Vande Velde Van Gogh In the FO Circle

EdmontonOilers2

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:

  1. Shawn Horcoff
  2. Sam Gagner
  3. Andrew Cogliano
  4. Colin Fraser
  5. Chris Vande Velde
  6. Ryan O’Marra
  7. Anton Lander (unsigned)
  8. 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.

  • Lowetide

    Always look forward to your Sunday morning pieces LT.

    I don’t know if there will be room for Vandevelde next year. Here’s how I see the middle in 11-12:

    Horcoff
    Gagner
    Lander
    Cogliano

    On a side note, Hartikainen is here to stay. He’s going to be a fan favorite for years.

    • a lg dubl dubl

      Im just curious mr Dave why would you put a dude like Lander whos hasnt played a lick in north america over VV? IMO if Lander does sign id put him in the minors to start the year then if injuries come up(and lord knows they will) id look at bringing him up for sure.

      Heres how I see the line up down the middle next yr:

      Gagner,Horcoff,Cogs,VV

      if the MIGHTY OIL draft the Nuge and RNH makes the team then i see the line up down the middle like this:

      Gagner,Horcoff,VV,RNH(Cogs to the wing)

      but thats just my opinion that is all

      • Wax Man Riley

        I think Lander’s game affords him an opportunity because it fills that gritty, tenacious, face-off winning centre hole the oilers have been trying to fill.

  • magisterrex

    If VandeVelde spends another year with the Barons, that would not be a bad outcome for him. On the other hand, if he’s better than Fraser in training camp, there’s no point in sending him back down.

    I enjoyed watching the Oilers school the Canucks last night. Hopefully that’s a portent of their two futures.

  • Lowetide

    OilBomber: I think they’ll give Fraser (and Foster on the blue) a chance to prove this season was a one-off. But they won’t have the benefit of the doubt this time.

    I bet it’ll be a training camp battle.

  • Great article as always, LT.

    It seems that Fraser is a player that has a skill set that can be replaced over the summer – particularly considering his underwhelming performance this year. His inability to have a consistent, positive presence in the faceoff circle is a damning statistic. Any chance he finds another home for next season?

    What do you think the chances are that the Oil fast track VV to the show next year to replace Fraser? Watching him play the last couple of games makes me think that he may be playing a little out of his depth, but he’s not too far off. What he offers is exactly what this team needs – a big body with physical presence and (seemingly) a clue in the faceoff circle.

  • Spartacus

    I’m so happy we beat the Canucks last night.

    I’m also sad that that’s the highlight of the season at this point, but hey, take what you can get, right?