Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Chris Vande Velde (But Were Afraid to Ask)

Jonathan Willis
April 11 2009 10:56AM

vande-velde

Edmonton Oilers prospect Chris Vande Velde seems likely to return to college rather than sign a professional contract for this upcoming season. The prospect was quoted as saying that there was a “75 percent” chance he would return to NCAA play.

He explained his decision this way:

”I still have holes in my game that I think I can get better… I think (staying) would help me out.”

Let’s take a quick look at how his college career has unfolded:

  • 2006-07: 38GP – 3G – 6A – 9PTS, +4
  • 2007-08: 43GP – 15G – 17A – 32PTS, +10
  • 2008-09: 43GP – 18G – 17A – 35PTS, +10

At a glance, it would seem that there was a large improvement from the 06-07 season to the 07-08 season, and then very little thereafter, but I’d suggest that’s incorrect. Fortunately, with college players we have a much better statistical read on them than we do junior players, so we can get a better idea of what was happening over those three seasons from the Fighting Sioux’s official site.

In any case, here are some more detailed statistics from each season.

2006-07

  • Overall: 28GP – 3G – 6A – 9PTS
  • Plus/Minus: +4 (tied for 10th-best on the team)
  • Shooting: 36 shots, 8.3 SH%
  • Faceoffs: 150 for 282 (53.9%)
  • Powerplay Numbers: 38GP - 0G – 1A -1PTS

Points of Interest: There’s a fun way to break down Vande Velde’s season that shows how much power opportunity and the coach’s biases have over statistical performance. Here’s what Don Cherry said about it in Hockey Stories and Stuff:

I hate to say it but coaches can make a guy look good and they can make a guy look bad.

Cherry made that statement in reference to a contest between two of his players: one player the coach wanted, the other the G.M. wanted. So during the exhibition season, Cherry played his candidate (Bobby Miller) “to death”; used him in all situations and fed him a ton of minutes. He scored a lot of points and he made the team as a result.

In any case, near the end of the season Vande Velde was elevated up the lineup, with some interesting results:

  • First 29 games: 2 points
  • Last 9 games: 7 points

That isn’t to say that Vande Velde didn’t get better as the season went on, or that the coach was intentionally driving his numbers down (the coach’s responsibility, of course, is to the entire team rather than individual players). But that late season outburst showed what he could do in an offensive role, and was undoubtedly largely responsible for his use the following season.

2007-08

  • Overall: 43GP – 15G – 17A – 32PTS
  • Plus/Minus: +10 (tied for 7th-best on the team)
  • Shooting: 87 shots, 17.2 SH%
  • Faceoffs: 366 for 665 (55.0%)
  • Powerplay Numbers: 43GP – 6G – 3A – 9PTS

Points of Interest: While Vande Velde’s point totals are impressive, some context is important. He played much of the season with two of the top players in college hockey – T.J Oshie, who is having an excellent rookie year in St. Louis (39 points in 56 games), and 2007 Hobey Baker winner Ryan Duncan (the Hobey Baker Award is given to the best player in college hockey). His +/- was impressive to look at, but taken in context was no better than average given his minutes played and the strength of his team.

It was also worrisome to see that he didn’t take many shots; his shooting percentage doubled season-to-season, and with that kind of exponential increase there’s always fears that it is unrepeatable. His faceoff numbers were good for the second year in a row, and again most of his points were scored at even-strength.

2008-09

  • Overall: 43GP – 18G – 17A – 35PTS
  • Plus/Minus: +10 (led the team)
  • Shooting: 118 shots, 15.3 SH%
  • Faceoffs: 479 for 863 (55.5%)
  • Powerplay Numbers: 43GP – 8G – 6A – 14PTS

Points of Interest: Also managed a short-handed goal and was used in all situations. With T.J Oshie departed, it fell to Vande Velde, Ryan Duncan, and Brad Miller ot lead the offense and all three put up excellent numbers. Vande Velde’s +/- remained the same, but on a much weaker team which seems to show some good development as a two-way player. His faceoff numbers, always good, improved for the third season in a row, and he fired more shots on goal, resulting in three more goals on the year. His shooting percentage dropped off a little but was still excellent; at this point it seems likely that he’ll be able to sustain high shooting percentages.

It’s worth noting that his offensive totals only improved on the power-play; at even-strength/short-handed they were largely static:

  • 2007-08: 43GP – 9G – 14A – 23 PTS
  • 2008-09: 43GP – 10G – 11A – 21 PTS

Given that North Dakota went from scoring 89 even-strength goals to 90 even-strength goals over those two seasons, we can say with a fair amount of certainty that Vande Velde didn’t gain anything in the offensive zone at evens; but given where his +/- ranks on the club we can also say with some certainty that his defensive game likely took some big steps forward.

One other thing worth noting: Vande Velde has never taken many penalties (37 and 38 PIM over the two seasons prior), but something happened in 2008-09 because he nearly doubled his total to 69 PIM.

The Right Choice?

Staying in college for another season seems unlikely to hamper Vande Velde’s development; it remains to be seen where his offensive game will top out at and hopefully he can take a step forward in that area this season. When he does turn professional he’ll be a key prospect for the Oilers – he’s listed at 6’2”, 206lbs, he can win faceoffs, and because he’ll be older than most prospects when he turns pro he has a better chance of being able to contribute right away.

