The invitees stole the show at this weekend’s Canucks Young Stars Classic in a tournament where previously they’d mostly been an afterthought. Invitees accounted for a large portion of the Canucks’ offence across three games, contributing three of the seven goals Vancouver scored in the tournament.
Generally, you’d hope that the players lighting it up at your development camp would be members of the organization. Unfortunately for the Canucks, they weren’t coming into the tournament with a particularly impressive forward group. It’s important to note that they have some players that weren’t able to compete and that many of their young forwards have already graduated to the NHL, though. The prospect depth at forward is still worrisome, but the Young Stars roster made it look worse than it is.
The good news is that the Canucks looked as though they’d found some diamonds in the rough in the CHL free agent pool. Jim Benning has said that “most of” the players we saw at the Young Stars Classic would get an invite to main camp, which begins Thursday. What exactly that means is unclear, but the hope is that the majority of the players we saw over the weekend will be there, including some of the invitees.
The players that aren’t Canucks property will be looking to earn a deal at the NHL or AHL level. Here are three players in particular that I think have earned a closer look:
Marco Roy was easily the Canucks’ most impressive forward over the three games in Penticton, playing mainly alongside Yan-Pavel LaPlante and fellow invitee Alexis D’Aoust. Roy scored the lone goal in the Canucks’ first game against the Oilers, and added an assist in the final game against the Calgary Flames. He failed to register a point in his second game of the tournament, but it wasn’t due to lack of effort. He played like a man possessed against the Jets, and his line generated the lion’s share of the Canucks’ scoring chances that afternoon.
Roy isn’t technically an undrafted player. He was actually selected by the Edmonton Oilers in the second round of the 2013 NHL, at 56th overall. Roy had a decent draft season, scoring 67 points in 65 games with the Blainsville-Broisbiand Armada of the QMJHL, although he was probably a bit of a reach where the Oilers took him. His next two seasons were hampered by injuries, and the Oilers elected not to sign him. He then re-entered the 2015 draft, but went unselected.
It’s important to remember that a player like Roy should be lighting up a tournament like the Young Stars Classic. He was a 21-year-old player playing against players with much less experience than him. Still, when viewed through the lens of pGPS, an impressive 24% of Roy’s matches went on to play over 200 NHL games, the highest percentage of any development camp invitee. It was hard not to fall in love with his work ethic and energetic style of play, and Roy’s profile suggests he’s worthy of a signing, even if only to an AHL deal.
D’Aoust didn’t produce at the tournament the way his linemates did, but the blame for that can’t really be placed on him. I can’t begin to count how many times I saw D’Aoust set up a beautiful offensive opportunity only to see the play die on the stick of Yan-Pavel LaPlante. Unlike the other two players he was most often paired with, D’Aoust plays more of a finesse game, possessing above-average playmaking ability, which he showcased multiple times by making quick, crisp passes in the offensive zone. His in-zone defensive play lacks refinement, but that can be honed over time as D’Aoust gains experience at the pro level.
According to pGPS, 13.5% of his production and stature-based matches went on to be NHL regulars. That’s roughly equivalent to the value of a mid-round pick, so the Canucks would be wise to bring him into the fold.
Maksimovich only played in one game at the tournament, which is a surprise given his play. I thought Maksimovich acquitted himself very well against the Oilers in the Canucks’ first game of the tournament, displaying great positioning, particularly in the defensive zone. He also had no trouble muscling much larger players off the puck- no small feat for a player that stands at a mere 5’9″.
Perhaps just as impressively, a whopping 19.2% of Maksimovich’s statistical matches went on to play over 200 games in the NHL, according to pGPS. For that reason alone, getting Maksimovich inked would be an absolute coup for the Canucks, akin to adding an early third-round pick into the prospect pool for basically nothing. The Canucks will have to get him signed quickly, though. The CBA stipulates that 18-year-old players must be signed out of training camp, or else they will made eligible for the following draft.
The invitees to the most recent edition of the Young Stars Classic were as intriguing a group as the Canucks have ever had, and the three aforementioned players in particular have shown enough to be invited to main camp. For a team that’s trying to make the playoffs while keeping the prospect cupboard stocked, finding value in of the undrafted free agent pool is a huge win. If all goes according to plan, the Canucks won’t be picking near the top of the draft, so they did to extract the maximum value they can out of their draft picks and free agent signings. The Canucks hit a home run with Michael Carcone, and they have another chance to with Roy, D’Aoust, and Maksimovich. Let’s hope they can get one of them signed.