Photo Credit: NHL.com

Which Canucks prospect had the best season?

The various leagues around the world have entered their respective playoffs.

Overall, it has been a good season for the prospects in junior, the NCAA, and abroad with many of them taking noticeable steps forward. It makes you wonder which one of the group made the biggest strides forward?

Jett Woo

The right-handed defender saw his point totals rise from 25 points in 44 games during his draft season to 65 points in 62 games for the Warriors in his draft plus one year. Moose Jaw was led by their top line, Josh Brook, and Jett Woo in all facets of the game and that is clearly evidenced by their scoring leaders:

Image: EliteProspects

Woo set new career highs in goals, assists, and points this season and really took on a bigger role for the Warriors. Many pointed to his offensive breakout coming out of nowhere, but it’s worth remembering that Woo was near a point-per-game player last season before suffering an injury. He came back, had his role reduced, and just wasn’t putting up a ton of points.

It’s encouraging to see that he was able to consistently put up points throughout the entire season and still wasn’t a slouch in the defensive zone. While still adding those physical elements to his game that makes him such a fun player to watch.

Using pGPS from Jeremy Davis, we can see his cohort success rate skyrocket this season:

It appears that the Canucks were able to extract serious value from their early second pick. They acquired a player who saw their stock fall near the end of their draft season for a variety of explainable reasons and fits an organizational need.

There is still plenty of time left in his development but Woo took a serious step forward in his status as a prospect.

Tyler Madden

The Canucks 3rd round pick from 2018 had some concerns during his draft in terms of his underlying numbers and lacklustre production. But at the time of writing that profile, you could see why a team would be interested in him – he has a great work ethic, speed for days, and appeared to have some good playmaking and puck skills that just weren’t being fully utilized in the USHL.

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Fast forward to now and all of those positive signs have taken over as Madden broke out as the first line centre for Northeastern University this year. Canucks Director of Amateur Scouting Judd Brackett, mentioned all of those aforementioned things after the Canucks took him and suggested that Madden was a kid with a good personality to buck those low odds of success (2.2% through pGPS).

Northeastern will still be playing for a few more weeks but Madden currently sits at twenty-seven points in thirty-three games this season. He sits sixth among NCAA rookie scoring after posting only 34 points in 50 USHL games during his draft season.

He had a very good showing at the World Juniors and a strong second half of the season for Northeastern. He is more confident and aggressive on the offensive side of the game with the Huskies since returning from Vancouver. It’s worth noting that it’s clear that opposing teams are now keying in on him and trying everything possible just to shut him down.

It feels like we have to say this every few weeks – but stats aren’t everything when evaluating prospects and it’s important to combine the eye-test with the numbers provided. Madden is a prime example of why it’s so important to combine both.

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It’s worth noting that this was pulled a few weeks ago, but using pGPS, we see a success rate of 38.8% of his cohorts going onto successful NHL careers. That is a huge upwards trend since the 2.2% during his draft season and presents fantastic value for where the Canucks selected him.

Quinn Hughes

Being such a highly regarded prospect comes with its own set of expectations. Hughes matched his goal total from last season but put up more assists, points, and a better point-per-game rate but it hasn’t been seen as a step forward for the defenceman.

If anything, there have been more questions raised about his play and turnovers.

Valid talking points but it also places a cloud of disappointment on what should be seen as a very good draft plus one season. At this moment, Hughes sits second in sophomore defensive scoring, trailing only Cale Makar. Looking at all NCAA defencemen, Hughes is 9th in scoring.

The first two players mentioned in this post took big steps compared to where they started while Hughes just improved on his totals from last season. With that being said, it’s important to remember that Michigan was not as strong this season and then lost Josh Norris in January to a season-ending injury, so the support for Hughes just wasn’t there.

Either way, this season for Hughes should be viewed as a positive and fans should be excited to see him in the lineup in the coming days.

Michael DiPietro

The Canucks 2017 3rd round pick started the year with the Windsor Spitfires before being moved to the Ottawa 67’s prior to representing Canada at the World Juniors.

He was fantastic for Canada allowing just two goals, including the overtime winner, in their 2-1 loss to Finland in the quarterfinals. He also made his NHL debut this season after every other goalie in the organization was injured.

Despite putting up some wins for the 67’s, DiPietro has struggled to replicate the numbers that he saw in Windsor. He has been playing well and should be the starting netminder for them in the playoffs (once he recovers from injury) but the 0.897 SV% does stand out when looking at his number over the last few years.

It’s been an up and down season for the netminder but he does have a chance to put that all behind him with a strong OHL playoff run.

Jack Rathbone

Nobody knew what to expect from Rathbone this season after he went back to High School hockey in his draft plus one season.

He was noticeably stronger at this year’s development camp compared to last year and appeared poised to do well as a freshman with Harvard. He exceeded expectations early with a strong start that saw him rise up the depth chart and land on the Crimson’s first pairing with Adam Fox. He remained there for the rest of the season, saw some time on the first powerplay unit but then eventually secured the spot on the second unit.

Earlier today, Rathbone was named to the ECAC All-Rookie Team.

His point totals don’t jump off the page, 21 points in 31 games, but he does rank 7th in NCAA freshman defenceman scoring and was 2nd among freshman defenceman that has been drafted, trialling only K’Andre Miller.

