With just 28 games of NHL experience, Zack Kassian is an unfinished product.
As for what the finished product might look like? That’s what many are wondering — including Kassian’s former coach, Lindy Ruff.
“I liked what he was doing on the offensive side of it for the most part,” Ruff said of Kassian, who was traded at the deadline for Vancouver’s Cody Hodgson. “Good puck protection and hanging onto pucks. I’ve got a curiosity on where his physical game is going to go, and that’s it.”
Kassian’s physicality — or, the promise of said physicality — is a big reason Vancouver acquired him. GM Mike Gillis explained the trade was made to add more size and toughness to the Canucks lineup, with a specific eye on this year’s playoffs. That’s something head coach Alain Vigneault re-iterated yesterday.
“We have got 19 games left here,” Vigneault said. “I am hoping that in these 19 games with the games [Kassian] played in Buffalo, the experience he is going to get with our group, hopefully we can get him to a level where come playoffs he is going to be able to be a contributor with his skill set that he brings.”
Depending on who you talk to, Kassian is either the second coming of Milan Lucic (Kassian’s GM in OHL Peterborough said it’s a pretty fair comparison) or nowhere close to being in Lucic’s league (CBC’s Elliotte Friedman said scouts have wildly divergent opinions on that.)
The Canucks are obviously hoping for the former, but Ruff says it’s too early to project what type of player Kassian will be.
“He’s a young player. You never know with young players,” Ruff explained. “It’s a little bit of hit and miss. There’s a lot of inconsistency usually, so in his case there’s a lot there. It’s whether he’s going to get it to that full potential.”
Kassian made his Canucks debut Tuesday night in a 2-1 shootout loss to Phoenix. He played 20 shifts for 12:27 of ice time, recording five hits and one shot, winning two of three faceoffs.