No one in the Top 25 Under 25 has done more to improve his position than Greg Chase who shoots up fifteen spots in this edition. Many times over the last couple of years, we've seen players move up just by standing pat while others fall back. Greg Chase hasn't been standing pat.
Previous Rank: 30
One of the more amazing things about those rankings is the contrast with last time. Jonathan and I moved him the least of anyone, and we moved him up ten spots! In one of the biggest moves the Top 25 has ever seen, Derek bumped him up twenty-nine places from 42nd all the way to 13th. So what's Chase been doing to change everyone's mind about him?
The most important change has been the increased offense. Chase leads the WHL's Calgary Hitmen in scoring this season with 73 points in 61 games. That's a pretty nice bump from last season's 59 points in 86 games, but a lot of the increase has been a function of opportunity. Chase was somewhat buried on the Hitmen last season. The team's three leading scorers were all at least two years older, and with the Hitmen focused on winning a championship, Chase was always going to have a hard time passing them on the depth chart.
Going into this season, two of those three players moved on to professional hockey, which created an outstanding opportunity for Chase to move up the lineup, and he's definitely taken advantage. Chase has seen his power play points per game rise from 0.17 in 2012-13 to 0.44 this season, most likely a function of increased ice time with the man advantage. His even strength points per game has also increased, albeit less dramatically (from 0.50 to 0.75), and some of that is probably related to receiving more ice time this season than he did last year as well. Of course, you only get the ice time if you earn it, so Chase is doing his part, but this bump certainly isn't implausible.
It's also not a guarantee of professional success. I went looking for players with a comparable trajectory and draft pedigree, and though I only found one really close match going back to the 2000 draft, current ECHL'er, Josh Nicholls, serves as an important reminder that we're not talking about a blue-chip prospect here. Another guy who came pretty close to matching my critieria (similar adjusted goals and points per game in their Draft and Draft +1 seasons, and similar draft position), Matt D'Agostini, is probably a good example of the kind of career we might see if things break right (but not perfectly) for Chase going forward.
On the scouting side, most reports I've seen praise Chase's offensive instincts, but some have questions about Chase's skating and physical play, both of which were highlighted by Corey Pronman before the draft:
His skating earns divided opinions... His physical game and consistency are areas of concern as well. He has average size, but he does not tend to be imposing with his board work. Finally, his game-to-game on-ice work ethic could use improvement, especially in the defensive end.
In January, Pronman commented on Chase's progress saying that Chase "has elevated his game this year; skating has always been his hole and while I think he's improved there his strength is clearly his offensive instincts/vision." Those comments are very similar to the report Bruce McCurdy provided after getting an opportunity to see Chase live several weeks ago.
One of the things Bruce mentioned in his report is Chase's reputation as an agitator with the Hitmen, and that will be a facet of the game that the Oilers likely look for Chase to bring with him when he turns pro (he seems to be aware of this). That will mean erasing any questions about his physical play and continued work on his skating. If Chase can confidently play that agitating style at NHL speed, he seems to have the puck skills to take a regular shift at the NHL level. That relatively clear path to a spot in the NHL alongside clear improvement this season and possible offensive upside is why Greg Chase has made such a big move in the Top 25.