The Vancouver Canucks were busy on Thursday, signing both free agent Marc Michaelis and draft pick Will Lockwood out of college.
The latter was a move that many pundits weren’t sure the Canucks were going to be able to make. With Lockwood scheduled to finish his college season this year, he could have become a free agent in the summer and signed wherever he wanted.
With the Vancouver Canucks dealing with something of a logjam at forward, both at the NHL level and in their system, it seemed somewhat up for grabs if the 64th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft would sign on with the team that picked him.
But in the end, Lockwood stayed loyal to the Canucks.
“He’s fast, plays with a lot of energy, willing to get in on forecheck, is physical, will hit, goes to net hard,” said Canucks general manager Jim Benning in a phone conference call with reporters. “Part of his style of game is why he’s had some injuries the last couple years. He’s a guy who can come in, kill penalties, has a good release on his shot. We Kind of see him as a top nine forward, third line guy, at worst a fourth line energy guy who gives us speed and intangibles.”
The Canucks are clearly looking to remodel their bottom-six group in the next couple of years and they obviously think Lockwood has a chance to be a fit there. One has to think that there’s going to be a lot of space opening up on the depth chart as Brandon Sutter, Loui Eriksson and Jay Beagle move on/are pushed out.
Sure, Adam Gaudette, Jake Virtanen and maybe Zack MacEwen figure to be fixtures in the bottom six for some time (although you’d hope that’s not the case for Virtanen), so there’s a lot of room around them.
But despite Benning’s comments about him fitting into the lineup, the 21-year-old Lockwood is not a sure bet to be an NHLer, by any stretch of the imagination.
Though he is the captain of his University of Michigan team, he never in his four years with the club produced at a point-per-game mark.
That includes this season, in which Lockwood put up 23 points in 33 contests. That’s not necessarily bad (he was second on his team), on what was a terrible Michigan team. And, though it’s an obviously flawed stat, it should be noted that Lockwood was a plus-10 on the aforementioned bad team.
So there is some hope he can project into an NHL player, but next season in Utica will obviously be a formidable test for Lockwood as he attempts to make the jump to playing against men.
It’s something of a no harm, no foul situation for the Canucks, and you can just imagine the hand wringing there’d be if he signed with another team and became a player of any impact somewhere else.
Good on the Canucks for getting this done, and we’ll likely see in a couple years or earlier if Benning called it right on the college kid.
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