In trying to find rugged players with skill, teams often have to decide between big men who struggle with the skill portion of the game and those who are skilled but average in size. Jackson Houck has skill—he was a successful offensive winger in the WHL at 17—but at 6.01, 195 is just average in the size department. He may push men like Tyler Pitlick and Mitch Moroz in the coming years for playing time in Edmonton’s bottom 6F. There is some evidence Houck’s offense will not be good enough to carry the day.
PREVIOUSLY NUMBER TWELVE ON THE LIST
- December 2004: L Brad Winchester (390)
- December 2005: C Kyle Brodziak (567)
- December 2006: L Dragan Umicevic (0)
- December 2007: D Alex Plante (10)
- December 2008: G Jeff Deslauriers (62)
- December 2009: G Devan Dubnyk (171)
- December 2010: D Jeff Petry (262)
- December 2011: G Olivier Roy (0)
- December 2012: L Mitchell Moroz (0)
- December 2013: C Mark Arcobello (69)
Three college men (Winchester, Petry, Arcobello) as well as a late late pick made good (Brodziak) and a meandering first-round goalie (Dubnyk). Looking back on some of these names (what in HELL did we call Dragan? Drogdon? God I can’t remember) it really drives home the idea that we (as fans) overrate prospects. If an NHL GM has a chance to acquire a useful actual player for a second-round pick, he should take it.
WHAT THEY SAID ON DRAFT DAY
- Corey Pronman: Houck entered this season known for his intangibles and physical play, and he added a scoring touch to his repertoire, leading the Giants in points. He has just average size, but he still displays notably above-average physical value, delivering big hits and winning a lot of battles through his effort. He has the heart and soul elements desirable in a good penalty killer. His offensive upside, however, draws some divide among scouts. One says he is very average, while another says his puck skills enable him to have potential in that area. He protects the puck well, drives the net, and has solid creativity. Skating will be his main issue. He plays with good energy, but he struggles to get to where he wants to go.
- Redline Report: 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 has 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.
- Houck: “I really like to watch [Milan] Lucic [of the Boston Bruins]. I like to watch him and [the Montreal Canadiens’ Brendan] Gallagher because Gallagher was my role model last year when he was with the Giants and I was a 16-year-old. Watching Lucic and Gallagher, knowing where they started [with the Giants] and seeing where there are now, tells you what’s possible. Lucic, he’s a fun player to watch, he’s physical. Gallagher, he works his bag off.”
POINTS BY DISCIPLINE, JACKSON HOUCK
|HOUCK 2012-13 WHL||69, 15-24-39 .565||69, 8-10-18 .261||69, 0-0-0||69, 23-34-57 .826|
|HOUCK 2013-14 WHL||69, 24-17-41 .594||69, 9-10-19 .275||69, 1-0-1||69, 34-27-61 .884|
|HOUCK 2014-15 WHL||28, 4-8-12 .429||28, 7-7-14 .500||28, 0-0-0||28, 11-15-26 .929|
Houck’s overall offense has increased at 19 (age 17 and 19 seasons are the important ones) and his power-play number is a nice jump from one year ago. He’s struggling at even strength compared to a year ago, the Giants have recently made a coaching change (the entertaining Claude Noel) so this is an interesting time to follow him. It’s interesting to see the comparison between Houck, Pitlick and Moroz in their final junior seasons at even strength:
HOUCK AT EVENS, COMPARED TO PITLICK AND MOROZ
|PITLICK 2010-11 WHL||56||22-19-41||.732|
|MOROZ 2013-14 WHL||70||25-24-49||.700|
|HOUCK 2014-15 WHL||28||4-8-12||.429|
The concern here is real. Pitlick didn’t score well in the AHL, Moroz isn’t scoring (early days) in the NHL and both players were solid even-strength options in their final junior seasons in the WHL. An interesting item to follow as the year rolls along.
PREVIOUS TOP 20 RANKING
- Summer 2013: 13
- Winter 2013: 20
- Summer 2014: 12
- Winter 2014: 12
I think the ‘running in place’ implied by the stagnant ranking fits this player. Houck has seen some increase in offense but you’d much rather see that growth come from even-strength improvement.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING THIS YEAR
- Lowetide, Summer 2014: He is somewhat unique on the Oilers list in that he’s a bruiser with some reasonable boxcars. Definitely a player to watch.
- Jackson Houck: “I’m working on my skating, because the guys at the next level are going to be a lot faster and a lot stronger. I think lower body power and adding quickness in skating speed is important to improve on.” Source
- Steve Ewen, Vancouver Province: He does look leaner, fitter. He’s only added two pounds to his 6-foot-1 frame from a year ago, checking in now at 195 pounds. The North Vancouver native maintains that Gallagher helped him “lose bad weight and gain good weight.” Source
Jackson Houck’s offensive downturn in the WHL in his 19-year old season is a significant item. Don Hay left at the end of last season and now Claude Noel steps in, so this might be a case of the former head coach(es) not being able to figure out how to unleash the offense. Last season, the Giants were scoring 3.25 goals-per-game, the current team is at 3.00 goals-per game. Oilers fans who have seen the offensive struggles of Tyler Pitlick and the early drought for Mitchell Moroz should be aware that Houck to this point in the season has not been an effective EV scorer at age 19 in the WHL.
2013 NHL DRAFT
- Darnell Nurse, No. 7 overall. Good arrows, already played 2 NHL games. A bright future ahead. No. 2 overall prospect.
- Marco Roy, No. 59 overall. Injuries have impacted him since draft day. No. 11 overall prospect.
- Bogdan Yakimov, No. 83 overall. Mammoth Russian progressing smartly. No. 4 overall prospect.
- Anton Slepyshev, No. 88 overall. Slick Russian winger running in place in the KHL. Candidate for winter 20.
- Jackson Houck, No. 94 overall. Even-strength scoring down significantly. No. 12 overall prospect.
- Kyle Platzer, No. 96 overall. Emerging as a quality NHL prospect this year. No. 9 overall prospect.
- Aidan Muir, No. 113 overall. Now in college, scoring a little. Candidate for winter 20.
- Evan Campbell, No. 128 overall. Scoring well in college this year. Candidate for winter 20.
- Ben Betker, No. 158 overall. Huge defender continues to progress. Candidate for winter 20.
- Greg Chase, No. 188 overall. Signed a contract, strong camp, weird WHL season so far. No. 6 overall prospect.
Houck is the sixth player from the 2013 draft to make this winter’s top 20—an impressive total. The gap between Houck and Marco Roy at No. 11 is significant, and it’s almost completely associated with the even-strength offense. Houck’s number (.429 points-per-game) is lower than Tyler Pitlick and Mitch Moroz, two similar players from the WHL. A player like Roy—more skilled, perhaps not in line for the same job in pro—is running at .864 points-per-game at even strength, more in line with a legit NHL prospect at age 19 (Roy is three months older than Houck, also a factor).
There are lots of good arrows for Houck, but that point total 5×5 is something to watch for the rest of the season.