For years, hockey writers worldwide have relied on the unimpressive pyramid to illustrate their team’s prospect pool quality.
Now, placing prospects into tiers on a pyramid does make sense. It’s simple, favourable, efficient, and avoids the need for laborious contextualization!
That said, the AHL Nucks Harvest is proud to introduce its first, and hopefully annual convoluted masterpiece, the prospect rhombus!
Glorious Laborious Context
The rhombus takes Canucks’ AHL prospects and places them into four distinct quadrants based on two very important criteria!
- The player’s likelihood of earning a call-up this season (East-West)
Factors contributing to the Nucks Harvest’s rating of each player’s call-up likelihood include, but are not limited to:
- The player’s cumulative experience playing for Travis Green in the NHL
- The player’s total cumulative pro experience (with/without Travis Green)
- The player’s age
- The player’s position
- The player’s cap hit
- The player’s tenure as a Canucks property
- The player’s actual ability in-season (TBD)
- The player’s potential to become an everyday NHL’er (North-South)
This rating combines AHL Nucks Harvest’s eye test, stats analysis, and minor consultation with an industry expert.
First on the docket is the northeast quadrant, a home for the players with the highest perceived call-up potential and highest potential to become everyday NHLers for the Canucks.
Training camp should be pretty nuts. At least ten legitimate contenders are competing for a maximum of two or three available positions.
The Canucks will be taking auditions for several spots, including 3rd pair LD, possibly two 4th line wingers, 3rd line winger, 7th and 8th D-men, and an extra forward.
Vasili Podkolzin is a shoo-in for the third-line winger position. He’s on the rhombus just in the off-chance he starts his season in the AHL, as one Boseph Horvat did some eight years ago (yes, I know that was an injury conditioning stint).
The Canucks more-or-less know what they’ve got in Matthew Highmore and Zack MacEwen. Highmore showed well down the stretch last season and will likely have the inside track for the final 4th line winger position at training camp. MacEwen had a tough 2020-21 season. After breaking out during the bubble camp, Zack struggled to maintain the consistency that earned him a spot in the playoff bubble.
One of the lowkey solid additions to the forward depth group was Phil Di Giuseppe, who joined the Canucks off his first full-time NHL season with the New York Rangers. Di Giuseppe is likely competing with Highmore and MacEwen for the fourth-line/extra forward spot. Di Giuseppe’s NHL production stats are the best of the forward depth group.
Two other skaters high on the Nucks Harvest’s call-up/potential list are Sheldon Rempal and Will Lockwood. Both Rempal and Lockwood are relatively young in their pro-careers and still have considerable upside and NHL potential.
The only defencemen present in the Northeast quadrant are Brady Keeper, Olli Juolevi, and Jack Rathbone. All for very different reasons.
Keeper represents a wonderful story of overcoming the odds to make it to the show. He’s didn’t get too many looks in the NHL while with the Florida Panthers but is still relatively young in his pro-career. Being a tough right-shot defenceman on a team with very few RD in the system is a considerable boost to his odds of earning a call-up.
If Rathbone starts in the AHL, thanks to wonderful reporting from Thomas Drance, we know that his contract would be a significant hit towards the Canucks cap situation if called up midseason. He has massive potential as an NHL defenceman, but, if for whatever reason, he is papered to the AHL to start this season, his likelihood of call-up drastically decreases.
If Juolevi starts in the AHL, I believe he’ll still have a good chance of getting called up. The Canucks have invested a lot into his development to call it a day after training camp. However, being placed on waivers after an uninspiring camp in his D+6 would be a death sentence for his everyday NHL’er potential with the organization.
The lone goalie in the North-East quadrant is fan-favourite Michael DiPietro. DiPietro did not see much game action last year, but when he did, he looked great.
The Canucks learned from the goalie disaster of 2018-19 and positioned themselves quite well in net this season. After signing Jaroslav Halak, the team sought out Spencer Martin to be their defacto AHL backup. We’re still unsure where Arturs Silovs will play most of his season, but should DiPietro play well enough to earn some NHL looks, the Farm Team won’t be hurt running a Martin/Silovs tandem in his absence.
The southeast quadrant represents high call-up likelihood players with low everyday NHLer potential. This quadrant contains experienced vets who provide serviceable depth but are limited in their everyday potential.