The Fargo-Moorhead Forum, which got the “75 percent” quote from Vande Velde, notes one other effect of Vande Velde staying in school for a final year:

His return to school would help provide the Sioux with a productive scoring threat. It could also add some significant leverage to contract negotiations down the road with the Oilers. NHL draft picks can become free agents if they have not signed by Aug. 1 of their senior year in college.

Which means that if Vande Velde and the Oilers can’t hammer out a contract next summer, Vande Velde will become an unrestricted free agent, ala Blake Wheeler.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Dan
April 11 2009, 11:04AM
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That would suck pretty badly on t levels if we cannot sign him. One, Springfield needs the help badly, and could desperately use his size. Two, if he produces anything at all I could him being one of the first callups to the big club because our top 6 does have a lack of size that needs to be addressed.

I really hope they can hammer out a deal this summer.

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#2 GSC
April 11 2009, 11:14AM
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The Oilers can't afford to lose out on signing Vande Velde.

It would be Curtis Glencross, part deux.

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#3 Jonathan Willis
April 11 2009, 11:41AM
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GSC wrote:

The Oilers can’t afford to lose out on signing Vande Velde. It would be Curtis Glencross, part deux.

He's a good prospect, but that's pushing it a little. Besides, I'm sure they'll get him under contract next year.

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#4 Adam Dyck
April 11 2009, 11:47AM
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Willis: I would hardly say that someone who spent his pre-pro years with the Brooks Bandits of the AJHL is going to be too much better than a high-end college talent.

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#5 West Coast Oil
April 11 2009, 11:57AM
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I am going to hold judgement on how effective the kid will be until I know who will be in charge of player development for the Oil

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#6 GSC
April 11 2009, 12:10PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

He’s a good prospect, but that’s pushing it a little. Besides, I’m sure they’ll get him under contract next year.

How so?

Many a folk felt that Glencross was replaceable and wouldn't put up the numbers that he did in his short time in Edmonton. I see a lot of what Curtis brings to the table in Vande Velde's game.

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#7 West Coast Oil
April 11 2009, 12:11PM
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@JW

I would be interested in knowing if you have done a statistical breakdown of Chorney's performance last night. I know you cant base much on 1 game but I was impressed with how he handled himself. He had the confidence to rush with the puck and never truly looked panicked. Perhaps I was expecting less because of his AHL numbers but I now see a defenceman who can possibly take Gilberts spot if a trade is needed. Anyhow what was your take on his play?

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#8 oilerdago
April 11 2009, 12:12PM
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@ West Coast Oil

I tend to agree with you. Knowing that Rob Daum will be back in Springfield to coach the AHL team would give me a lot more confidence in our prospects development.

But that is still not a well balanced group and there's going to be a ton of change over in the roster. Seems to me that Vande Velde may be slightly better off spending another season @ UND.

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#9 Jonathan Willis
April 11 2009, 12:22PM
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Adam Dyck wrote:

Willis: I would hardly say that someone who spent his pre-pro years with the Brooks Bandits of the AJHL is going to be too much better than a high-end college talent.

Andrew Cogliano spent his pre-pro years with the St. Michael's Buzzers of the OPJHL. Dustin Penner spent his pre-pro years with his high school team, the Garden Valley Zodiaks, and was repeatedly cut by other teams in the area.

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#10 Jonathan Willis
April 11 2009, 12:23PM
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@ West Coast Oil:

Chorney's got a lot of good points to him, but he's not close to replacing Gilbert. He can be downright scary in his own zone and he's undersized on top of it.

Don't forget, Rob Schremp's first NHL game this season was a great one.

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#11 West Coast Oil
April 11 2009, 12:34PM
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@OilerDago

In my eyes it depends on which coach can teach him more. If Daum is still in Springfield next year I am thinking his experience at the university and pro ranks may be abetter teacher but then again I have no info on his current coach

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#12 West Coast Oil
April 11 2009, 12:45PM
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@JW

I guess I was more impressed with the confidence Chorney showed and his vision of the ice. Most new dmen seem to follow the Staios school of get puck, dump out

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#13 Jack "FMNF" Bauer
April 11 2009, 02:08PM
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You can put this post in the GDB when it goes up, but isnt it convienient MacT did a pre game media session.

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#14 Archaeologuy
April 11 2009, 02:23PM
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way to change that pic willis, but we will always know

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#15 esa tikkanen
April 11 2009, 11:21PM
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for all the tears cried in oilerland the first 50 games, what has Glencross done since? i have not seen a goal from him in a LONG time.

maybe other teams scouted him and took away his one move? he is fast and aggressive, I would have liked him on the Oilers, but he has a hard time handling the puck at high speeds and I think he was playing over his head the first half of the season... fwiw

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#16 Chris
April 12 2009, 12:37AM
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~Sign Vande Velde immediately and guarantee him a roster spot. Apparently the prospects make the demands, and the Oilers comply...or else...~

*cringing in the dark with a laptop playing looped Omark U-Tube highlights on a seperate window*

-signed the guy who can no longer find it within himself to be excited about ANY prospect in the Oilers system.

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#17 Jonathan Willis
April 12 2009, 01:07AM
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@ West Coast Oil:

What do you think about Chorney now?

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