Florida Panthers 20 Under 21: #1 Jayce Hawryluk

Huge final season gains former Wheat King the top spot

Jayce Hawryluk had a fantastic 2015-16 season in the Western Hockey League. He finished second in the WHL in goals (behind fellow Panther Dryden Hunt). He was 6th in the league in assists, and 4th in points. He also tallied 101 penalty minutes. Hawryluk accomplished all of that in 58 games-played, meaning he produced points at darn near 2-per-game during the regular season. In 21 playoff games last season he tallied 29 points (7 goals, 22 assists). Is it any surprise that he is #1 on our list?

#1 Jayce Hawryluk- Forward - Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)

Highest Ranking: 1 Lowest Ranking: 1

Consider for a moment the Panthers young center, and budding star, Vincent Trocheck. In 2012-13, Trocheck played his final OHL season (for the Plymouth Whalers and Saginaw Spirit). He scored 50 goals that season in 63 games to win the OHL scoring title, in a league noted for higher scoring than its Western Hockey League counterpart. The rest, as they say, is history. The 5’10", 182 lb. Trocheck has emerged in the NHL as an offensive powerhouse.

Now, focus on this fact: Hawryluk scored more goals-per-games than Trocheck did in his final season. Hawryluk scored 47 goals in 58 regular season games. He also brings a great deal of sandpaper with him- something Trocheck was also noted for. In his final OHL season, Trocheck sat for 58 penalty minutes, while Hawryluk tallied the aforementioned 101, in five fewer games. That may not be a good thing, especially considering that a bout of sticking up for a teammate at the rookie tournament will cost Hawryluk a portion of the upcoming season, as he broke his hand and needs surgery after a fight. These two players are also the same height, but Hawryluk is slightly heavier.

There is no doubting the fact that Hawryluk exploded this season, scoring 17-more goals than he did in 2014-15 (in which he also played four fewer games). By all appearances, the Panthers made a savvy move selecting this Manitoba native in the 2nd round (#32 overall) of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Hawryluk possesses excellent speed, has an uncanny ability to get under opponents skin to draw penalties, and can play a finesse or gritty game, depending on what is necessary. Dobber Prospects noted his defensive responsibility and agitator role in a report in March of this year:

Hawryluk is not afraid to get to the dirty areas and get involved physically displayed by his 101 penalty minutes. He is not just focussed on one end of the ice either, as he has an impressive plus 59 thus far.

That same scouting website described him as an "ideal third-line forward," who steps up his game in the biggest of situations, such as during the WHL and CHL playoffs. What is equally interesting about this player is that his high skill level and skating ability are something that has more recently been noted. Prior to his draft year, Future Considerations focused almost exclusively on his grit and feistiness:

Hawryluk is a spunky offensive minded forward who tries to play bigger than his vitals would suggest. He will get involved physically as in fighting his way to greasy areas to make things happen. Has a good shot and some solid offensive instincts.

In December of last year, I took a look at Hawryluk as he reported to evaluations for Canada’s World Junior team:

His Wheat Kings Coach and GM Kelly McCrimmon described why he drafted Jayce this way: "He was tenacious and wanted the puck," McCrimmon said. "What defined him back then was his work ethic and competitiveness."

Many moons ago, Corey Pronman of ESPN told Shane O’Donnell that:

It may not be fair, but given how strong Brandon likely will be this year, anything less than one of the top scorers in the WHL would be below expectations.

Check that box. While the focus of so many scouting services has been on the greasy, gritty side of Hawryluk, he was one of the WHL’s top offensive players, and his offensive output increased as the season went along. It seemed that the unfortunate injury that cost Hawryluk a spot on the Canadian Junior Team (he was unable to participate in several of the evaluation days) led him to double down after his return to the Brandon Wheat Kings from that camp. It is also unfortunate that we did not get to see a fully operational version of him at Panthers Development Camp this summer. An ankle injury hampered him there, and ultimately took him off the ice for much of camp. Add to that, the fact that he broke his hand in the fight at the Rookie Tournament, and the injury will cost him all of Panthers training camp, and we are not getting to see much of him playing locally.

Instead, we will have to rely on the scouting reports and numbers, and they are excellent. Purely on paper, this player appears to possess the offensive and defensive ability and speed of our young phenom Trocheck, with slightly more size and a whole lot more nastiness (which is saying something, as Vincent does not lack in that department either). Trocheck took a few seasons in San Antonio to adjust to the professional game, and there is no reason to think Hawryluk will be any different.

None of this is to say that Hawryluk is the next coming of Vincent Trocheck. Certainly, there are similarities between the two, but Trocheck is a proven commodity and Hawryluk is not. We believe that Hawryluk is going to be an impact player in the NHL as a future 3rd line wing based upon what he has accomplished in the WHL and the words of the scouting service’s reports. The potential and enthusiasm is there. Hawryluk is (by our vote) our top prospect under the age of 21 this year. Now the rubber hits the road: Hawryluk needs to get healthy and hit the ice in Springfield and show us whether our faith is warranted. We are excited to see him as a professional.