#20 PROSPECT: JACKSON HOUCK

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.

houck3

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

PLAYER EV PP PK TOTAL
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.

ETA HOUCK

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.

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8 Responses to "#20 PROSPECT: JACKSON HOUCK"

  1. Ryan says:

    The problem with the Oilers is they haven’t really found any useful hockey players outside of the first round in several years with the exception of Petry.

    Maybe wasted too many picks Lucic hunting…

  2. Pouzar says:

    Thx for the blog LT but I just can’t excited about these kids b/c of our track record of developing these guys. Love Houck, Moroz, Chase etc but I am tired of getting my hopes dashed.

    Unrelated: Elliotte Friedman reports not to be surprised if the Carolina Hurricanes move either Anton Khudobin or Justin Peters soon.

    We gotta get in on that.

  3. Romulus Apotheosis says:

    I hoping Houck’s slow start was just and only that. He certainly seems to have been pouring it on of late.

    I’ve got time for this player… I think his draft year point totals put him ahead of Moroz and Ewanyk in the “has a chance” dept.

    (of course, Houck was playing a big role on a terrible team and the others were playing bit parts on great teams).

    A couple of things I’ve found to add to the list on the player:

    He’s been very recently suspended (3 games) for a hit to the head:

    http://blogs.theprovince.com/2013/12/09/giants-winger-jackson-houck-to-miss-tuesday-tilt-versus-visiting-victoria-to-wrap-up-three-game-suspension/

    In this recent write up

    http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20131214/SPORTS/712149874/Struggling-Silvertips-drop-second-straight-to-Vancouver

    from yesterday concerning a game against Everett… here’s some interesting things that show why Houck can be valuable to us:

    Jackson Houck had two goals and an assist to lead Vancouver

    Always a good sign!

    Vancouver stretched its lead to 4-2 at 7:04 when Cain Franson’s inch-perfect pass in transition was redirected in by Houck, who was driving full speed to the net.

    Full speed could mean anything, but it may be that speed is not the issue with Houck and “skating issues” means he can’t “explode” from a standstill and/or he has no edges.

    But, the real gem here is that whatever speed he’s got he’s using it to drive to the damn net.

    But Vancouver took control of the game physically, and although the Giants couldn’t find the tying goal in the first, they did 5:46 into the second as Travis McEvoy’s quick pass from behind the net found Houck in front, and it remained 2-2 going into the third.

    There he is again in front of the net! and being mentioned in a paragraph about his team controlling the game physically.

  4. Romulus Apotheosis says:

    Has anyone here seen Houck play a junior game and taken note of his skating recently?

  5. fifthcartel says:

    The Carolina Hurricanes could be ready to make room in their crowded crease.

    The talk Saturday was that Carolina GM Jim Rutherford has been calling around to see what kind of market there is for goalie Justin Peters. The Hurricanes also have netminders Cam Ward and Anton Khudobin.

    The belief is the Edmonton Oilers, who still need to address their goaltending, have more than a passing interest in Peters.

    The 27-year-old has a solid .925 save-percentage with a 2.23 GAA on an inconsistent Carolina team.

    He’d be a nice fit.

    http://www.edmontonsun.com/2013/12/15/edmonton-oilers-engaging-in-trade-talk-with-carolina-hurricanes-about-goaltending-help?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

    Peters in, Dubnyk out?

  6. jp says:

    fifthcartel: http://www.edmontonsun.com/2013/12/15/edmonton-oilers-engaging-in-trade-talk-with-carolina-hurricanes-about-goaltending-help?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

    Peters in, Dubnyk out?

    I don’t know much about Peters. But aside from his .929 this season, I don’t see anything in his career numbers to suggest he’s even Dubnyk’s equal. He might be a good backup candidate, but expecting that he might be a starter of the future seems like a bit of a stretch to me.

    He was a 2nd rounder the same year Dubnyk was a 1st too. And Khudobin was a 6th rounder also in 2004 (2 picks before Stephane Goulet!).

    Khudobin’s overall numbers look marginally better than Peters’, though Peters has gotten 17 GP this year to just 3 for Khudobin. In any case, I think Dubnyk is going to be replaced by an inferior goalie if this is a case of Dubnyk out Peters/Khudobin in.

  7. Bos8 says:

    Somehow the thought of Chase, Moroz and Houck does lend itself to a fuzzy warm. A ready made line of truculent, defensive specialists, that could be more, in the pipeline is not without a certain merit. Put some polish on ‘em and plug ‘em in. High time they focused on some thing like this. Scrounging for leavings by other teams is at the least, demeaning.

    Useful word that – truculence

  8. jp says:

    Bos8:
    Somehow the thought of Chase, Moroz and Houck does lend itself to a fuzzywarm.A ready made line of truculent, defensive specialists, that could be more, in the pipeline is not without a certain merit.Put some polish on ‘em and plug ‘em in.High time they focused on some thing like this. Scrounging for leavings by other teams is at the least, demeaning.

    Useful word that – truculence

    I completely agree. Those 3 (and you can add Khaira to that group) are not without their flaws, and have a long way to go before they’re NHL ready. But they all have some 2 way ability in addition to some grit and would be welcome additions to the team. Here’s hoping some of them turn out.

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