Kelvin Kuo-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
Prior to the lockout, Chris Wagner decided to leave Colgate University before the start of his junior year. Is he the depth at center the Ducks so desperately need?
Name: Chris Wagner
Hometown: Wellesley, MA
Draft Story: Drafted in the 5th round (122nd overall) in 2010
How did he become a Duck? Wagner signed an three-year, two-way entry-level contract worth $900,000/year back in April. His signing bonus is worth $270,000, and his AHL salary is $67,500.
Where did the Ducks send him for the lockout? Speaking of the AHL...Wagner was assigned to the Norfolk Admirals right before the lockout began.
2011-2012 League and Team: The Colgate University Red Raiders of the ECAC (Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference). Translation: NCAA hockey.
Other Hockey Ventures: Wagner was nominated for Best Defensive Forward in the ECAC last season. He was also named to the league's Second Team.
Key Stats Last Season: He played in 38 games last season (he's durable) and scored 17 goals and 34 assists (he's more of a playmaker than a goal scorer), for a total of 51 points (a career high).
Scout's take: The folks at Hockey's Future think very highly of Wagner, referring to the 5th rounder as "a sleeper" and a "major bright spot for the Ducks." But why? We've never heard of him! In addition to praising his defensive play, they argue that Wagner is an "excellent faceoff man" and "does not shy away from physical play despite his skill." Sounds like a quintessential Ducks player to me.
Is he a work-in-progress, future trade bait, or a keeper? This is going to shock many of you, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Wagner is a keeper. We often bemoan our organization's lack of depth at center, but there are talented centers within our prospect pool. Wagner is getting better every season, and possesses all of the essential qualities of good defensive forwards in the NHL. His tenacity (he registered a team-high 124 shots on goal last season) is also appealing. (Side note: I witnessed one of those shots ping off of a Yale goaltender's post and into the Yale student section last year. We all ducked in unison).
Should we be excited: Yes! He played college hockey! He's American! But seriously: if Wagner can translate his two-way game to the NHL, he will be golden. Wagner has the potential to blossom into a Manny Malhotra/David Steckel/Blair Betts type who wins 60% of his draws and isn't afraid to block shots. I see him as a depth center in our organization, but the kind of depth center who wins playoff games for his team. In order to ease his transition into the league, Wagner should take cues from Flyers center Matt Read, another under-the-radar former college center who has turned his defensive play into a regular NHL job.