Author’s Note: The long-awaited moment is finally here. Today, we kick off the top ten of our “midterm” Canucks prospect profiles. As many readers have probably noticed, the series went a little off the rails this year in terms of scheduling. There are a number of reasons for this that all mostly relate back to the fact that for most of the writers here, hockey is still a side gig and life gets in the way. I was finishing my college program; Jeremy divided his time between fatherhood and completing his practicum; Ryan Biech’s family added another baby into the fold; and both he and J.D. are dividing their time between CanucksArmy, The Athletic Vancouver, and their respective radio gigs. Four of the site’s biggest contributors were severely limited in their ability to produce content, and the consistency of the prospect series suffered as a result. Luckily, it looks to be back on track and the remaining profiles should be out in relatively short order. So, before we get into our #10 profile, I’d just like to extend a sincere thank you to all the readers for their patience.
On day two of the 2017 draft, there was one quote from Judd Bracket that stood out above the rest, regarding 6th round pick Petrus Palmu:
“He’s short, but I would not call him small.”
Standing at just 5’7″, Palmu was one of the shortest players in his draft class, but he tips the scales at a healthy 180 pounds. For comparison, that’s just a few pounds shy of the weight Brad Marchand is listed at, and he’s no wilting flower.
Palmu was a swing-for-the-fences pick at the tail end of last year’s draft. His height makes him a long shot to make the NHL, but he appears to be one of the most skilled players in the Canucks’ system. His great rookie season in Finland’s SM-Liiga has done nothing to make any of us reverse that position, so he checks in at number 10 on our list.
Petrus Palmu 2017-18 SM-Liiga Statistics
Palmu had a very impressive rookie year for TPS Turku, finishing 35th in league scoring and first among rookies (albeit at a slightly older age than some of his peers). His numbers are particularly impressive considering his shot rates and relatively low shooting percentage. Palmu averaged over three and a half shots per game and finished the season with a 56% Corsi, which puts to rest any doubt that he could succeed against grown men.
In spite of his impressive rookie season, Palmu still looks like a long shot to make the NHL when viewed through the lens of the prospect Graduation Probabilities System (pGPS). Based on pGPS, Palmu has an expected likelihood of success of 13%. While this may not seem impressive, it’s great for a sixth round pick especially considering his upside and the Canucks scouting department deserves full credit for unearthing him. Real Canucks heads will notice that one of Palmu’s successful matches is Petri Skriko, who was a good player on a very lackluster Canucks team in the ’80s. While the scoring rates pGPS uses to determine matches are adjusted for era, pGPS still undersells Palmu’s likelihood of success, if only because NHL teams seem more willing than ever to take chances on shorter players.
Petrus Palmu is one of many fantastic-looking products of a 2017 draft that appeared to be largely the brainchild of Canucks Head of Amateur Scouting Judd Brackett and Analytics Department head Jonathan Wall. Jason Botchford penned a great piece on Palmu in early July of 2017 that explained how the Canucks leaned more on data in their most recent draft to help them unearth players like Palmu:
For years, perception has been the Canucks use data like Alain Vigneault used Keith Ballard — as little as humanly possible.
This past draft, however, the Canucks set aside their affinity for big players who are difficult to play against, and focused on skilled players with big data instead.
Has their little analytics heart grown three sizes right before our eyes? Is there now a bigger role in this organization for data?
“I think we’ve been incorporating that this past season as well as parts of the season before,” Linden said. “I think we’re relying on Jonathan Wall and Aiden Fox more to run data and see what pops out. Then we can talk about those players. Some aren’t fits, some are.
“It’s a piece of the puzzle. It’s a tool. Maybe a guy pops up and a scout will say, ‘you know I’ve always liked him’ and the (data) can be a piece that supports it. Or maybe a guy has great data and a scout will say ‘he’s not for me.’”
While data obviously played a role, the Canucks scouting department likely saw a bevy of attributes they believed could translate to the pro level. Palmu has skill and speed to burn, showcasing great stickhandling ability in tight and the acceleration needed to separate himself from defenders at both the junior and professional level. Palmu has excellent vision, as his relatively equal goal and assist totals indicate. He has a great shot, which he is able to get off frequently. The release on his wrist shot is extremely quick, and he has an impressive slap shot as well; he even manned the point at times on Owen Sound’s power play during his junior career. Palmu is also extremely creative with the puck both individually and when feeding a pass to his teammates. This goal from his last season with the Attack perhaps best showcases his willingness to innovate offensively, as he scores what can only be described as one of the most unique and lacrosse-like goals in OHL history:
(Something I love about this goal that’s extremely underrated is the way he passes to himself under pressure by banking the puck off the back of the net.)
There will always be worries about the physical aspects of the game for players of his height, but Palmu’s performance against men in Finland’s top professional league will go a long way towards alleviating those concerns. I got the chance to watch a few TPS Turku games this season and was astounded at how good Palmu was at staying on the puck. So much focus is placed on the disadvantages short players have in professional hockey, but Palmu can actually use it to his benefit. Short players with a low centre of gravity can actually be incredibly difficult to knock off the puck, especially when they’re as well-conditioned as Palmu. I wouldn’t quite describe him as someone who “plays big” for his size, but he’s broad-shouldered, muscular, and his size has not deterred him whatsoever from the toughest aspects of the game. Palmu does some of his best work below the hash marks, and he’s not afraid to go to the dirty areas to score goals. It’s that diversity in his offensive game that has helped him be effective at the pro level.
In short, I would not sleep on this kid. He’s the real deal. He proved he can succeed on the small ice surface in the OHL, and he proved he can succeed against men in Finland. Now all he has to do is put the two together.
The Canucks Army Midterm Prospect Rankings
|#11: Jalen Chatfield||#12: Evan McEneny|
|#13: Zack MacEwen||#14: Guillaume Brisebois||#15: Jack Rathbone|
|#16: Michael Carcone||#17: Cole Candella||#18: Brett McKenzie|
|#19: Matt Brassard||#20: Lukas Jasek||#21 – #22|
|#23 – #24||#25 – #27||#28 – #31|