10. C Cole Cassels (10.7)
To kick this off, let’s take a look at two scouting reports from one and two years ago, respectively.
"While he may not be the flashiest player in the Canucks prospect system, he is likely the most versatile. With a strong two way, defense-oriented game not usually associated with junior hockey players, he can score goals, is above average in the faceoff circle, responsible on the penalty kill, and is willing to block shots. Though somewhat slight of frame he hits regularly. He has a pass-first mentality (much like his father) and that is demonstrated in his assist statistics."
"A swiss army knife type player, Cole Cassels can do it all. Possesses good vision and passing skills, as well as the ability to finish plays. Responsible defensively and can start plays from his own end. Has worked hard to incorporate the necessities of a successful center into his game and that has lead to positive results. (Curtis Joe, EP 2014)"
Does that not sound amazing?
Cassels was the Canucks’ 85th-overall selection in 2013 and there were reasons for him being picked that late. But, he really did improve in the years after and promised to be a great NHL player one day.
After recording just 15 goals and 43 assists in 64 games in his draft year, Cassels really stepped up his game. The centre went on to score twice as many goals along with 51 assists for 81 points in 54 games in the 2014-15 season, and won the 2015 Mastercard Memorial Cup with the Oshawa Generals.
Remember, Cassels’ standout quality is his two-way game, so those numbers are really quite impressive.
Cassels, now 20 years old, seemed ready to make the jump to the pros and joined the Utica Comets for the 2015-16 campaign. His rookie season, however, is underwhelming at best.
Playing mostly on the Comets’ fourth line, Cassels has two goals and six points in 49 games this season. So what happened?
Most people who have seen him play will tell you skating is his biggest issue. Always has been, probably always will be. Skill and hockey sense are enough to sneak into the third round at the draft, but skating has become extremely important at the professional level, and it is something that cannot always be fixed.
The question is: is Cassels simply a late bloomer or is he a Conner Bleackley type?
Bleackley, drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in 2014, was just traded to Arizona Coyotes. His strengths: skill and two-way game. Biggest weakness: skating. He is currently in his fourth WHL season with the Red Deer Rebels and the Coyotes are expected to snag a compensatory draft pick instead of signing him this off-season.
Floor: AHL bottom-six centre
Ceiling: NHL bottom-six centre
Next: Canucks Prospect #9