Adam Clendening Trade a Surprising, Yet Smart Move by Jim Benning

The Vancouver Canucks traded flavour of the World Juniors in Gustav Forsling to the Chicago Blackhawks for defenseman Adam Clendening and the immediate reaction was sort of split. I see merits in both sides of the aisle: Clendening is a young, offensively gifted defenseman who’s ready for a shot in the NHL, and the Canucks have a need in that area, but Gustav Forsling led the World Juniors tournament in scoring and has “power-play quarterback of the future” written all over him.

There is no perceived winner of this trade so far, as it’s way too early to even begin thinking of the Canucks as winners of the deal, but the move and its impact on the present, as well as future, makes it a smart gamble for General Manager Jim Benning. A surprising trade, yes, but one that makes a ton of sense.

The Surprise

Gustav Forsling has had as fast a rise in popularity among Canucks fans as oil prices have dropped. After his performance at this year’s World Juniors, the Young Swede was being touted as a diamond in the rough, the next Erik Karlsson.

And there’s some evidence to back up such seemingly outlandish claims. Drafted in the 5th round of this past year’s draft, Forsling was a star at the best under 20 tournament in hockey. He led the tournament in scoring amongst defensemen, with 8 points in 7 games, and became a pleasant surprise for fans watching the World Juniors.

I’ll admit, when I first heard the news my first question was “why Forlsing?” and second “couldn’t Benning have gotten more for him?” Regarding Forlsing’s most recent performance, I’d bet many people in Vancouver are still asking the same thing.

But seven very good games in a great tournament only goes so far as long as the NHL is concerned.

Jordan Schroeder had a very good World Juniors his second go around and we all remember how that turned out. To suggest Forsling’s NHL career is going to end up like Schroeder’s is unfair, but the comparison shows how 7 games doesn’t make up a player’s entire value.

The Smarts

Adam Clendening can score, at least as far as the AHL is concerned.  The first thing that pops out from his stats is that Clendening has scored 118 points in 185 games in the minors.  That’s a 0.64 points a game, a scoring proficiency that would be impressive for a forward.

Clendening is also a right-handed shot, an area where the Canucks could use some offense, especially with Kevin Bieksa on the shelf, and only 22. He was buried in the Blackhawk’s depth chart and as such found his way to Vancouver.

If we can say anything about Jim Benning so far in Vancouver it’s that he seems to likes to move somewhat insignificant pieces from the Canucks’ future for players looking to make the jump to the NHL now.  Just remember back to the Linden Vey trade.

The Adam Clendening-Gustav Forsling swap is another example of this trend.  As mentioned, Forsling flashed great potential, but most scouts don’t see him as the next Erik Karlsson. Besides, Vancouver already has another undersized offensive defenseman in their system in the form of Jordan Subban.  I was also more impressed with Subban than Forsling at this past summer’s Prospect Development Camp.

As of now, Clendening offers minutes in an area the Canucks desperately need help if they are to make the playoffs.  If Clendening can deliver on this opportunity he has been given is another question, but he seems poised to make that jump.

And if giving up Forsling is what it took to see a player don the Canucks uniform – this season and not three years form now I might add – who has the potential to be a mainstay on Vancouver’s blue line for years to come and heading into his prime, I commend Jim Benning on pulling the trigger.