Canucks skew older in the 2012 NHL Draft

After making a safe pick in the first round with International Scouting Services’ top-ranked centre Brendan Gaunce, the Canucks went off the board with their second round pick, taking 20-year-old winger Alexandre Mallet from the Rimouski Océanic. Mallet wasn’t on anyone’s draft rankings because of his age and he had already passed through the draft twice.

The Canucks didn’t pick again until the fifth round and took 19-year-old defenceman Ben Hutton, who had passed through the draft once already and was ranked 200th among North American skaters by Central Scouting. Then, in the sixth round, they picked another 19-year-old, BCHL centre Wesley Myron, who was also in his second year of eligibility. Finally, in the seventh round, they picked one more 19-year-old, Matthew Beattie, who was actually ranked 108th among North American skaters by Central Scouting.

Picking older players in the draft is frequently frowned upon, as they usually passed through the draft for a reason, but such players might also be ready to contribute in the NHL sooner than a 17 or 18-year-old. The Canucks have picked several older players under Gillis, including Alexandre Grenier, Henrik Tommernes, and Alex Friesen. While there is plenty of risk in picking players who haven’t stood out until they are older than much of their competition, there is also the potential for finding a market inefficiency, as other teams tend to overlook such players.

Mallet led the Océanic with 34 goals in 68 games and was second on the team in points with 81. He followed up his strong regular season by scoring 11 goals and 26 points in 21 playoff games. This offensive outburst came as a complete surprise, considering he scored just 19 points in each of his previous two seasons. Fred Poulin from The Hockey Writers suggested that Mallet could be an “undrafted gem” as a classic late bloomer.

It’s tempting to compare Mallet to the much more highly-touted Tanner Pearson, who also passed through the draft twice and is just a few months younger. Pearson broke out with 91 points in 60 games for the  Barrie Colts of the OHL and was the final pick of the first round, near where he was ranked by many scouts and experts. So what’s the difference between the two players that made scouts rank Pearson as a borderline first rounder and leave Mallet completely unranked?

Pearson certainly scored more in fewer games, finishing third in the OHL in scoring, where Mallet finished 13th in scoring in the QMJHL. Another difference is that Mallet is also a fighter, picking up 132 penalty minutes last season and 8 fights. Despite being rather light at 172 lbs (Editor’s note: the QMJHL website lists Mallet instead at 202 lbs) to go with his 6’1″ frame, Mallet is a tough customer judging from his Hockey Fights profile. He’ll be hard-pressed to translate that to the NHL until he bulks up, but his grit is likely part of what caught the Canucks’ attention.

Described as a power forward who “hits like a truck” and “is one of the most feared fighters in the Q,” Mallet seems like a player who will be a fourth liner at minimum in the NHL, with potential for more if he can translate his new-found scoring touch to the professional ranks.

Mallet is certainly an interesting prospect, but taking him in the second round is what will raise some eyebrows. It’s likely that he still would have been available in the third or even fourth round, but the Canucks did not have any picks in those rounds. If Gillis and the scouting staff were high on Mallet, it seems like trading down in the draft to get additional picks might have been a smart move.

The Canucks’ other picks weren’t quite as off the board as Mallet. Ben Hutton, who is heading to the University of Maine in the Fall, scored 43 points in 57 games in the CCHL, a Junior A league, and was certainly noticed by some scouts. He then led the Nepean Raiders to the CCHL championship with 13 points in 18 games. Hutton describes himself as a “puck-moving defenceman” but he also has size on his side at 6’3″, 195 lbs.

His former coach gushes with praise for Hutton: “He’s the best defenseman in our league, by far…He’s big and his puck skills and hands are off the charts. He’s a one-man forecheck breaker, he has a good shot and he’s an above-average skater. He plays 35 minutes a game and plays important minutes against the other team’s top line.”

Wesley Myron played in the Canucks’ backyard: born in Victoria, BC, he played his Junior hockey for the Victoria Grizzlies of the BCHL and is heading to Boston University in September. Myron scored 42 points in 26 games in an injury-shortened season and won a gold medal with Team Canada at the World Junior A Challenge. Myron was one of the most dynamic players in the BCHL, finishing 5th in the league in points-per-game, and is described by the US Hockey Report as a “polished power forward.”

At 6’2″, 190 lbs, Myron has the size Gillis is looking for and he is entering a great hockey program at Boston University. While he wasn’t ranked by ISS or Central Scouting, the Canucks reportedly showed some interest prior to the draft. Myron had no illusions, however, saying, “Not many guys go in the draft at 19.”

