Is This The End of the Line for Jackson Houck?

5.6.16 End of Line

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.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • Canadian Hockey Fan

    I just saw Houck’s numbers through his career. If the Oilers don’t re-sign him, it won’t be a major loss. They have a lot of draft picks in this year’s draft, so they can draft a right winger. Not to mention they already have Eberle, Yakupov, and when they draft McDavid, they could move Leon to right wing. I think they’ll be alright.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    i agree that not signing Houck is no big loss….i had the feeling as well that he hadn’t taken the next step in his development. he’ll join G Tyler Bunz who is likely not going to be re-signed either.

  • Rob...

    Hey Jonathan, Greg Chase is listed as part of the OKC Barons right now, and he did quite well in the WHL playoffs. Is he expected to play this next playoff round? If so, I’d love to hear how he performs.

  • Rob...

    I always think the 4-5 year rule is a good barometer on a player’s NHL potential. However, with a 50 man limit and as the quality of prospects rise they need to be able to make earlier assessments on their players sometimes.. this looks like the case here.

  • Doctor Smashy

    I have no strong feeling about Houck on way or the other but are there any examples of a physical player – who plays the way this kid is described here – that was able to transition into the NHL quickly? I mean someone, say, less than 22 years old. It seems reasonable that they might develop in a way more comparable to a defenceman. Off the top of my head I can’t think of a really good power forward in the NHL who is less that 22/23. I think this may even apply to such a player in their +1 and +2 draft years in junior. The role of a player who no one expected much of initially, and then they impressed, would change much more than some slippery winger who would play the same role year over year. Thoughts?

    • Doctor Smashy

      I agree that a player of this type generally takes time to develop into an NHL player. But, when a player doesn’t improve at all in junior in the two years after he was drafted (and even takes a step back), that’s a red flag. Even if its slow development, there needs to be some sign of development. And in this case it doesn’t look like there is.

      I don’t think, based on his career curve so far, that they can use on of their 50 contracts on him.

    • Zarny

      Most players of any type take 3-5 years to develop. 20 y/o in the NHL are the exception not the rule.

      Take a look at the Jr numbers for players Houck might reasonably develop into.

      Boyd Gordon only had 51 pts in 66 games his draft year. He followed that up with 81 pts in 56 games.

      Rob Klinkhammer had far less offense than Houck as an 18 y/o but even Klink had 73 pts in 66 games as a 20 y/o.

      Bryan Bickell only had 36 pts in 59 games his draft year. That improved to 54 pts in 66 games and 83 pts in 67 games the following 2 seasons.

      Even Matt Fraser had 74 pts in 66 games as a 20 y/o in Jr.

      That Houck has regressed and is not even a pt/gm player at 20 playing against 16-19 y/o is a huge red flag.

      Maybe he eventually develops into an NHL player but at this point I don’t think you can justify burning one of 50 contracts on him. The Oilers have made the right call.

    • Burnward

      Because fourth round picks never work out?

      Unless this kid can’t skate or there are character issues, this seems awfully early to be throwing in the towel on him. Or he never should have been drafted.

      • pkam

        I didn’t say 4h round picks never work out. But what is the chance of a 4th rounder pick works out to NHL? My guess is less than 1 in 30.

        Even 7th round picks work out once in a while, my guess is probably around 1 in 200? So do we have to discuss every time we decide not to sign a 7th round pick too?