Welcome to the Canucks Top 25 Under 25 Rankings, the series that makes you wish you were under 25 again. The list includes all players born after January 1st, 1996. Five staff writers (Beggsy, Westy, CanucksAbbyFan2, Trevor Connors, Markus Meyer) and one former staff writer (Daniel Gee, Elite Prospects) cast votes for the project.
Nearly five years after he was drafted, Will Lockwood is ready to turn pro.
Of course, his professional debut was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. After finishing his fourth and final season at the University of Michigan back in March, Lockwood quickly signed a two-year, two-way, entry-level deal with the Vancouver Canucks.
The signing was a long-time coming for Benning and company, after Lockwood elected to play a fourth and final season for the Michigan Wolverines. He had a desire to “leave a legacy” at the school, and captained the team for his final season in the NCAA.
Another reason why it made sense for Lockwood to play out the string at Michigan was because of the number of injuries that hampered his development during his time there. Lockwood had two surgeries on his left shoulder during his first two seasons in the NCAA — before he was even 20 years old.
Lockwood received surgery on his shoulder following his freshman season, before re-injuring that same shoulder the next season while playing at the World Juniors for Team USA.
Those injuries forced Lockwood to re-consider the reckless style in which he played hockey.
“I think I played a little more reckless my freshman year, after I was drafted,” Lockwood said after signing with the Canucks back in March. “I think I felt I was a bit invincible,” he said. “I still play a gritty, hard-nosed game and I’ll never lose that. I was told by a couple people to maybe just ease up a bit because of my injuries, but that’s not something that’s really in my DNA.”
A psychology major and a tremendous leader for on and off the ice, congrats to our captain Will Lockwood! pic.twitter.com/0gB2NedDXV— Michigan Hockey (@umichhockey) February 22, 2020
Elite Prospects’ Managing Editor JD Burke provided further analysis on Lockwood following the conclusion of his NCAA career.
“When Lockwood doesn’t have the puck, every part of the ice is high-danger — he hits, a lot. Don’t discount Lockwood’s hands, either.
“The question, then, is why has he failed to produce at a modestly acceptable label for an NCAA prospect. The situation in the University of Michigan hasn’t been great and this year his supporting cast left a lot to be desired. I’m not sure he’s the most creative player, either. He’s very north-south and the layers of deception necessary to produce consistently in pro hockey have yet to reveal themselves in his game.
In all likelihood, Lockwood tops out as a low-end bottom-six forward with utility on the penalty kill at the NHL level.”
The player Lockwood has been compared to for years in this market has been Jannik Hansen. His physical, 200-foot game with limited offensive upside still have him fitting that description, even 4.5 years after he was drafted by the Canucks.
What’s Next for Lockwood?
The 2021 season will go a long way toward showing what Lockwood can do in professional hockey.
He’ll get that opportunity to enhance his two-way game with the Utica Comets, once the 2021 AHL season gets underway (as of writing, puck drop on the 2021 AHL season is scheduled for February 5th).
Lockwood is a prospect who has been passed by others on the organizational depth chart. One that immediately comes to mind is Kole Lind, who, unsurprisingly, is ranked ahead of Lockwood on our Top 25 Under 25 Rankings.
Lind and Lockwood would both slide into similar bottom-six roles if they were to make it to the NHL. Right now, that spot would go to the younger Lind, who took a big step towards becoming an NHLer after a solid sophomore season in the AHL.
Lockwood certainly has the drive and determination to play in the NHL, and he now has two years under contract with the Canucks to prove that he’s NHL worthy. What’s next for him in 2021, is to take a Lind-sized step forward during his first full season in the AHL.
Since he’s an older prospect, his window of opportunity is that much slimmer at the professional level.