Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Canucks 2015 prospect development camp invitees: forwards


PITB's annual look at the invitees to the Canucks' development camp continues. Yesterday, we looked at the defence; today, it's the forwards.

Once again, there are two 21-year-olds from the NCAA -- Matthew Lane and John Stevens -- and a teenager from the CHL, this time a 19-year-old from the WHL: Reid Gardiner.


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Reid Gardiner – Centre
5’11″ – 187 lbs – January 19, 1996 (19)
Humboldt, SK
Prince Albert Raiders

Reid Gardiner was the subject of an article in The Hockey News 2015 Draft Preview magazine, highlighting the pitfalls of attending the draft when you're not a guaranteed selection. Gardiner was ranked 29th among North American skaters heading into the 2014 draft and chose to attend, not wanting to miss a "once-in-a-lifetime experience."

Instead of hearing his name called in the third or fourth round -- or even earlier -- like he was expecting, Gardiner left the draft in shock and disbelief at not getting called at all. His draft stock had clearly plummeted, likely helped along by a slump in the second half of the season: he scored 19 goals and 36 points in his first 39 games, then just 3 goals and 8 points in his last 31.

Gardiner was once again ranked by Central Scouting heading into the 2015 draft, this time 162nd among North American skaters after scoring just short of a point per game as an 18-year-old, tallying 34 goals and 64 points in 67 games to lead the Raiders in scoring. This time around, he chose not to attend the draft and it was a wise decision, as all 30 teams once again passed on selecting him.

Last summer, the Minnesota Wild invited Gardiner to their development camp, while this summer the Canucks are giving him a chance to prove himself.

Gardiner is described as a "relentless worker in all three zones" who is "crafty in the offensive zone" and is a "solid two-way player with a good work ethic." His head coach calls him a "natural goal scorer" and says, "He is a very good hockey player, but he is a better person."

Gardiner patterns his game after Brendan Gallagher and is known for his intelligence on the ice:
Among Gardiner’s enticing attributes, his hockey IQ and strong two-way game seem to stand out the most. The Humboldt, Sask., native has made a reputation for having a knack for reading and reacting to plays well while playing a 200-foot game.
Cody Nickolet at WHL-From-Above may not see an NHL future for Gardiner, but notes he has an elite shot, quick release, and strong skating. He had him ranked as the 53rd best WHL player heading into the 2015 draft and here are some excerpts from his scouting report:
quick and fast skater... fantastic shot…wrist shot release is absolutely high-end and he can beat goalies from distance... both a threat off the cycle and off the rush…has a bit of grit to his game away from the puck... used primarily as a winger this season…was also a regular on special teams including spending a bit of time on the point on the powerplay in some viewings...a good enough scorer to have pro potential down the line and he’s certainly a good enough player to make a living in the game whether it be in the AHL or Europe
 There's clearly some potential here, given his penchant for goalscoring to go with his two-way play and, while he may not have an NHL future, he may still be worth the small amount of risk represented by an entry-level contract.

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Matthew Lane – Left Wing
5’10″ – 175 lbs – March 15, 1994 (21)
Rochester, NY
Boston University

Matthew Lane is not much of a scorer. Through three years at Boston University, he has just 19 goals and 41 points in 112 games. He was 7th on the team in scoring in his junior year with 18 points in 41 games, just a bit behind his teammate, Jack Eichel, who had 71.

Anyone would look bad compared to Eichel, but scoring just isn't a strength of Lane's game. Instead, he's known for the details to his game, focussing on strong defensive play ahead of offensive output.

Despite his lack of offence, Lane was ranked 150th among North American skaters by Central Scouting heading into the 2012 draft. Canucks prospect Ben Hutton was notably ranked 200th in that same draft. Corey Pronman also thought highly of the winger, ranking him 111th for the 2012 draft.

Lane's draft stock was helped by a surprising performance at the Under-18 World Championships, where he put up 7 points in 6 games, good for third on Team USA in scoring, helping lead them to the gold medal.

While he may lack offensive skill, he does have some high-end ability, namely his skating. He's "fast" with "quick feet" that make him "elusive" as well as "quick and tenacious on the forecheck." While he was a top-six forward before last season, Jack Eichel and other freshmen knocked him onto the third line, which may fit his style of play better.

It's hard to project someone as an NHL player with his point totals in the NCAA, but there's an outside chance he could be an energy player in a bottom six role in the future.

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John Stevens – Centre
6’2″ – 184 lbs – April 17, 1994 (21)
Sicklerville, NJ
Northeastern University

If John Stevens sounds familiar, it's because he's the son of John Stevens, currently an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Kings. John the younger just finished his sophomore season at Northeastern University, scoring 4 goals and 21 points in 36 games for the Huskies.

With just 11 goals in 73 NCAA games over his first two years, Stevens pretty clearly isn't a goalscorer, but is described as gritty, with the ability to make plays. It's a bit troubling that he wasn't able to build on his freshman season, when he scored 22 points in 37 games.

Stevens came up big in Northeastern's two games in the Beanpot tournament, scoring in each game, but Northeastern came up just short in the championship game, with Boston University winning in overtime. They had a rematch against BU just four days later and Stevens tallied three assists in the win. That capped off a great stretch for Stevens, with 12 points in an 8-game scoring streak.

Stevens was ranked 132nd among North American skaters by Central Scouting for the 2012 draft, but no one took a chance on him then. DJ Powers at Hockey's Future ranked him 5th among draft-eligible players from the NCAA heading into the 2014 draft:
Stevens is a center with size that is blessed with tremendous hockey instincts. He reads plays remarkably well and knows where plays will end up. That, along with his great vision and stick, allows him to find open spaces and teammates quickly and consistently. Stevens is very good in all three zones and can play in any situation. One area where Stevens was especially good this season was on face-offs, where he won well over 50 percent of his draws. Stevens possesses excellent puck-moving skills and is smart in his decision-making. He is an excellent skater with powerful strides. As good as he is offensively, Stevens is almost equally good defensively, particularly in getting his stick into lanes and blocking shots.
Stevens' head coach at Northeastern thought the centre would get drafted last year, even though it was his third year of eligibility:
His 22-point rookie campaign was impossible to ignore and his coach, former NHL scout Jim Madigan, knows his former colleagues took notice. 
"[This past year] helps him because he’s shown what he can do at a high level," said Madigan. "In prep school he was a very good player and then went out to Dubuque and won a Clark Cup. Each year he continued to get stronger, quicker and improved his overall game. The extra time has allowed him to reach a point where he’s likely to be drafted. This year he played against men and that’s a good indicator for NHL teams of what type of player he is.”
It seems likely that Stevens will stay at Northeastern for two more years. Not only is he unlikely to get an NHL offer until he proves himself more, he has the opportunity to play a couple more years alongside his younger brother, Nolan, who was a freshman with Northeastern last season.

9 comments:

  1. Lane really stood out for me at camp yesterday. Lots of hustle... Clearly wants an invite to the main camp.

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  2. I don't really understand Gardiner going undrafted. Not being a scout I wonder what about his play makes him successful as a junior but every team thinking he can't play in the nhl?

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    1. Tough to say, but he likely didn't get drafted in his first year of eligibility because his scoring fell off a cliff in the second half of the season. This year, he was short of a point-per-game, so didn't really score enough to overcome being an older player in his second year of draft eligibility.

      If he was 6'2" instead of 5'11", he probably would have been drafted, but there is still a strong size bias at the draft.

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