Players in this section include:
- Sheldon Dries, 27
- Brad Hunt, 33
- Justin Dowling, 31
- Nic Petan, 26
- Kyle Burroughs, 26
- Spencer Martin, 26
- Justin Bailey, 26
Based on his brief but strong showing with the Canucks last season, Justin Bailey could arguably be in the northeast quadrant. Bailey did appear on the verge of breaking out and cementing his place on the team before an injury derailed his season. However, Bailey’s age and the small sample size of last season weren’t enough to bump him up.
Justin Dowling has considerable NHL experience and is high on the call-up list should he start in Abbotsford, but his age keeps him in the “depth C” territory rather than a long-term fixture.
Nic Petan is a typical Quad-A AHL player who excels in the minors as a rate scorer but whose game struggles to adapt to the requirements of bottom-six play at the NHL. His experience with Travis Green as a Winterhawk gives him a decent edge as a call-up option, but he’ll need to show more at training camp to eke out a permanent spot.
The one “age exception” in this section is Jonah Gadjovich, who got a brief taste of the NHL last season but whose name was suspiciously not brought up by the GM or head coach in post-season interviews. I’m not too sure where Gadjovich sits in the organization’s call-up hierarchy. Because of his age and the improvements made last year, he sits nearly dead center in the rhombus. He will need to build off of his scoring breakout last season by effectively demonstrating that he can be more than just the “net-front presence guy.”
Special kudos goes towards Kyle Burroughs. Originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2013 draft, Burroughs worked his way through the ECHL and spent four years with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers organization before earning a five-game NHL stint with the Avalanche last season. Burroughs is another right-shot defenceman with decent size and pro-experience who could at the very least be a serviceable call-up option!
The few kids in the northwest quadrant of the rhombus represent players with high potential down the road to be significant contributors but are in no rush to get called up this season!
- Jett Woo is one of the only RD in the Canucks system playing pro-hockey; rushing him into NHL action after a fractured season against sub-par AHL competition would not benefit his development. Barring a massive explosion in production, Woo would benefit most from playing out the entire year in the AHL in a top-four role.
- Danila Klimovich is a great boom-or-bust prospect that will most likely spend this season entirely with the QMJHL. Therefore, his call-up likelihood is rock-bottom save for a Nils Höglanderesque performance at training camp.
- Arturs Silovs’ raw physical skills are highly regarded by the Canucks goalie coach Ian Clark and his protege Thatcher Demko David Quadrelli. Because of Silovs’ lack of pro-experience, he is a high-potential/low call-up likelihood staple.
This section belongs to all of the players signed to AHL contracts, rookies on ELC’s, or players that the Canucks completely forgot about (apologies to Madison Bowey). These guys make up the backbone of the Farm Team’s depth but who are unlikely to earn call-ups to the NHL (barring spectacular in-season performances).
The depth-depth guys include:
- Karel Plasek
- Ethan Keppen
- Tristan Nielsen
- Chase Wouters
- Jarid Lukosevicius
- Alex Kannko Leipert
- Devante Stephens
- Vincent Arseneau (please call him up anyways)
- John Stevens (congrats on the contract upgrade from AHL deal to NHL deal!)
- Ashton Sautner “C”
Just narrowly falling into this section is Carson Focht, a tenacious, speedy two-way center who performed admirably for the Comets last season but whose 5v5 production remained uninspiring. He’s still got two more years left on his ELC, so his everyday NHL’er potential is middle-of-the-road, but he’ll need to drastically improve his counting stats to bump up his call-up potential.
The other notable addition to this group is Guillaume Brisebois. Brisebois did not get into much game action for the Canucks or Comets last season. Instead, Brisebois spent most of his season on loan with the Laval Rocket. Brisebois recently turned 24 and is entering into the “is what he is” territory. He could still be a call-up option for the Canucks, but that left side is quite loaded. Brisebois will have to come out guns-a-blazing this season to re-assert his place on the depth chart.
— Jeff Paterson (@patersonjeff) September 13, 2021
Hockey season is upon us with the Canucks rookie camp beginning Friday, September 17th. Though not as overflowing with prospects as in years past, the prospect rhombus shows that the Canucks have built two pretty decent teams at the AHL and NHL level with some potential!
Soon, we’ll begin to get a true feel for how the Canucks rate and view their prospects on their own prospect rhombus.