Jackson Houck was part of the Edmonton Oilers’ 2013 draft class, selected in the fourth round. Like several other 2013 picks, he must be signed to an entry-level contract this summer or he’ll re-enter the draft. His release from a tryout contract with the Oklahoma City Barons doesn’t seem like a positive sign on that count.
The news comes via Neal Livingston at Tend the Farm, who in turn got it from the AHL’s official transaction wire. On Saturday the Barons cut loose Houck as well as ECHL call-up Chase Schaber, who had been with the team as a fill-in after a decent season and a half in Bakersfield.
A Brief History of Houck
Houck was a legitimate pick at No. 94 overall, a tough right wing with some offensive ability. Red Line Report had him ranked No. 40 overall in their draft preview and clearly loved his style of play:
Highly underrated! Showed leadership carrying his young team on both offence and defence following a major roster overhaul. Blossoming power winger uses size to establish and hold position around crease. Already tough to move off the puck and ha a frame that could still add 20 pounds. Has a great understanding of how to lean on defenders and use his frame to separate them from the puck. Fearless and loves to initiate contact. Goes into traffic with speed and can clear out contested areas. Aggressive style draws defenders to him and opens up ice for ‘mates. Accurate, heads-up passer distributes well in role of setup man. He’s a 200-foot player who puts in the same tireless effort at both ends. Also a willing combatant who will take on anybody. Can change the momentum of a game with a big rush, big hit, or a big goal. Skating is the one knock – lacks initial explosion and top end gear.
They suggested him as a tough second-liner, playing a comparable style to Ryane Clowe.
Houck’s scoring numbers weren’t awful either. He managed 57 points in 69 games, which wasn’t ideal, but in so doing he led the Vancouver Giants in scoring at the tender age of 17. Considering the context, it was reasonable to think there might be more there.
The trouble is that he never developed another gear offensively. He moved up to 61 points in his draft+1 season, and then this past year dropped 10 points down to 51. In fairness, he still led the Giants in scoring, but a 19-year-old with legitimate NHL upside needs to deliver a lot more than that.
It would be a surprise if the Oilers signed him, and it would be a surprise if another team spent a draft pick on him against a deep 2015 class. He might hang around the organization in some capacity – if he passes through the draft again, perhaps he latches on with Bakersfield on an AHL/ECHL deal – but at this point he’s not a reasonable bet for an NHL career and that makes it hard to spend one of the team’s 50 contracts on him, particularly given that it would be a three-year commitment.
Interestingly, this news comes pretty much concurrently with a report from Greg Harder in the Regina Leader-Post that WHL’er Braden Christoffer has signed a one-year AHL deal with Bakersfield. Harder writes that Christoffer should also be in attendance at Edmonton’s summer development camp as well as next fall’s Penticton rookie tournament.
Christoffer, a late-bloomer, fills much the same role Houck was supposed to fill, providing secondary scoring and tenacity. The Sherwood Park native had 59 points and 147 penalty minutes for Regina this season.
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