While trading Jason Zucker to the Pittsburgh Penguins is a tough pill to swallow for many Minnesota Wild fans, it does bring about some positive change — the Wild seem to finally be building more for the future. On top of the acquisition of Alex Galchenyuk (who you can read more about here), the Wild also received a first-round pick and defenseman Calen Addison.
Addison, 19, was considered one of the Penguins’ best young prospects prior to being moved. The 5-foot-10 defenseman has posted 10 goals and 43 points in 39 games this season, making him one of the better point-producing defensemen in the Western Hockey League. Drafted in the second round (No. 53 overall) of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, Addison has turned out to be an intriguing prospect thanks to his good skating and ability to quarterback a power play.
To learn more about Addison, we reached out to Jimmy Rixner, managing editor over at PensBurgh, for a quick scouting report on the new Wild prospect.
Typical “new age” type of NHL defensemen. Listed at 5-foot-10, 180 pounds, but I have doubts he is either that big or heavy. He has a very slight frame. But he is exceptional at moving the puck, has great vision and could run an NHL power play one day. His skating is above average, but I never felt it was exceptional. His smarts and hands are the best tools he has. Being a right shot increases his value. There are worries about how well he defends — he was a healthy scratch in the WHL once for his coach proving a point they need him to be more well-rounded, but I believe he’s grown into a bit of a PK role there.
Worst-case scenario he could be a Derrick Pouliot type of pick that just isn’t capable of defending well enough to stay in the NHL. Or, for the older fan, he could be a Marc-Andre Bergeron that is a power play and offensive weapon that isn’t really a regular defender. Or, who knows, perhaps his ceiling could be a Samuel Girard type of smallish defender that can play on the second pair in the NHL one day and also be very effective offensively. As a 19-year old prospect, the future for him seems pretty open-ended, and I really think he has a low floor that could be a bust. But he also has a very high ceiling and could be a solid NHL contributor in the future. Or maybe somewhere in between.
Addison was terrific for Team Canada in the recent World Juniors. He led them in assists, including three helpers in the gold medal game that helped Canada win. But even in that tournament he was on a lower pair and more a specialist for their top power play, while relatively shielded at even strength. That’s the smart way to utilize him so that he helps a lot, but he shouldn’t be a Justin-Schultz-in-Edmonton type. If he gets cast as a top-four defender immediately, it would likely be a recipe for disaster.
Addison was No. 7 last year in our Penguins Top 25 Under 25 feature, but take out the NHL players and he was the Pens’ No. 3 prospect, and there really isn’t a big gap between 1-4 in the Pens’ prospect pool — just a matter of who you like more. Addison has already signed his entry-level contract, and he will turn pro when his junior season is over, so you probably will see him at least in the AHL for the tail end of the season. Next year, he’s a pro, but I would think he might need 1-2 years of AHL development time to add experience and strength before he could be a full-time, legit NHL player.