In the seventh round, the Canucks turned to the US High School ranks, picking Matthew Beattie of Phillips Exeter Academy, who is heading to Yale in the fall. At 6’3″ 176 lbs, Beattie will need to bulk up, but he already shows a physical edge to his game to complement his scoring touch. Beattie led Exeter in scoring with 39 goals and 74 points in 28 games. The Canucks picked another US High School player last season in the fourth round in Joseph Labate, who scored just 49 points in 25 games.

Beattie was ranked 108th among North American skaters by Central Scouting, so he didn’t fly completly under the radar. One scout put it this way: “It was almost as if he was one of those high-end beer league players and I mean that in a good way. You know the type — the guy who can do anything he wants and makes everyone else look like they’re skating in slow motion — that was how Beattie looked to me. With his size and hockey IQ, he could end up being a pretty good prospect in a few years.”

 

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15 comments

  1. John Andress
    June 23, 2012

    Canucks are hoping/praying that Burrows lightning will strike twice. I hope so too.

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    • RG
      June 23, 2012

      Burrows wasn’t drafted. ;)

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      • John Andress
        June 23, 2012

        I didn’t say he was. I was referring to his successful development as a slightly older player.

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      • Dochinzo
        June 23, 2012

        He went from undrafted to unbelievable!

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  2. Nick
    June 23, 2012

    After their long playoff run and loss to the Bruins, Gillis very publicly said that he was staying the course, and sticking with the same style of finesse Canuck team rather than making over the squad by adding big bruisers to match Boston.

    Since then, however, almost every player Gillis has acquired has been a big, physical player.

    I don’t have a lot of confidence in his decision making at the draft table, but I hope he proves me wrong this year, and it would be nice to see one of the picks from the Gillis era make the team.

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    • rvtBC
      June 23, 2012

      Gillis (and his coach) both have shown a general bias towards bigger, physical players no matter what they say publicly. And, I guess, who can blame them? Unless of course that serves as blinders, overlooking what’s right before them.

      Congrats to these kids for getting drafted, even if the chance at making the NHL is marginal at best.

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      • Cody
        June 23, 2012

        It’s amazing what you can do with a big strong finesse team. Why not have both worlds.

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  3. akidd
    June 23, 2012

    another informative, insightful post. kudos to pitb for some top-notch draft coverage.

    maybe gillis is doing some more pioneering with the picking of older players. might as well. another year or two means a little more development and insight into what kind of player these still young kids could be. not a bad strategy where so many kids never make the nhl anyways. and balancing it out with a safe first-rounder. never a dull moment in canuckland.

    as for trading down…i wonder too. i guess they wanted their guy. but hardly the risk that feaster took(watch carefully ladies and gents… nothing up the sleeves…with the blink of an eye i will transform this 14th pick into a 44th…kazaam!)

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  4. warren
    June 23, 2012

    Correction Proposed

    QMJHL lists Mallet at 202 lbs. not 172. The fight videos suggest a tough competitor.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      June 23, 2012

      Thanks for letting me know, warren. I made a note in the post. The 172 lbs listed on the website I saw must have been from outdated information.

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  5. sarah
    June 25, 2012

    Wait – guys born in ’92 are now considered “older”? They’ve probably never even seen Saved by the Bell! Thanks for making me seem like an old grown up

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  6. warren
    June 25, 2012

    Harrison, Daniel and Thomas, when you have time would you consider explaining the mechanics of the process in making and responding to an offer to a RFA. Further, I have no idea of the possible result of the Canucks’ allowing Schneider to accept an offer with another team.

    You guys do a great job. TY

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  7. warren
    June 25, 2012

    I posted a poorly worded question, so i will try again. What ultimately interests me is – what happens if another team makes an offer to Schneider for say $5million a year. I don’t think that is a likely scenario, but i don’t have any information to understand what happens if the Canucks refuse to match the offer made. In this event what is the compensation due to Canucks. How much input may Schneider have in the negotiations for the final contract?

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    • Daniel Wagner
      June 26, 2012

      James Mirtle wrote a solid piece on exactly this topic: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/globe-on-hockey/offer-sheet-not-out-of-the-question-for-canucks-cory-schneider/article4231402/

      The gist of it is this: teams can certainly offer sheet Schneider, but he would have to sign the offer sheet, so he (or his agent) certainly has input. A $5 million offer sheet would only give the Canucks a first and a third rounder as compensation, so you can pretty much guarantee that the Canucks would match. At that point, the Canucks would have a little over $10 million against the cap in goal, so trading Luongo would become even more of a necessity. Up until now, the Canucks have repeatedly said that they’re comfortable keeping both goaltenders for the start of the season. A big offer sheet to Schneider would essentially make that impossible.

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      • warren
        June 26, 2012

        TY

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