Nothing Mike Gillis does really falls under the radar in the this hockey mad town. As such, despite the Stanley Cup Finals starting on the same day, Monday’s signings by Gillis of 3 defense prospects did not go unnoticed and received some press in the local media.
The signing of 20 year old Yann Sauve, a 2008 2nd round draft pick, is no surprise really. He had a dominant season in the QMJHL, but at 6’3” and 220 pounds and playing against teenagers, nothing less should have been expected. It would be nice to see him challenge for a roster spot next year, but we would be quite surprised if that happens.
The other two signings are much more interesting from our perspective and are indicative of the new approach to player development that Gillis and company seem to be adopting - an approach that seemingly aims to identify players that have fallen off the typical hockey radar.
Particularly with North American development prospects, if you haven’t displayed outstanding skill and more importantly size and strength by your mid to late teens you will not get drafted by an NHL team. There are a bunch of historical reasons why this is the case, but it doesn’t make much sense when you consider that the typical athlete does not reach his prime, from both a physical and mental standpoint, until his mid-to-late twenties. Of course, pro sports is an arms race and this rush to judgement occurs in all sports, but is amplified in hockey (as opposed to say football or basketball where players typically enter the pro ranks after 4 years of college or baseball where each pro team has a handful of farm teams with all level of development prospects).
The signings of both Lee Sweatt (we hope he makes it on name alone) and Chris Tanev are classic examples of guys that were passed over when draft eligible, presumably due to size concerns, and have since explored alternative routes to keeping their hockey dreams alive.
Lee Sweatt, who is now 24 years old, never grew up (physically that is) and stands at 5’8” and 194 pounds - presumably a bowling ball on skates. He has played at the US collegiate level and in Europe where he seems to have displayed equal parts skill, determination and toughness. He’s a longshot, but one worth taking it seems.
Chris Tanev is even more interesting. Now 20 years old, he was a late grower and passed over by the NHL draft machine and now stands at 6’2” and a lanky 185 pounds. Presumably the victim of Malcolm Gladwell’s proposed December birth-date systemic bias, he has blossomed into a high scoring defenseman at the US collegiate level after never having played at the CHL level. Again, another roll of the dice, but in the salary cap world, unveiling diamonds in the rough will be the ultimate key to success.