A few weeks ago, I completed an exercise using pGPS to look at the UFA prospects then Canucks General Manager Mike Gillis signed during his tenure at the time of their signings.
Seeing the have and have nots in terms of NHL potential proved an interesting endeavour. Unsurprisingly, Chris Tanev checked out as one of the better-rated prospects of the group when viewed through the lens of pGPS (Prospect Graduation Probabilities System) at the time of his signing.
In the comment section, and on Twitter, there were requests to do all of Mike Gillis’s draft classes. Well, ask and you shall receive. Today’s post will kick off a week-long series reviewing the 2008-13 draft classes with pGPS.
Before we dive in, let’s make it clear that this isn’t a comparison between the previous regime and the current one. This is simply an exercise of looking back to see how those draft classes would’ve looked using the tools we have available to us now.
Mere days after dropping game seven of the Stanley Cup Final, the Canucks and their management team headed to St Paul Minnesota for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
As I’ve been doing this entire week, we are looking at how the selections the Canucks made looked at the time of their selection. We’ve come a long way in five years, and with tools like pGPS, we can look back and get a better understanding of how things went, and possibly find ways to figure out ‘how they could’ve done better?’
It’s important to mention that since we are getting closer to present day, the jury is still out on a lot of the players selected are in this draft and the upcoming two that Mike Gillis oversaw.
So with that, let’s look at the Canucks haul for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft
Despite making it to the finals, the Canucks actually possessed all seven picks before the draft begin. They actually traded down from their second round spot to add an additional fourth round pick:
- The Vancouver Canucks’ second-round pick went to the Minnesota Wild as the result of a trade on June 25, 2011 that sent Minnesota’s third and fourth-round picks in 2011 (71st and 101st overall) to Vancouver in exchange for this pick
All trade details are from wikipedia here.
29th overall – RW Nicklas Jensen
With the 29th overall selection, the Canucks took Danish forward Nicklas Jensen who had just posted 29 goals in 61 games for the Oshawa Generals of the OHL. He posted an additional seven goals and four assists in 10 playoff games. He also dominant at the U18 D1 World Juniors scoring 15 points, including 13 goals, in five games representing Denmark.
The Canucks were right to be fall for the fleet of foot scoring winger. Jensen returned to the OHL in his Draft+1 season, matching his point total from the prior season. In his Draft+2 season, Jensen was loaned to AIK of the SHL, where he notched 17 goals in 50 games — impressive production for a 20-year-old in the SHL.
Jensen appeared to be on track to develop into a middle sic fixture for the Canucks, appearing in 17 games in the 2013-14 season. That’s as far as Jensen made it with the Canucks, though, and he fell out of favour quickly with the new regime in Vancouver. Canucks General Manager Jim Benning mentioned that Jensen would need to alter his game to carve out an NHL career. Eventually the Canucks cut bait, dealing Jensen to the Rangers along with a pick for Emerson Etem.
He enters this season in the mix for a roster spot with the Rangers, but will require waivers to be assigned to the AHL.
Using pGPS, at the time of the draft, 30.2% of Jensen’s statistical matches went onto becoming NHL regulars. If we look at Jensen’s year over year pGPS, he tracks reasonably well throughout:
The chart above is mostly about tracking his production outside of the NHL but if we look at Jensen’s NHL production during the 2013-14, where he had 6 points in 17 games, his pGPS looking solely at his NHL production, his pGPS comes in at 69.8%. So, despite his lacklustre production in the AHL, Jensen showed well whenever he was outside of the AHL, which includes his year in the SHL and then his cup of coffee in the NHL.
The Canucks missed out on Rickard Rakell, Tomas Junco and Boone Jenner by selecting Jensen. But the pick was justifiable simply because Jensen has the speed, shot, and forechecking abilities that you can see translating well at the professional level.
71st overall – G David Honzik
In the final CSS rankings for the 2011, David Honzik was ranked as the 13th best North American goaltender available. But at the time of the draft, there was reason to believe that he may be a bit of a sleeper. Honzik had minimal goaltending coaching throughout his junior career, and had the right size dimensions to appear like a net minder who could take the next step.
You can’t blame the Canucks for being intrigued by Honzik for those reasons, but likely could’ve selected him much later in the draft. If he was snapped up by another team, it appears it wasn’t much of a loss as Honzik never seemed to put it together and looked down right lost in his appearances at Young Stars.
As mentioned with other goaltender selections, pGPS is unable to judge goaltenders at the moment.
Honzik was never signed to a contract and remains in the Czech Republic – playing for HC Karlovy Vary this upcoming season.
90th overall – RW Alexandre Grenier
After posting 24 points in 31 games in his rookie season in the QMJHL, the Canucks selected big forward Alexandre Grenier with their own third round pick. Grenier had just completed his D+2 season at the time of his selection and looked like a late bloomer. He can skate and has the size to at the very least be a bottom six forward.
Grenier returned to the QMJHL for an overage year and posted 1 PPG. Still without an ELC and the Canucks retaining his right, Grenier went to Austria for the start of the 2012-13 season before getting a four game cup of coffee in the AHL in 2013-14 after spending the majority of the season in the ECHL. He signed his ELC and has spent the last three seasons marinating in the AHL with the Utica Comets.
He has seen his point totals increase year over year and appeared in six contests for the Canucks last season.
Using pGPS at the time of his selection, 10.3% of his matches went onto becoming NHL regulars. Ideally you would have better odds in the third round, but his pGPS is lower due to being below a PPG in his D+2 season.
The Canucks missed out on Florida Panthers prospect Kyle Rau and Ottawa Senators Jean-Gabriel Pageau. But both of those players are on the smaller side though.
