This off-season, the Canucks invited Michael Ward to training camp. Pete Choquette, a hockey writer for Bolt Prospects, takes a few minutes to answer our questions and help Canucks fans get to know more about the former Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick.
CHB: Tampa Bay chose not to sign Michael Ward only two years after drafting him, and after Ward had a pretty good season in the QMJHL. What was the Bolts’ reason for not signing him?
Pete: If I had to guess, the Lightning likely didn’t see much offensive upside at the next level in Ward and were potentially scared off by his inconsistent physical play, which I think is a function of him possibly just not having an NHL body. 34 points for a 19 year old in the QMJHL isn’t exactly world beating production. When the old Lightning scouting staff drafted Ward there was a hope that he could blossom like Paul Ranger did as a late round draft pick, but I don’t think Ward ever possessed the skill level that Ranger did, even though he’s got wheels that are in the ballpark of Ranger’s.
CHB: What kind of player do you think Ward could be in the NHL? (i.e. Is there a particular NHL player or prospect you could compare him to?)
Pete: If he makes it to the NHL, he’s going to be a bottom pair stay-at-home type guy. Physically, I’d say he’s a bit like Lukas Krajicek. Long, gangly, good skater, not much offense. He’s probably going to be a bit more physical than Lukas, but that’s like saying someone’s going to be dryer than the rain.
CHB: What are the strongest parts of Ward’s game?
Ward’s biggest asset is his mobility. I’d also say he’s got one other thing going for him in that he just turned 20 less than a month ago, so he’s a young 20 with some time to develop.
CHB: What part of his game does he need to work on to make the pros?
Pete: He needs to get bigger. He was playing at around 195 lbs in junior at 6’2″ and he was getting overpowered by bigger juniors because of it. It’s going to be tough on him as a pro if he doesn’t get up to 205-210 lbs at a minimum. Once he does that, he needs to be physical more consistently and you’d like to see him use his wheels to jump into the play a little more.
Personally, if I were the Lightning, I would’ve signed him simply because I think the Lightning need some warm bodies on defense. Once you get past Wishart, Mihalik, and Quick they’ve got very little on the blueline in the minors, and they’ve only got Barberio now coming up from junior in a year. That said, I’d be surprised if Ward pans out to be anything more than a minor league depth player.