm Prospect Rankings: #13 Zack MacEwen

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.

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.

  • TD

    Thanks for the article. As more than one team was interested in MacEwen, it makes sense that something was going on. The big players often seem hard to predict, some dominate because of their size, but struggle to continue to develop while others struggle with coordination when young and grow into their bodies. Looks like a good signing, and some size in the lineup wouldn’t hurt.

  • Defenceman Factory

    Really thought MacEwan would rank better. I suppose It could be argued some of the lesser Dprospects (McEneny, Chatfield) should rank better than Zack. Less sure about Lockwood and really question why Palmu would be ranked better than McEwan.

    • TD

      I don’t always understand either, although it’s just a vote by the writers and consolidated vote of the readers. Sometimes it seems like it’s based on the players potential, while other times it seems to be on how far along they are in their development.

      • argoleas

        Ultimately, the ranking, consolidated or not, is just that. A ranking by people that spend the time to dig deeper than any of us have the time for. If we disagree, that’s fine, let’s debate it. But nothing in those ranking will somehow impact those players’ trajectories (like a pessimistic outlook on Gaudette initially after his draft).

        MacEwen is definitely someone whose progress I’m enjoying tracking. Not because I believe that he will somehow become a first-like power forward :D, but it’s fun to see an undrafted prospect be dug up, developed, and potentially make it to the big club.

    • Holmes

      Yep, same. These rankings are so subjective. think the hockey news has him at #10 and they poll GMs to come up with their rankings. I’d would be more inclined to align with that view

    • Chris the Curmudgeon

      Didn’t Palmu finish first in rookie scoring in the Finnish league this year, as a twenty-year-old? That’s gotta count for something. Palmu obviously has major question marks, but he probably projects as a top 6 forward if he does make it to the Show.

  • Fred-65

    As a rule big bodies suffer with skating and in particular their agility and quickness. I’d think it’s up to MacEwen what his future will be. I suspect he’s going to have to work hard on his skating over the summer months. But you can’t teach size and from the videos I’ve watched he does have soft hands and IQ

  • Cageyvet

    I know Jeremy Davis ate his share of crow on this one, and I appreciate that, but if you re-read his initial article, it was definitely a take that needed to be re-visited. I hope that CA writers learn from this, as there’s no shame in being wrong on a prospect, and there is similarly no need to shame the Canucks management when they are wrong. His article at the time attacked the Canucks for throwing a way a contract on this player. It’s that precise attitude that has created a fan backlash at times, when you act like you are so certain to be correct, and place your opinion that strongly above those of the professionals, then you deserve whatever comes your way. It also shows that perhaps, just perhaps, analytics aren’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to rating prospects, particularly when the same article where he lambasted the team for picking Zack acknowledged that other teams had also shown interest. Maybe they use more than just a slide-rule to evaluate talent?

    • TD

      Couldn’t agree more. The decision to sign MacEwan was based on his own development and characteristics, not based on how statistically similar players have fared in the past. It was made after following a player for a period of time and seeing development and skills that cause the scouts to want that paper. The stats really don’t tell the story for many players.

    • Chris the Curmudgeon

      I also think there’s probably something of a flaw in an evaluation system that allows a success projection of 3% one year and then 35% the next. As in, if the projection mechanism was so accurate, how could it so completely write someone off who a year later looks certain to have at least some sort of NHL career? If it were actually a useful prediction tool that was accounting for the right variables underlying future success, wouldn’t that mean that it would be at least somewhat capable of identifying possible late bloomers?

      • This is why Brian Burke is so skeptical of analytics. Because it doesn’t predict the future, it only tells the past. The 35% probability isn’t important because it’s only based on past player performances. What’s important is who will make those increases in odds and what are the identifiable and monitorable drivers for the improvement?

      • argoleas

        I think of advanced analytics as a tool. Now it can be a fine tool, but its only as useful as the person (GM, etc) using it.

        I’m not sure how to interpret a player having a X percentage of success. But I suppose I can use that percentage to ask: If I identify other players that are similar to my prospect, are there applicable commonalities that they have to contributed to their success that can then be applied to this prospect. In other words, how to turn X percentage into 100%.

    • Canuck4Life20

      It’s almost as if these men who have spent their entire lives playing and watching the game have picked up on a thing or two about player evaluation that they might not have learned sitting in a classroom. Nah, that couldn’t be it. Back to your spreadsheets.

    • Fred-65

      Let’s be honest with ourselves too. Mac Ewen may yet be a dud. One moderate successful AHL season is not a straight line graph to a NHL career. I’m sure we all hope he goes onto bigger and better things in his career. But this is only the 1st chapter of a long book. A lot of fans vacillate between hot and cold … two extremes

  • apr

    Man, I hope he develops – the idea of McEwen Gaudette and Gadjovich on the same line reminds me of how Clifford, King, Carter, Kopitar, and Brown just pinned the Nucks. I really like how the forwards are shaping up – I hope we draft all d-men in this upcoming draft.