Will Lockwood’s 2021 AHL campaign and the strong second half that earned him a look

Will Lockwood is on his way to Vancouver for a cup of coffee. The Canucks org jumped on the call-up after Lockwoods’ very strong second-half of a tough rookie season.

First Fifteen Games

Lockwood spent the first chunk of his season alternating between a checking line with Tanner Kaspick or on a scoring energy line with Jonah Gadjovich and Carson Focht.

Truth be told, Lockwood was all over the place in his first nine games.

He played like he wasn’t sure whether he should be exclusively a hard-hitting, gritty PK specialist or utilizing his tremendous speed to be an aggressive forechecking solo play-driver.

His point totals reflected this indecision as he accumulated just three points through his first thirteen games, all assists exclusively at 5v5.

Worth noting that the points Lockwood had earned came on little ice time. As a first-unit penalty killer with zero powerplay time, Lockwood saw reserved 5v5 minutes.

When we last checked in on the prospects’ stats, I noted Lockwood’s solid on-ice shot control rates, low shooting percentage, and unimpressive goals-against numbers.

Will Lockwood Per-60 Rates Relative to Team Average (after 5GP)

I said then that Lockwood needed to use his skating to find or create shooting lanes for himself or his linemates while praising his tenacity, work rate and NHL-level skating. I was fairly optimistic that he could put it all together, but the results at the time weren’t very encouraging.

The Breakthrough

Mixed into Lockwood’s first fifteen games played was the Comets month-long hiatus due to a COVID outbreak.

An outbreak that hit fellow call-up, Jonah Gadjovich, pretty hard. 

Lockwood struggled in that initial return to play. In those first five games back from the layoff, Lockwood posted the second-worst shot-attempt differential at 5-on-5, while contributing just one secondary assist.

The breakthrough/turnaround moment of Lockwood’s AHL debut came in the sixteenth game of the season when he finally notched his first goal as a professional.

 

Yea, he picked one helluva way to score his first.

From there, it seemed like the offensive side clicked for Lockwood.

After scoring his shorty, Lockwood casually went from being in a three-way tie for fourth in 5v5 goal-production, into a three-way tie for second in 5v5 goal-production.

And it wasn’t just production. Everything appeared to be clicking.

Lockwood went from having one of the worst shot-attempt differentials over five games to having one of the best differentials over a nine-game stretch.

The team controlled play at its best with the recently suspended Vincent Arseneau, who posted a +29 shot-attempt differential at 5v5 while being on-ice for zero goals for and zero-against.

 

Lockwoods production through the second half of this season tracked with his closest Canucks comparable: Tyler Motte.

Before his 22-year-old AHL season, Motte had already entered the NHL as a 21-year-old with Chicago, where he picked up seven points in 33 games played.

During his 21-year-old AHL season, Motte produced 16 points in 43 games for a 0.37 points-per-game pace. His high work rate, skating, and forechecking impressed the Chicago brass and earned him several looks throughout the year.

Lockwood spent the extra year in the NCAA and debuted during a highly bizarre NHL/AHL season in which call-up possibilities were few and far between. Granted, after his first half, I don’t think he’d have been earning too many cups of coffee.

That being said, what Lockwood has pulled off in the back half of his season is rather impressive.

Will Lockwood Per-60 Rates Relative to Team Average (after 24GP)

Lockwood went from being a non-factor, offensively, at 5-on-5 to being slightly above average in nearly every category.

Lockwood’s impressive run of late even earned him some powerplay time of late.

However, worth noting that since Rathbone, Reinke, and Gadjovich were recalled by their NHL clubs, the Comets powerplay hasn’t been all that great.

Since the departures mentioned above, the Comets powerplay has generated only four goals over their last 27 attempts. None of which featured Lockwood on the ice.

The Comets have been rocking a five-forward first powerplay unit, which absolutely slaps for the visuals. But, they’ve struggled to make it work.

Regardless of powerplay misery, Lockwood adding “powerplay option” to his resume is excellent for him.

He’s already established himself as one of the team’s better penalty killers. The Comets have their fourth-best save percentage with him on the ice, killing penalties while also being one of the two players to score shorthanded.

What to Expect

Speed.

Effort.

Willingness to drive towards the net.

Effort.

Speed.

There won’t be a lot of runway for Lockwood during these final few games of the Canucks season. But that might be to Lockwood’s benefit.

At most, he’ll be able to suit up for the final two games of the season against Calgary once his quarantine is complete.

Sadness

Lockwood has a great opportunity ahead of himself to throw his name on the list of cheap, speedy, effective bottom-six replacement options.

With Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes due for their first big contracts, the Canucks are going to be hard-pressed to fill out their roster with effective bottom-six contributors who can skate, kill penalties, and chip in offence.

In 24 games of watching Lockwood play, I believe he could be that option for them. Like Justin Bailey, his skating is clearly above-average NHL quality. Lockwood’s game is simple enough that he might have an easier time transitioning to NHL play. His hands sometimes can’t keep up with his feet, but his game could transition well if he keeps it simple.

Relative to his AHL peers, he is infinitely more active inside the d-zone. Lockwood’s tenacity and aggressive pursuit of puck carriers inside the d-zone will make him a very useful asset to a tired Canucks team that tends to shut down when facing sustained pressure.

Canucks fans shouldn’t count on him racking up points in his two-game stint, but they can at least count on his speed, high work rate, and energy. Attributes that are all sorely needed during the final stretch of this forgettable Canucks season.

Even if Lockwood is at best a 13th forward, his call-up represents another win for the scouting staff and a new name to the Canucks bottom-six.

The Forest of Lockwood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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