The Canucks have terminated the contracts of two players recently, Zach Hamill and Adam Polasek. This not only created some room in the prospect pool but also freed up a couple contracts to help refill that pool.
Mike Gillis added another forward to the pool on Saturday, signing Erie Otters forward Dane Fox to an entry-level contract. The over-ager has had a fantastic season for the Otters, but that’s not the real reason Gillis took a chance on the undrafted Fox. The real reason: the devoted efforts of Twitter user Mark G, aka. @gitch80.
Two weeks ago, Mr. G sent out a swathe of identical tweets to members of the Canucks, along with the team’s official account, saying, “Dane Fox #74 Erie Otters (OHL). Please make Mike Gillis aware of this guy. Currently an undrafted over-age player (20)..unreal.”
As sell-jobs go, it’s a little underwhelming, actually. The only assessment of Fox’s talent is just one word — “unreal” — which isn’t particularly compelling, but Mark G made up for it with volume. As captured by Kathryn Jean (@msconduct), he tweeted this message at Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows, Kevin Bieksa, and Roberto Luongo, as well as @VanCanucks.
He may have tweeted it at other Canucks accounts — and should have at least tweeted it at @GMMikeGillis — but he has since deleted all of those tweets, likely because once he was sure Gillis was “aware of this guy”, his work was done.
Those were the only tweets from that account, whose sole purpose was to get Dane Fox signed by the Canucks. He hasn’t tweeted since, but did make time for one retweet on Saturday:
That is devotion, my friends.
The signing itself was broken by Dane’s sister, Megg Fox, who may not be an NHL insider, but is a Fox family insider. I can neither confirm nor deny that Megg is short for Meggan, making her name Meggan Fox.
— Megg (@megg_fox) December 28, 2013
As for Fox himself, as Ziemer mentions, he’s second in the OHL with 67 points in 35 games. 41 of those points are goals, meaning he’s scoring at greater than a goal-per-game pace. He’s leading the OHL in goal-scoring right now by a comfortable margin. Even for an over-age forward, that’s very impressive.
It helps, of course, that he’s playing alongside one of the best players in the OHL, 16-year-old phenom Connor McDavid, but Fox was also just short of a point-per-game player in his last two seasons, scoring 90 points in 99 games. Even without McDavid, Fox clearly has some offensive upside and is known for being a gritty, two-way player, with some agitating qualities. At 6’0″, he’s not under-sized either, so he certainly seems worth signing.
In fact, considering his scoring and physical play, it’s surprising that he hasn’t been drafted, but the spectre of “off-ice issues” have complicated matters. In 2011, the London Knights sent Fox home for the final three games of the regular season for disciplinary reasons and he missed the start of the 2011-12 season for undisclosed personal reasons. There were rumours that he was traded from the Knights to the Otters partly because of those off-ice issues, but those are unsubstantiated.
In any case, those issues arose when he was still quite young, and with age comes maturity, though it takes a while to fix a reputation.
Corey Pronman thought fairly highly of Fox heading into the 2012 draft:
Fox had a decent OHL season for a late birthdate draft prospect, as he produced for both teams he lined up for. Offense likely won’t be Fox’s output to a notable degree in the pro game, though, as looks more like a defensive forward with great agitating qualities and good on-ice intangibles. He’s a fine skater who will be able to keep up with the average pro and has a real good engine that churns his legs as he’ll cover a lot of ice on any given shift. While his projection seems more like a third line type of player, Fox will show flashes of offensive skill, be it with slightly above-average hands or distribution skill, and I could see if his development goes well him spotting on scoring lines here and there. The rare hustle and heart type of player who his coach has used on the point for the power play and of course he gets PK minutes as well in which he shows his defensive effectiveness. Fox can get a little over the top at times with his agitating, but overall has managed to keep his penalty minutes in check.
Pronman had Fox ranked 70th overall and scouts seemed to agree that he would be a late second round, early third round pick. Instead, he was passed over in 2012 and again in 2013. A foot injury at the New York Rangers’ training camp in 2012 shortened his 2012-13 season, which helps explain getting passed over the second time.
Fox patterns his game after Steve Ott and David Bolland, which sounds about right as an agitating, two-way forward. If Fox can translate his grit and skill to the NHL, he could project as a third-line centre in the vein of Ott or Bolland, but he has also played on the wing with McDavid and, since the Canucks prospect was traded to Erie, Brendan Gaunce.
Gillis has a good track record with undrafted free agents, with both Chris Tanev and Eddie Lack now playing major roles with the Canucks and Darren Archibald showing promise as a bottom-six forward. Here’s hoping that Fox turns out as well.
At the very least, they could use him in the shootout:Tags: Dane Fox, The Twitters