Our #15 prospect is forward Carter Verhaeghe, who has put up 82 points in the OHL for the Niagara Ice Dogs each of the past two seasons. Let’s take a closer look at Verhaeghe, his playing style, his production, and what’s in store for him next season as he figures to make the jump to professional hockey.
Here’s the always-excellent OHL Prospect Blog on Verhaeghe:
Struggled initially this past year, with Brendan Perlini out of the
Niagara line up. Ultimately, he really needed someone to help him create
time and space for him to operate. Verhaeghe isn’t a burner, so he
really benefits from a big, quick guy like Perlini to stretch defences.
In the 2nd half (and into the playoffs) Verhaeghe was great for Niagara
and managed to match his offensive output of 2013/2014. With a very well
rounded skill set, it remains to be seen what type of role he’ll play
at the next level. In the AHL next year, he could play a variety of
different roles. He could be slotted on a scoring line right away, and
as long as he’s got some quicker wingers, he could be fine. But he’s
also a solid two-way player who would likely find success in a checking
role. It’ll be interesting to see how his game translates next year.
As someone whose kept something of a close eye on Verhaeghe the last couple of seasons, here’s my take on him:
- good two-way instincts and “hockey sense”
- sees the ice well and passes the puck well
- good, confident puckhandler
- generally makes “the right play” both offensively and defensively, with or without the puck
- good intangibles and leadership skills
- decent skater, but doesn’t have legitimate NHL speed
- solid albeit unspectacular goalscoring instincts
- wrist shot is average
- not overly dynamic
Think of Verhaeghe as a solid bridge between mediocre Leafs prospects like Rinat Valiev and the higher-tier Leafs prospects such as Connor Brown. Basically, he’s more refined and looks closer to having that total package that you look for in a future NHLer, but at the same time, he’s not polished enough that you can really have tons of confidence that he will ultimately reach his potential. He’s a good player, but you’d like to see a little something more out of him.
Here’s Verhaeghe’s numbers compared with every other forward from the 2014-2015 OHL season:
As we can see, Verhaeghe fares pretty well compared to the rest of his peers. He doesn’t join fellow Leafs prospect Mitch Marner in the tier of elite OHL forwards, but his numbers are good across the board and these numbers are enough to continue to feel good about Verhaeghe as a B-level prospect.
Another number of Verhaeghe’s is his PCS%, which comes in at 15.91. That’s not bad but it’s not really good either – again, all signs continue to point towards Verhaeghe being a B-level prospect.
A LOOK AHEAD
Verhaeghe is now AHL-eligible, meaning there’s a strong chance he’ll suit up for the Toronto Marlies under new bench boss and former OHL head coach Sheldon Keefe this coming season.
It won’t be easy though – the Marlies figure to be incredibly deep this year. Think about it: Nylander, Brown, Kapanen, Froese, Frattin, Leipsic, Leivo, Carrick, Rupert, Gauthier, Hyman, Soshnikov, Bailey, Clune – these are all names that figure to be a part of the equation up front for Toronto in the AHL this season.
And the Leafs will want to make sure all of their young guys get lots of playing time. That means a move to the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears could be in a store for a player like Verhaeghe. It’s not ideal, but at least down there Verhaeghe would figure to get boatloads of playing time, which he’s well-accustomed to from his years in the OHL.
And hey, if all else fails Verhaeghe can always go back to Niagara for an overage season. It’s unlikely, but maybe that’s what’s best for his development. If that’s the case, so be it.
In any event, it’ll be interesting to see where Verhaeghe ends up next season. If nothing else, you can expect the Leafs to do what’s best for him. That’s all you can really ask for.
Verhaeghe is a spot-on B-level prospect. There’s a lot to like about his well-rounded, two-way game. And he’s got good numbers to back it up. He does lack that certain something that pushes him over the edge though, and for that reason he comes in at #15 on our list. And depending on how things go for him this season, he could end up a good deal higher or a good deal lower than #15 on the next installment of our prospect rankings.
I like Verhaeghe, I really do. But I did want to mention one thing: go back and look at the players taken in the immediate aftermath of Verhaeghe during the 2013 draft. Take this with a grain of salt since all of these players are still developing, but it looks like in hindsight Verhaeghe may not have been the absolute best player that the Leafs were in the range to have taken (via HockeyDB):