As we move through my top-10 Canucks prospects list, we get to the player whose play this season has risen his stock more than any other prospect.
It’s time to talk about the beast that is Jonah Gadjovich.
The 22-year-old winger finished last year with 13 goals and four assists in 38 AHL games with the Utica Comets. This season, he has come in looking like a much-improved player. Gadjovich had a ton of time off after the AHL season was shut down and dedicated himself to working out and eating right to prepare himself to take a step in the AHL. It has shown on the ice this AHL season as he is scoring at nearly a goal per game rate.
Because of what he has done this season, he has jumped up the rankings a lot since our November rankings that had him at 16th on our top prospects list.
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The immediate thing that pops off the screen is how good Gadjovich is in front of the net. He has gained strength in the offseason and is confident that nobody in the AHL can overpower him around the crease. Comets Head Coach Trent Cull told me that right now, he just wants Jonah to know who he is and play to his strengths. Cull knows what Gadjovich can bring to a team with his ability to jump on loose pucks around the crease and bury them with consistency.
All but one of his nine goals this season have come from right around the crease. Greasy goals have always been his forte, as he enjoys going hard to the net and was rewarded throughout his junior career for that exact thing. He’s proven that he is able to score goals when he is bigger and stronger than his competition. For these types of players who rely on size and strength, there is normally a drop-off after they move on from junior to professional hockey. The thing is that Gadjovich is still bigger and stronger than everyone but he is doing it at AHL level.
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There’s still a massive jump for him to go through to play for the Canucks but I think physically, Gadjovich is ready. He’s 6’2″ and came in over 205 pounds this year, and I’ve heard from multiple players and coaches that they were blown away from the offseason transformation to Gadjovich’s body. He has grown from a big man into a beast.
NHL players are going to be bigger and stronger than AHL players and that should be fine for Gadjovich to adjust to but more importantly, players are going to be faster. That is where Gadjovich needs the most improvement. He’s never been an above-average skater and it shows with his inability to drive a line on his own. His impact on a line is going to be the player creating havoc around the net and being ferocious on the forecheck.
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His overall skating speed did improve from last season, he has definitely gained a half-step or so when he’s getting from one end of the ice to the other. It’s not a Bo Horvat level of improvement to his skating but it’s noticeable when he is flying down the wing to charge the net on an odd-man rush.
The thing that I’ve noticed has been the improvement in his quickness when reacting to a play. It’s come from the growth in self-confidence.
“Overall, I feel better mentally and physically,” said Gadjovich. “I feel more confident, I feel like I’m getting to pucks first this year, more often than I was before. I feel stronger on pucks, I feel stronger in front of the net, I feel like my hands are better in front of the net, I just feel like I have overall just improved my game. I think that for me it’s just about being confident and playing with that edge. I’m just trying to do my job.”
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One of the things that I have learned from my conversations with Gadjovich is that he knows how to play a role. He was a fourth-line body banger when he made Canada’s World Junior team back at the 2018 World Junior Championships. He is aware of that being the type of player that he needs to be to make an NHL roster. Canucks head coach Travis Green seems to like having bottom-six players who can kill penalties. This part is still lacking from Gadjovich’s game and is something I would like to see from him moving forward.
His play style and the way he scores can fit in a bottom-six role, and although he doesn’t have great wheels, I’d need to see him skate in an NHL game before saying that he is not ready. With that being said, he should be the next call-up after Kole Lind. Gadjovich has worked to improve his game in his three years with the Comets and is now scoring at such a high rate in the AHL  that he deserves to get a look to see if this is just an AHL player or if his strengths can translate to the NHL and bring success.
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His output this AHL season has him climbing the rankings and if he continues to have success, he will get his shot soon. At the time of this writing, Gadjovich has nine goals and two assists in 10 AHL games. Seven of his nine goals have come at five-on-five and that type of scoring ability could be used on a Canucks fourth line that could maybe feature Zack MacEwen banging bodies on the right-wing down the road. The combination of MacEwen and Gadjovich would be a tough duo to take on during forechecks and could each bring a scoring touch to a Canucks fourth line that has struggled to put up many goals over the past year.
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In conclusion, Gadjovich has proven that he is ready for a call-up. It may not happen this season but with the lasting effects of COVID, he may get a shot. If that’s not the case, he will be in the final year of his entry-level contract next season and can be a viable option for a winger call-up at any point of the 2021-22 season. For now, we will just continue to watch him manhandle the competition in the AHL and score a whack load of goals two feet from the crease.