The Vancouver Canucks finally have a respectable prospects pool after a couple of years of strong drafting and developing under general manager Jim Benning.
The Vancouver Canucks may have committed to a full rebuild only a few months ago but under general manager Jim Benning, their prospects pool already boasts some top-end talent and depth. The 2016-17 season resulted in a major change in the landscape for Vancouver’s prospects pool, thanks to trade deadline acquisitions as well as a strong draft.
Just from the two trades and the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, the Canucks were able to add ten prospects, filling up every position with at least one player.
The bottom line? The Canucks prospects pipeline is an ever-changing scenery with more new names than ever before. With the addition of so many prospects and the rise and fall of many players already in the system, it’s time for The Canuck Way Canucks Prospects Ranking.
The Canuck Way 2017 Canucks Prospects Ranking
Our TCW staff ranked all Canucks prospects. The criteria: whatever each writer thinks is important. Current position in the organisation, talent, potential, and chance of NHL success. All prospects under 24 years of age were considered as long as they did not spend significant time in the NHL.
After looking at defenceman Kristoffer Gunnarsson yesterday, here is No. 19, forward Cole Cassels!
No. 19 F Cole Cassels
Weight: 182 lbs
DOB: 1995-05-04 (Age 22)
Drafted: 85th Overall, 2013 Entry Draft
2016-17 Stats: 66GP – 6G – 11PTS – 33PIM (AHL, Utica Comets)
After being drafted by the Canucks under the Mike Gillis regime, Cole Cassels has had an up-and-down development as a prospect. Because of how eventful his development has been, we often forget that Cassels is still just 22 years old and was drafted in the same year that Bo Horvat, Hunter Shinkaruk, and Jordan Subban were.
Though being in the AHL as a 22-year-old may not seem like the end of the world for Cassels, we should note that he is the oldest player in our Top 20 ranking.
Strengths: Two-way acumen & Hockey pedigree
Once upon a time when Connor McDavid wasn’t in the NHL yet, there was a lowly Oshawa Generals centre named Cole Cassels who was matched up against the Erie Otters’ McDavid. Cassels managed to “conquer” the mighty McDavid. As legend has it, at least. How did Cassels do it (or did he)?
As Utica Comets reporter Ben Birnell puts it (via @CanucksNow), Cassels is not the offensive star for any team. Though Cassels wrapped up his OHL days with a 1.5 points-per-game rate of production, Cassels was never a sniper nor was he ever a slick playmaker.
Cassels’s game is built heavily on defensive work and the faceoffs. Though the storyline that Cassels single-handedly shut McDavid down in the OHL Finals is not true, Cassels certainly was the leading contributor to the effort to stymie McDavid.
Cassels possesses a defensive awareness and mindset that is not commonly found amongst young prospects.
While Cassels also isn’t the biggest guy in the world, he tends to play on the grittier side. Of course, his hockey sense can be traced back to his father, Andrew Cassels, the longtime NHL veteran of 1015 games who spent three years with the Canucks.
Weaknesses: Lack of offence & Athleticism
Though everything points to Cassels being a defense-first player, but as a forward, he needs to produce. So far, he hasn’t been able to do that at the AHL. Perhaps a short stint in the ECHL to let him run wild offensively is needed. 19 points in 137 games in the AHL is simply not enough.
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Perhaps it is the lack of size, strength and speed that is keeping Cassels from producing.
In the OHL, he may have been able to bull through enemy lines and squeeze pucks through. He may have been able to win battles down low and get pucks in the dangerous areas.
But in the AHL, that simply has not happened for Cassels.
Though some of that is likely due to the many injuries that Cassels had these past couple of years, the lack of speed has always been the main criticism for Cassels. If Cassels wants to produce and be as effective as he once was as a two-way threat, he will need to work hard this offseason.
Projection: 4th line Centre
While Cassels certainly has the mentality of an NHL-calibre defensive forward, his lack of offensive progress is alarming. His inability to improve his skating or his strength, partly due to injuries, is worrying.
Though we also feel that his ceiling is in an NHL third-line role, we see that Cassels has much to prove to establish himself as a top-six AHL forward. An optimistic projection of Cassels puts him in a fourth-line role down the middle as a penalty kill specialist.
– 2017 TheCanuckWay Prospects Ranking Top 20 –
What does the future hold for Cassels and his pro game that does not seem to develop the same way it seemed to promise in his junior days? If he does not shine at camp this fall, he may end up on the chopping block just as the other Gillis prospects like Shinkaruk and Jensen did.