Chris Vande Velde arrived in pro hockey with a reputation for being a quality performer in the faceoff circle. He’s performed well in the discipline in college, the American League and now in a small NHL sample. How valuable is the skill? Will it secure the Dutchman NHL employment?
When he was a junior and then college player, Vande Velde was a go-to guy in the faceoff circle and played the center position with aplomb. His draft day scouting report implied quality, and the earliest glimpse of the type of player we’ve seen recently in Edmonton:
- Redline report: He has an incredibly long reach and is uncanny playing in traffic. When he got his skating legs going, he was nearly impossible to push off the puck, in an almost Keith Primeau–like fashion. Like Oshie, North Dakota has VandeVelde slated for the fall of 2006, and until then, he’ll skate for the Lincoln Stars.
When Vande Velde turned pro last fall, I felt he’d be the first of the new pro’s to emerge (based on age). However, Vande Velde’s numbers (62gp, 12-4-16 -17) are not good and the number of minor leaguers recalled ahead of him (Reddox, Omark, O’Marra) suggested there was much to learn.
Doritogrande will be a well known name to Oilogosphere readers and he offered some exceptional insight into Vande Velde in OKC here. Quoting a portion of the post:
- Chris VandeVelde was pegged as the de-facto checking center tonight, and was given the linemates befitting a player that the coaching staff wants in a defined role. He was able to saw-off the Moose top line of Hodgson-Volpatti-Shirokov with a little help from his friends. He showed good hustle, average speed and good skills in the faceoff dot.
This fits with Todd Nelson’s (OKC’s coach) viewpoint on the player:
- His adjustment was learning the pro game. Up until Christmas, he was okay for us. But after Christmas he took it upon himself to play well in his D zone. Along with that, with the more responsibility he got, he began to improve offensively. He’s been good for us, he’s been excellent in the faceoff circle. He’s 1-2 every night, it’s either him or O’Marra.
The entire interview is here. Vande Velde’s rookie AHL season has him tied for 105th among rookies in that league, so he’s going to have to bring other elements to his game. And that’s where we can talk about his size (6.02, 204) and his ability in the faceoff circle.
In a very small sample size (8 games), Vande Velde is 56.7% on the dot (in 97 sorties). He’s also gaining the confidence of the coach.
- Tom Renney: “He’s very reliable. To a point, you expect what he delivers and he does. He’s a little bit predictable in that way, which is a good thing. I’m just tying to give him an opportunity to play in a number of different circumstances and he’s done well.”
The Renney quote (along with more on Vande Velde) is here.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Vande Velde is building enough of a resume to be “in the mix” for NHL employment in 11-12. A good bet would be more AHL time but perhaps an earlier recall when injuries or slumps force roster moves. I’d estimate he fits this way into the center depth chart at the pro level:
- Shawn Horcoff
- Sam Gagner
- Andrew Cogliano
- Colin Fraser
- Chris Vande Velde
- Ryan O’Marra
- Anton Lander (unsigned)
- Milan Kytnar
There are all kinds of things that could change (drafting RNH, moving Hall to center) but as it stands that 4line job should be an interesting contest during TC in the fall. Vande Velde’s spring audition puts him in the mix, and his faceoff ability–in a small sample size–may make him a favorite.