The Vancouver Canucks announced on Saturday that they have signed defenceman Ashton Sautner from the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL.
Sautner, who turns 21 in May, is an undrafted WHL over-aged player from Flaxcombe, Saskatchewan. At 6’0″ and 192 lbs, he has decent NHL size. What remains to be seen is if he has decent NHL ability.
Ashton Sautner was overlooked for the NHL draft as an 18-year-old in 2012. He had just completed his rookie season in the WHL, playing on a deep Edmonton team that went to the Memorial Cup. Unlike the team they share an arena with, the Edmonton Oil Kings have been a perennial powerhouse.
Over-aged players that excel at the junior level are often somewhat of a prospect mirage. They regularly put up big numbers against younger players as 20-year-olds, but don’t materialize into bonafide NHL players.
The most recent example of this that Canucks fans are probably familiar with, is Dane Fox. Fox scored 64 goals with the Erie Otters last season as a 20-year-old and signed with the Canucks as an undrafted free agent. Fox didn’t make the Utica Comets roster this season and has 36 points in 57 games with Kalamazoo of the ECHL.
Where Sautner differs from other 20-year-old standouts is that he had his breakout season last year, one year earlier than Fox, as a 19-year-old.
In 2013-14, Sautner put up 42 points in 72 games and a team best +59 plus-minus rating. While plus-minus isn’t always the most reliable stat, it does say something when it is extremely high (or low). Sautner’s plus-minus was 18 points higher than teammate Curtis Lazar, who finished at +41.
Sautner won a Memorial Cup with the Oil Kings last year and was named team captain before this season, when previous captain Griffin Reinhart took the jump to the NHL.
The fact that the Canucks don’t have a lot of high-end defencemen prospects in the pipeline likely helped them convince Sautner to sign in Vancouver. While we shouldn’t have any unrealistic expectations for the young blueliner, he does represent a potential diamond in the rough.
And the best part? They got him for free.
Feature Image: whl.ca