Rathbone is a fantastic skater, efficient puck mover, uses his hockey IQ in all three zones and has shown a willingness to be physical. There is a lot to like about his skill-set and there are reasons to believe that he can continue to trend towards a future with the Canucks

At this moment, 22.1% of his cohorts went onto becoming NHL regulars.

William Lockwood

Lockwood entered this season with a lot of question marks given his injury history and how that might affect his play.

Add the fact that his regular centre, Josh Norris, missed the last two months of the year and there was every reason to believe that Lockwood would tail off. Instead, he stepped his game after Norris went out and continued to put up the points.

Lockwood’s production isn’t something that screams – “He will be an impact player” – but he has put himself back into the conversation of being a possibility of a bottom-six player for the team in the future.

We wait to see if he will sign or head back for his senior year.

It’s clear that the Canucks did really well on the draft floor of the 2018 NHL Entry draft.

At 7th overall, Hughes was a no brainer pick. In the early second round, Woo was sitting there for them to take the low-risk and high reward gamble that he would be more like the first half player and it’s clearly worked out. In the third round, Madden seemed like a long term project that has seen an expedited timeline.

The other prospects profiled have all had good seasons but it’s clear that Woo and Madden have set themselves apart from the pack as players who had the best year relative to their expectations.

  • Wiseguy

    Canucks Army is the go to for all things Canucks, The Athletic has nothing on them, real good read Ryan!
    These are the kind of articles most Canuck fans want to see, its not just about post game.
    Keep up the good work!

  • Wiseguy

    Now onto the prospects. I am not going to get overly excited just yet on these guys as it seems the last few years it was the same and then disappointment(Lind, Gadjo, Dahlen etc). I will however say its great to see improvement verses the opposite in all their draft + seasons. I really do hope one or two (long shot) of these guys keeps improving and makes a push for the big club in a couple years. We are trending in the right direction to be sure.

    • DJ_44

      Lind and Gajovich should not be viewed as disappointments. They have made pretty significant strides in Utica this year. The jump to pro hockey is big. Look for them to start producing next season.

      • Wiseguy

        This season for both is disappointing what they do next season will be judged then. I hope they improve significantly next year and feel they should but the reality is very few prospects make it from each draft class, theirs is as follows;
        Petey – NHL
        One could say if only one more made it to the NHL that would be considered an great draft class by any teams standards if two made it well… Anyway I just keep my expectations somewhat in check is all. Typically to have a chance to make it to the NHL you should be above average in your AHL rookie season and they are not.

        • Fred-65

          First Pro season for MacEwen he put up 10+23= 33 pts in 66 games and I might add 56 Pim’s. Lind 3+ 11 in 46 games, Gadjovich 2+5 in 37 games. We’ve seen how MacEwen played in the NHL when he was called up. As a rule 2nd round picks have a 20% success rate, that’s one in five expectation

          • DJ_44

            MacEwen play well 8n his call up. He was 2 or 3 years older that both Lind or Gadjovich. Lind’s play is night and day fron the start of the season. He gains confidence with every game.

    • Dinsdale

      Both Lind and Gadj went through significant injuries, and they weren’t given much decent ice time or linemates by Coach Cull (partly due to an overabundance of AHL vets and other rookies in the forward ranks), so I wouldn’t be too quick to rule these first-year pros as disappointments.

  • Giant-Nation

    We need Woo Hughes Juolevi + one more pick to really work out on the back end as Tanev and Edler will be on the downside as the core Centered around 20 year old EP will be peaking in 5-6 years. If we grab Byram we can then switch focus back to forwards. As it takes d longer to enter the league and impact this is a good approach. Can’t wait to see the pool after this draft. As long as Schaller doesn’t keep screwing it up for us.

    • canuckfan

      Yes Woo, Hughes, and Juolevi should work on the back and and Tanev and Edler will transition down the lineup. Next year I expect Tanev and Edler to still be one and two but watch Hughes and Stetcher start making a move up the lineup as the season wears on next year with Juolevi making his mark once he rounds into shape. That would leave Hutton being open to be traded which could end up happening this summer.

    • Smyl and Snepsts

      I would be all I on Byram as well if he is available. As much as we have some good defense prospects I don’t see any of them being a true 1 or 2 defenseman. Hughes may put up points but isn’t going to be the 1 guy who can also neutralize the other teams top players

  • Canuckmobile

    Of course hindsight is 20/20, but Josh Brook (the one D-man ahead of Woo in Moose Jaw scoring, drafted by the Canadiens one pick after Gadjovich) would look fantastic in the Canucks prospect pool at the moment. That said, I’m not going to complain about JB’s 2018 draft haul…as Biech mentions it’s shaping up to be a great draft.

  • I am Ted

    Nice piece here. Again, I do like Benning’s drafting. He’s done a pretty good job. Trades and free agency…well…not so much.

    I think most of these guys showed big improvement and it’s tough to say who was the best considering they are in different leagues etc. Let these guys develop and don’t rush them.

  • Gino's 3rd Cousin

    I am most excited about Jett Woo. I have always been a fan of a rougher style of play or having more players throughout the lineup that have some bite to their game. I know the game is changing, but every time the playoffs come around I see the softer players getting pushed to the perimeter and sometimes disappearing all together. Woo seems to have some offensive upside to his game and if some of that can carry over in to the NHL we will have a versatile Dman on the team who can stick up for the likes of Hughes and Petey. I would also be a fan of the Canucks taking a chance on signing Brady Keeper. From what I have seen he plays an aggressive game while also boasting some offensive tools.