With the recent signing of prospect Jonah Gadjovich to a three-year, entry-level contract, the Vancouver Canucks continue to add to their prospect cupboard. The Canucks grabbed Gadjovich in the second round, 55th overall in the NHL Entry Draft this past June after he put up 46 goals and 28 assists in 60 games for the Owen Sound Attack of the Ontario Hockey League last season. The pick was compensation from the Columbus Blue Jackets hiring John Tortorella back in 2015 and was the Canucks’ second choice of the second round.
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He’s one of eight draft picks the Canucks had in June, but the first one to sign a contract with the team. Prior to suffering a wrist injury last week, the 19-year-old was off to a roaring start in the OHL this season. Gadjovich scored at a goal-per-game pace over the first five games of the season and had nine points through his first eight games.
He formed a potent duo with Vegas Golden Knights prospect Nick Suzuki on the Attack as the two combined for 30 points in nine games, including Suzuki being third in OHL scoring. Despite missing the last five games, Gadjovich’s 4.5 shots per game average is also tops on the Attack this season.
Gadjovich looked very good at the Canucks Young Stars tournament in Penticton, BC, finishing first in team scoring with four points in three games. A lot was made about how Gadjovich’s physical appearance made it look like he was a man among boys, but his play reflected it too, despite being just 18-years-old. The ‘Manchild’ nickname fits — At 6’2” and 209 lbs., he threw his weight around and was solid along the boards. He also showed a consistency that eluded more heralded prospects like Olli Juolevi.
Also, for a big, physical player, his penalty minutes are remarkably low. Gadjovich clearly impressed the Canucks with his ability to use his size to his advantage without crossing the line. He battled for pucks at the Young Stars tournament, it seemed to follow him around, and he wasn’t shy about going to the net, something the Canucks have lacked over the past few seasons.
Life in front of the net is where Gadjovich will make his living if he makes it to the NHL. His big body provides a screen in front of opposing goaltenders and that same size makes him difficult to move out once he parks himself there. He also has a long reach and decent hands to jump on any rebounds when he sets up shop at the top of the crease.
A Prospect’s Natural Progression
Like any teenaged prospect, Gadjovich’s game isn’t flawless. He plays a versatile game on the offensive side of the puck and is also a hard-worker in the defensive zone. His speed is decent, but it’s one area where his game does need improvement. It’s not suspect enough to be considered an issue and shouldn’t hinder his ability at the NHL level.
It’s remarkable to think that although he was just drafted this year, Gadjovich is playing his fourth season of junior hockey. He made his debut as a 16-year-old with the Attack in 2014-15 and has skated in 194 career OHL games already.
If he doesn’t miss many games this season due to injury, he’s due to finish among the top ten in games played all-time for the Attack franchise. After a strong showing at the World Junior Summer Showcase, Gadjovich is a solid bet to be absent from his major junior team for a time over the holiday season as he plays for Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship.
Signed at the Right Time
Gadjovich’s contract signing is good timing for the Canucks as well. They bought themselves a year of waiver eligibility by signing him before the end of the calendar year. Under the NHL collective bargaining agreement, Gadjovich is considered an 18-year-old because it’s the age he was before September 15th.
A player who signs his first NHL contract at age 18 is exempt from waivers for five years whereas a player signed at age 20 is exempt from waivers for four years. If the Canucks signed Gadjovich next year, it would be during the year in which he turned 20 and they wouldn’t have that extra year of waiver eligibility.
The signing also saves the Canucks space under the salary cap. Should Gadjovich be returned to the Attack for the 2018-19 season, it delays the start of his three-year contract by a season. As a result, the signing bonus Gadjovich received this year doesn’t count towards the calculation of his cap hit for following seasons, so the cap hit once the contract kicks in is lower. It’s smart management of both the salary cap and prospects in the pipeline for the Canucks, something the team has desperately needed in an effort to rebuild toward building a contender.