Coming out of the 2011 NHL entry draft, much of the attention of Canucks fans was directed at the team’s first round pick, Danish winger Nicklas Jensen, and for good reason. Jensen has given every indication that he has all the tools necessary to play in the NHL.
Other picks from that draft caught people’s attention for one reason or another: Alexandre Grenier was a surprise pick in the third round, who didn’t break out until his overage season in Junior. David Honzik was the only goalie drafted by the Canucks in 2011 and seemed to only have one great playoff run to his credit. Joseph Labate was a finalist for the Mr. Hockey Award in Minnesota and his size at 6’4″ certainly caught people’s attention. Even the Canucks’ sixth round selection, Pathrik Westerholm, drew fan’s focus, as one of a pair of Swedish twins.
Flying under the radar a bit, then, was Frank “Frankie” Corrado, a 5’11″ defenceman with a modicum of offensive upside who the Canucks picked in the fifth round. Since the draft, however, Corrado has gone from a late-round project to one of the best defenceman in the OHL, starring for the league in the Subway Super Series against Russia.
It started at his first prospect camp, where he stood out among the Canucks’ defensive prospects, earning an invite to the main training camp. Clearly, the Canucks staff liked what they saw, giving him over 20 minutes of ice time in a preseason game against the Oilers and signing him to an entry-level contract before sending him back to Junior.
Back in Sudbury, Corrado’s offensive output actually decreased, as he went from 30 points in his draft year to 26 points. The reason for the regression, however, was that Corrado was being asked to carry the load defensively, which he did, finishing with a team-leading plus-26 rating. While he wasn’t racking up the points, he was on the ice for far more goals-for than goals-against.
His profile in the OHL certainly didn’t suffer from his reduced offensive production, as he was one of six nominees for OHL Defenceman of the Year, an award won by Dougie Hamilton, who was also named the best defenceman in the entire CHL. Corrado was originally projected as an offensive defenceman thanks to his smooth skating and solid offensive instincts, so to see Corrado receive that kind of recognition for his defensive play had to be encouraging for the Canucks.
This year, the Canucks were surely hoping that he would see the same development in his offensive game. He has delivered exactly that.
So far this season, Corrado has 17 points in 21 games, placing him second on the Sudbury Wolves in scoring and ninth in scoring from a defenceman in the OHL. That includes a five-assist game against the Niagara IceDogs, which led to him being named OHL Player of the Week at the end of October. He was even named OHL Defenceman of the Month for October and was named to the OHL team for the Subway Super Series.
Corrado played in the OHL’s second game against Russia, after Russia pulled off a surprise upset in the first game, and was matched with Dougie Hamilton on the team’s top pairing. The Frankie and Dougie Connection (as I am now dubbing them) appeared in every situation for the OHL and teamed up for the game-winning goal, which Corrado scored on a Hamilton rebound.
His strong performance in the Subway Super Series means that Corrado is likely to receive an invite to Team Canada’s camp for the World Junior Championship. While an end to the NHL lockout would improve his chances of being selected (as near-locks Dougie Hamilton and Ryan Murray will likely be with the Boston Bruins and Columbus Blue Jackets, respectively, if the season starts up), Corrado has a strong shot of making the team anyway thanks to his ability to play in every situation.
His play in the Super Series showed every element of his game that has Canucks management and fans excited. His skating was smooth and sharp, with impressive edge control that allowed him to always be in the right position on the ice. Thanks to his skating, his gap control against the rush was near-perfect, allowing him to break up numerous offensive rushes with seeming ease.
Offensively, Corrado showed good instincts, pinching effectively and making smart passes. His goal came just as a powerplay ended: he rotated down from the point when Ryan Strome carried the puck up to the blue line and slid into a soft spot at the back door, where he was perfectly placed to pick up Hamilton’s rebound and deposit it in the net.
Corrado is also a leader and was named the captain of the Wolves this season after wearing an “A” last season. Despite his slightly below-average size, he also has a physical element to his game, and is willing to drop the gloves if necessary. Most importantly, Corrado is a right-handed shot, which may give him a chance to make the team as soon as next season. Other than Kevin Bieksa, Chris Tanev, and fellow prospect Jeremy Price, Corrado is the only defenceman in the Canucks system with this orientation.
Corrado has been compared to Kevin Bieksa thanks to his two-way game and physicality, and there was one element in his Super Series game that definitely reminded me of Bieksa: he was far more likely to take a wrist shot from the point than a slap shot. Rather than loading up the cannon, Bieksa has a tendency to focus more on getting the shot through traffic, where it can potentially be tipped. Corrado seems to have the same preference.
While Corrado wasn’t a surprise pick — he was ranked 155th among North American skaters by Central Scouting and 145th overall by The Hockey Writers, so his selection at 150th by the Canucks was completely reasonable — he’s beginning to look like he might be one of the steals of the 2011 draft. With late round picks, expectations generally have to be tempered; to get one of the best OHL defencemen available in the draft in the fifth round has to be considered one of the best picks of the draft.Tags: Frankie Corrado, OHL, Prospects