Dane Fox, the Vancouver Canucks’ newest prospect after being signed on December 28th, is a unique case. After going undrafted in 2012 and 2013 due to off-ice concerns, Fox has exploded in the Ontario Hockey League this year. Pacing the league in goals with 48 in 42 games (he’s also second in the league with 78 points), and with his team, the Erie Otters, running away from the pack in the OHL standings, Fox is clearly making the most of his last year of junior hockey.
Now, when a clearly talented prospect goes undrafted for two straight years, the question most people ask is “Why?” Unfortunately, the details around Fox’s off-ice problems are difficult to come by, and the reports that do surface seem to be made of a combination of conjecture and rumour, as opposed to actual fact. So, instead of talking about Fox’s past, let’s talk about his future, and the potential he offers the Canucks organization as a player going forward.
One only needs to look at Fox’s stat line to see the primary appeal for the Canucks: goal scoring. While it’s near-impossible that Fox replicates this kind of goal scoring prowess in the pros, the core skills that make him so dangerous in juniors should translate. His willingness to go to the dirty areas, his ability to sift through traffic and get open in the slot, and a remarkable wrist/snap shot are all going to be key factors to any success he may have at the next level.
However, even if Fox never makes it as a goal scorer in the NHL, he has the required skillset to play in the bottom six in the pro ranks. The word “buzzsaw” comes to mind when trying to describe Fox’s overall game – he’s aggressive in opponents’ faces, and will chirp with the best of them. He can also throw a pretty sweet body check once in a while, and definitely isn’t afraid to drop the gloves if needed, as seen below in his recent fight with the Guelph Storm’s Justin Auger, who dwarfs Fox at 6’7″ and 215 lbs.
However, Fox does have a couple of drawbacks that might hold him back at the pro level. First and foremost, his skating is average at best. He’s going to need to improve his skating, particularly his quickness and change of direction, quite significantly if he wants to keep up with the pro game. Second, at 6’0” at 185 lbs, Fox will need to pack on some weight to avoid getting battered in the NHL. Hopefully being in a professional training environment, with access to the Canucks chefs and trainers, will sort that issue out for him.
All in all, Dane Fox is one guy Canucks fans need to keep an eye on. If Fox can patch up his skating and bulk up a bit, the Canucks will have a player that could make an impact really soon. Whether it’s as a gritty sniper, or as a bottom 6 pest, Fox’s versatility should land him a shot in the big league one day. For no sacrificed assets, Fox is a great gamble for the Canucks and one that could pay off big time.
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