Jackson Houck is a tailor-made prospect for the current Oilers, a power forward/agitating forward with an intriguing mix of skill and truculence. Houck just makes the cut in this year’s top 20 based on skill set (very good passer!) and is at 20 because there are issues (skating); he is in the middle of a prospect group with up and down arrows.
PREVIOUSLY NUMBER 20 ON THE WINTER LIST
- December 2004: C Mike Bishai
- December 2005: L Geoff Paukovich
- December 2006: D Cody Wild
- December 2007: C Ryan O’Marra
- December 2008: C Milan Kytnar
- December 2009: L Slava Trukhno
- December 2010: G Tyler Bunz
- December 2011: C Ryan Martindale
- December 2012: L Daniil Zharkov
This is the final group that we can rank over a decade (I’ll have the rest of this year’s group in the coming days, haven’t decided yet if I’ll do individual or group takes) and for the most part we’re talking about young men who are finishing shy of the NHL. Mike Bishai played 14 NHL games the same season I ranked him #20, and at the time I said “has overcome exceptional odds” so it’s important to remember we’re not dealing with first round picks here. Ryan O’Marra WAS a first round pick but dealt with injury issues and didn’t bring his scoring with him to the pro’s, but did play in 33 games. Trukhno was a personal favorite of mine who showed terrific skill in training camp but did not play in the NHL. I think we’ve got the prospects surrounded by #20, and that’s a good thing.
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 2011-12 WHL||53, 8-9-17 .321||53, 0-3-3 .057||53, 0-0-0||53, 8-12-20 .377|
|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||33, 15-7-22 .667||33, 2-4-6 .182||33, 0-0-0||33, 17-11-28 .848|
There’s good and bad news in this hockey card. Houck is having a solid increase at even-strength scoring (up 7 points if this holds) and isn’t miles away from Greg Chase in the same discipline (Chase went from .521 to .739 at evens when we looked at his boxcars at #10). However, his power play totals are shrinking, which is a very curious state for the player. He said in summer that “I think I’ll have more of an offensive role. They didn’t put that much pressure on me to score this year, second half of the season they kind of did. Offence will be a big part of it” and yet his role in some very important areas is decreasing. He led his team in scoring last season, and is fourth this season, and I suspect much of that gap is on the PP (he appears to be getting 2nd PP minutes at least some of the time, based on these numbers). However, he is 5-2-7 in his last 5 games so it may have been a case of a very slow start (0-0-0 and -9 in his first four games) taking some time to overcome. My bet is there’s an issue somewhere, I don’t think the guys he’s chasing for PP time are all-world hockey players.
PREVIOUS TOP 20 RANKING
- Summer 2013: 13
- Winter 2013: 20
I don’t think the initial ranking for a player is very important, the summer slotting is done same day/day after draft so there’s not a lot of time. Houck’s issues have come into view over these months, and he’s a pretty strong #20 prospect.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING THIS SEASON
It’s always difficult to know what’s going through the mind of a teenager, and it is extremely unfair to judge anyone’s character from a distance. This blog is not going to wander down this path beyond acknowledging the event and leaving it to the reader to decide on their own.
This is a very interesting prospect for the Edmonton Oilers. Houck’s role (PF) is being approached by the Oilers through the “throw a bunch of stuff against the wall” system, and in fact there are some positive signs (Moroz has 20 goals already, Khaira is working on his 2-way play in an NHL system that works in the dub, Travis Ewanyk is doing some good things in the AHL defensively) but Houck trumps them all as an offensive player. The odds of Houck playing on an AHL power play are much greater than the other prospects mentioned here, and that’s such an interesting aspect to his game.
I’m saying there’s a massive opportunity for Jackson Houck. He’s an average-sized kid with skating issues, but he’s also a rugged winger with skill and jam. I can absolutely see why the Oilers took him, and I do believe there’s a chance he ends up being a better pro than Moroz or Ewanyk. I have him shy of Khaira because their offense appears to be similar, but Houck may show us in the second half that he has more throttle than all of the others.
The reason he’s #20 is foot speed. It’s a deal breaker for NHL teams and that’s an area Houck must improve in the next 18 months. If he does that, and can play at speed in pro hockey, Jackson Houck will blow this ranking out of the water.