Early Friday afternoon the news broke that the Canadiens signed QMJHL overage forward Antoine Waked.
At first glance, it’s clear why Waked went undrafted. His production during draft years was quite underwhelming, with 77 points in 157 games.
That being said, we can see an obvious uptick in points every season, starting with a paltry .17 PPG in his rookie season, all the way to 1.2 PPG in his overage year.
Should we get excited about his most recent play? Yes and no. It’s clear that he’s taken strides and honed his skills throughout his QMJHL career, but at that age you definitely should dominant a league that mostly populated by players that are a year or two behind in terms of development and physiology.
It’s worth noting that Waked production saw a bump as soon as he was used more frequently by Rouyn-Noranda. His shot totals are proof. He went from 31 shots in 2013-14, to 79 in 2014-15, up to 96 in 2015-16, and finally 225 this season, eclipsing the previous three seasons combined.
His shoot location heat map also saw a stark improvement over the years, continuously moving closer to net, as to improve the quality of his shots.
According to our prospect expert Mitch Brown, Waked is indeed an interesting prospect, but he also tends to err on the side of caution when projecting his potential in the NHL.
Here’s what he wrote on Twitter back on March 18th, long before the Canadiens signed Waked. “Wouldn't mind signing Antoine Waked. Great around the net -- hand-eye coordination, soft hands, agile, strong. Can dish in-tight, too. Lots of important little details, too: Stick always open, occupies lanes w/ & w/o puck, full body puck protection, plus defensive ability. Yes, he's an overager, but also take into account development curve. 80P, 225 SOG: More than first 3 seasons combined. Huge upward swing. "Wouldn't mind" is of course not a ringing endorsement. Considering the extreme rarity of CHL OA -> NHL, not the type I'd be targeting.”
Despite some obvious red flags, Waked himself admitted that at least 15 NHL teams were interested in his services.
As you can see from the highlight montage embedded below, Waked has an affinity for stickhandling through traffic, driving the net, and using his release to score important goals. He also does a great job attracting defenders, meanwhile keeping an eye on his teammates as to find them for an easy scoring chance.
Can Waked make an impact in the NHL, or even the AHL? That remains to be seen. He certainly seems to have hit his stride during his overage season with Rouyn-Noranda, and given that half the league was interested in signing him, the Canadiens could count themselves lucky to have won the “Waked sweepstakes”.
Unfortunately, the list of players that have made the jump to the NHL despite going undrafted isn’t long, and there are very few of them that come from the QMJHL, seeing as all three leagues in the CHL are heavily scouted.
That doesn’t mean Waked has no future with the club, but it would be wise to temper our expectations regarding his development.
(QMJHL shot totals via http://prospect-stats.com)