Grenier has struggled possession-wise in the AHL, but he was being asked to shoulder the majority of the offensive load. It’s not crazy to see Grenier as the 13th forward for the Canucks and play in a bottom six role when injuries occur, which is where he is best suited.
101st overall – LW Joe Labate
With the pick acquired in an earlier trade with the Minnesota Wild, the Canucks select big winger Joe Labate, who was already committed to the University of Wisconsin. This followed two trends that appeared to happen during the Canucks regime, one was large wingers who could skate and appeared to have some offensive upside. The other being taking players who were committed to the NCAA to allow longer development.
Labate played the four full years at UofW before signing an ELC with the Canucks. He never put up big numbers, but put up enough offensive numbers and showed enough that he could’ve, and still can, carve out a career as a depth forward.
Like Patrick McNally, we are unfortunately unable to use pGPS on Labate’s draft year as he was selected out of the USHS.
Labate has one year left in his ELC, and will look to try to make an impression with the organization. Which will actually being in Penticton at Young Stars.
120th overall – LW Ludwig Blomstrand
The Mike Gillis regime also appeared to like selecting Swedish born wingers – as they dipped back there to select hard working forward Ludwig Blomstrand in the late fourth round. Heralded as a two way player who could chip in offensively, Blomstrand was able to appear in 18 SHL games in his D+1 season after the Canucks selected him. He also exploded offensively in their Superelit league (junior) that season.
At this point of the draft, you are looking for players who have a couple of skills that can translate and then round out the rest from there. It’s fair to say that Blomstrand had the two way acumen that he would just need to work on his offensive game.
The Canucks saw enough and signed him to an ELC – but he quickly fell out of favour, appearing in 15 AHL games during the first part his time with the organization, and then the rest of the time in the ECHL.
He actually had a very good season for Kalamazoo last year, posting 63 points in 71 games. But it wasn’t enough to earn a call up to the Comets, even though Utica and the Canucks for that matter were ravaged by injuries.
If we use pGPS to look at the selection of Blomstrand, 0.0% of his 212 matches went onto becoming NHL regulars. So the numbers re-affirm that Blomstrand likely was never going to amount to anything.
Blomstrand’s ELC ended at the end of last season, and the Canucks did not provide a qualifying offer to retain his rights. He will play for Almtuna IS in the Allsvenskan this upcoming season.
150th overall – D Frank Corrado
Everyone cringes when Corrado’s name is brought up now – either because the Canucks lost Corrado on waivers at the beginning of last season, or because people still talk about that. But that’s not what we are here to do. We are here to take a look at what Corrado looked like at the time of selection. So since we all know what happened, let’s jump into his pGPS numbers.
At the time of the selection, Corrado didn’t appear like a good choice with 6.2% of his matches went onto becoming NHL regulars. It actually trended downwards from there over the rest of his OHL career.
But he appeared in some playoff games for the Canucks, which is what complicated things later, and trended upwards from there. His AHL production, although it didn’t jump of the page, resulted in his pGPS creeping up to 37.1% at the conclusion of 2014-15 season. His NHL production that same season produced a pGPS of 69.0%. Based on his 39 games with the Maple Leafs, it finished last season at 77.3%.
Based on the data, Corrado did not appear to be a good bet at the time of his selection but was able to translate his game to the AHL and NHL levels.
180th overall – LW Pathrik Westerholm
With the 180th overall selection, the Canucks went back to Sweden to select left winger Patrik Westerholm from Malmo of the Allsvenskan, his twin brother Ponthus went undrafted. The Canucks were hoping that his skill would continue to develop and then translate to North America. But his offensive production took a nose dive after being selected, and the Canucks never offered him a contract.
Using the trusty pGPS, 12.5% of Westerholm’s matches went onto successful NHL careers. That’s in line with the type of numbers you would like to see in the late 6th round.
Pathrik and Ponthus played last season in the SHL for Brynas Gavle IF alongside Canucks winger Anton Rodin.
210th overall – D Henrik Tommernes
With the 210th overall pick, Gillis selected Swedish defenceman Henrik Tommernes. Regarded as an offensive puck rusher, Tommernes was a player that many teams hoped would fall through the draft and then sign as a UFA, but the Canucks selected the rearguard after his D+3 season after he posted 20 points in 47 games in the SHL.
Tommernes returned to the SHL for the following two seasons, where although he saw a dip in production, he was still had the looks of being a depth defenceman who could help on the PP. The Canucks signed him to an ELC, and he made his move the AHL.
During the 2013-14 season, he went through a bit of a learning curve but showed flashes of what he was capable of. Tommernes returned to the AHL for the 2014-15 season and appeared to be on track, posting 11 points in 24 games before asking to return to the Europe. His contract was terminated, and he played in Finland for the remainder of last season before jumping back to the SHL in 2015-16.
Personally, I was always a huge fan of Tommernes, and thought he could make it in a 5/6 role. My personal bias towards him was re-affirmed with pGPS, as an extremely impressive 71.4% of Tommernes statistical matches at the time of his selection went onto being NHL regulars. It’s important to note that there were only 7 matches, of which 5 ‘made it’, but it’s still a very good bet with the second to last pick of the draft.
Looking at Tate Olson and Tommernes, the Canucks have made some good value bets with the 210th overall selection.
The jury is still out on a couple of these players, but it appears that the Canucks were able to extract some depth out of this draft with Corrado, Jensen, and Grenier. Even though two of them are no longer with the Canucks.
It’s worth mentioning that we got through this whole thing without mentioning Corrado and asset management!
Tomorrow we turn our attention at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.