Wildcats fourth rounder could make a big impact
Hockey scouts are like miners, always digging for a hidden gem. The Moncton Wildcats believe they found one in the fourth round of this year’s QMJHL Draft. At six-foot-six, 208 pounds, Zachary Vanier will have a large presence when he steps on the ice for the first time for the Wildcats at the Hub City Showcase in August. He’s only 15, remember, so he may grow even more.
Moncton Wildcats selected Vanier with their fourth round selection, 69th overall, on June 3rd. Vanier’s skating stride needs some work, and he needs to flex his knees more to increase his mobility. He possesses above average agility, balance and edge control for a player that size. Vanier possesses a solid first pass and good vision, coupled with solid footwork and pivots. He has a solid, active stick and seldom gets beat to the outside in one on one situations. The most impressive aspect of his game is his understanding of angles, timing and space at the defensive position, which at 15 and that size is extraordinary.
“Zachary is a hard working young man who is very committed to playing in the league,” said Roger Shannon, Moncton’s director of hockey operations. “He brings toughness to the position and has huge upside. “We thought he would go in the third round so it was great to be able to select him when we did.”
Because of his stature, Vanier is compared to Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. Vanier’s ability to judge gap control, combined with his unique size and understanding of his own body, makes him a unique talent with tons of potential.
“He’s got something you can’t teach,” added Wildcats head scout Ritchie Thibeau. “We will work with him to develop the other parts of his game and if he continues to develop like we believe he will, Zachary could be a big part of our team moving forward.”
Vanier suited up for the College Charles-Lemoyne Riverains in the Quebec Midget AAA league where he had one goal and eight assists in 40 games. The massive stay at home defenseman isn’t going to be called on very often to provide offence but he can unleash a heavy, accurate wrist shot from the point and an above average slap shot.
Like many young defensemen, Vanier struggles when he tries to over handle the puck or do too much in transition. His hockey sense and awareness on the ice are his strongest attributes and it’s his simplistic style of play that will make him successful in the QMJHL. It was evident at the Combine that Vanier was a definite target and opposing players wanted to jump at every opportunity to topple the giant. Vanier handled himself very well and showed a definite mean streak when needed.
Vanier is a raw talent, and if he continues to progress and develop he could be a steal for Moncton. It will be a tough transition for him, given the quicker pace in the QMJHL. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Cats send Vanier to the Quebec Midget AAA ranks for another season to allow him to work on his overall game before joining the club for the 2018-19 campaign.
“Zachary needs some time to develop, but we feel there is a very good chance he can have an impact in this league,” Shannon said.
Photos: Vincent Ethier/QMJHL Media