The Vancouver Canucks signed 2014 7th round draft pick Mackenze Stewart to an entry-level contract today.
Here is the press release from the Canucks:
Vancouver, B.C. – Vancouver Canucks General Manager Jim Benning announced today that the Canucks have signed defenceman Mackenze Stewart.
Stewart, 19, recorded 11 points (5-6-11) and a team-high 114 penalty minutes with the Prince Albert Raiders this season. The Calgary, Alberta native has appeared in 127 WHL regular season games with the Prince Albert Raiders collecting 20 points (10-10-20) and 185 penalty minutes.
The 6’4”, 216-pound defenceman was selected 186th overall by Vancouver in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
The timing of this signing is a bit odd, given that the Canucks have yet to sign a more promising prospect, Jordan Subban, presumably because of the 50 contract limit that each NHL team has to adhere to. Subban has until June 1st to sign, or he will re-enter the draft next month.
But let’s not make this all about Subban. This move does not preclude the Canucks from signing Subban and Jim Benning sounded confident today that a deal would get done.
Benning also says he remains confident team will get Jordan Subban signed before end-of-month deadline. #Canucks
— Brad Ziemer (@BradZiemer) May 12, 2015
As for Stewart, he is a rugged stay-at-home defenceman with limited offensive upside.
Even if he never plays a game in the NHL, Stewart has already succeeded. He overcame childhood deafness and started minor hockey at age 12.
Stewart has 80 per cent hearing capability after undergoing multiple operations to correct a “mechanical” problem.
Through most of his life, Stewart, who is listed at six-foot-four and 216 pounds, has excelled despite having to deal with his medical procedures, speech therapy and a late start in minor hockey at age 12 because contact sports posed a risk to his hearing health.
His story of perseverance is impressive, but will he ever develop into an NHL player?
Our prospect guru, Ryan Biech, isn’t overly impressed.
Why you would rush to sign a 7th round pick with a career high 11 points in the CHL is beyond me.
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) May 12, 2015
Rhys Jessop from Canucks Army had a scathing review of Stewart’s ability as a hockey player:
As it turns out, the reason why there’s so little quality information on Mackenze Stewart out there is simply because scouts have watched him and made the determination that he’s not even worth keeping an eye on. There’s no exceptional physical gifts beyond being big, no plus-level defensive ability to note, and nothing projectable about his puck skills. “I bet not one other NHL team even had [Stewart] ranked as a draftable player” was what one WHL scout told me, adding that seeing Stewart get drafted “was a complete shock,” which makes the decision to not only draft him but to sign him just one year later after minimal growth absolutely mystifying. Corey Pronman noted that in his eyes, Stewart is “not a prospect.”
Jessop also described Stewart as “a depth defenseman on a bad hockey team” and “has shown no signs of growing into any sort of competent two-way player at the junior level”. Remarkably, Jessop’s review seemed to be backed up by Jim Benning himself today. Benning told the Vancouver Sun’s Brad Ziemer that he sees Stewart converting to a winger when he turns pro.
“This year, he played some wing and some defence. I think what we are going to try and do is develop him as a winger. He is a real good skater for his size, he gets in on the forecheck and plays physical. He’ll stick up for his teammates, he’s a hard-nosed kid who will do what needs to be done.”
Translation: Benning is projecting the 6’4″ giant as a future 4th line enforcer. He can already fight, now all that’s left is for him to learn how to play.