Jordan Kawaguchi is one of the slew of prospects out of Abbotsford, British Columbia — but he’s opting out of a route through the WHL.
Instead, he’s headed to Providence College.
The high scoring centre was drafted in 2012 by the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL — the same club that current playoff star Tyler Johnson thrived with — but he’s opting for the NCAA route. It doesn’t come as much of a surprise after he stuck with the BCHL for his junior career, given his scoring prowess — but it will be interesting to see how he fares with the defending NCAA champions.
Although he’s known for his ability to score, Kawaguchi insists that he’s more apt to make a play than he is to immediately take the first available shot. This, he insists, is one of the biggest differences between himself and Devin Setoguchi — whom he’s often examined alongside, because they’re actually related. He noted at the WHL draft that he draws inspiration from his older cousin — whom, at the time Kawaguchi was selected, had notched 108 NHL goals in only five seasons — but asserted that they play a fairly different game.
The biggest knock against Kawaguchi, should he stay his current size, is that he’s a bit short.
Clocking in at 5 foot 8 and 165 pounds, the 18 year old forward is undersized by NHL standards. As Spokane alum Johnson has proven in the post-season, that’s not an automatic recipe for failure in the pros — but it means that in order to hit the big leagues, Kawaguchi will have to stand out spectacularly with Providence. In his final BCHL season with the Chilliwack Chiefs, he tallied twenty-eight goals and fifty-six points in just fifty-three games — coming in second on his team in scoring despite being one of the youngest players on the roster. He didn’t quite match his awe-inspiring bantam pace — a fifteen-year old Kawaguchi tallied fifty-seven goals and 131 points in just forty-three games with the Pursuit of Excellence (POE) hockey academy in Kelowna in 2012 — but it’s still clear he’s got offensive talent, and may compete for substantial ice time by the end of next season.
Coming off their impressive overthrow of the powerful Boston University squad at the Frozen Four championships this spring, Providence College may struggle next season to produce an encore performance.
The departure of senior forwards Shane Luke (32P in 41 regular season games) and Ross Mauermann will have a substantial impact on the team’s scoring — and while defenseman Mark Adams is the only blue liner who will graduate out of the roster, the signing of netminder Jon Gillies by the Calgary Flames following Providence’s championship could have a huge impact. As of May 30th, the team had no confirmed netminding prospects on board for next season — but with a number of forwards on board for next year (including Tri-City Storm scoring forward Garrett Gamez), the team is bound to round out the roster as the summer progresses.
It’s interesting to note, of course, that Kawaguchi isn’t the only Chilliwack vet who’s planning on heading to Rhode Island; defenseman Vincent Desharnais made a verbal commitment via Twitter to the university, although hasn’t specified whether it’s for 2015-2016 or the following season.