As the Canucks Young Stars tournament goes underway in Penticton today, there’s no shortage of players to keep an eye out on. In fact, this group of Canucks prospects may be the deepest in recent memory and more than a few have a legitimate shot at moving on to main camp next weekend.
Besides the usual suspects – Jordan Schroeder, Kevin Connauton, etc. – here are three players I’m particularly interested in.
David Fischer, D
Fischer was the Montreal Canadiens 2006 first round draft pick (20th overall), selected only 6 spots after Michael Grabner and 2 spots before Claude Giroux. He is 6’4″ and 207 lbs., and is a right-hand shot defenseman. Back then, he had a pretty glowing scouting report:
The tall defenseman skates strongly with a wide base. He does not rush the puck up the ice often, but he can hit the breakout pass and rarely makes a mental mistake. Fischer often stepped up to a position on the half-board for power plays and did not seem out of place fore checking and handling the puck as a forward. Fischer’s strength is that he plays a steady game and makes the players around him better.
After spending four unspectacular years at the University of Minnesota, the Habs decided to relinquish his rights and instead take the compensatory 2nd round pick (50th overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Certainly, his stock has fallen, and in fact, some scouts seem to have written him off already.
On the other hand, the Canucks are probably hoping that Fischer was simply a victim of a poor University of Minnesota program – remember Jordan Schroeder had a forgettable 2009/2010 season under Don Lucia as well – and that, at only 22 and with proper coaching, he could still fulfill some of his potential since being named Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey in 2006.
Fischer is attending the Canucks prospects camp on a tryout basis, but with the Canucks sitting close to the 50-contract limit, he’ll have to play out of his head to earn a contract. That said, the Canucks are short on defensive prospects and Fischer may well take this opportunity to resurrect his career.
Bill Sweatt, LW
Sweatt had an interesting off-season. After being originally drafted by Chicago, the Blackhawks traded him – along with Kris Versteeg – to the Leafs. The Leafs didn’t sign him, lost his rights, and Mike Gillis swooped him and signed him to a 3-year entry-level contract. And on top of all that, he started a Twitter account.
Simply, Sweatt has speed to burn – check these two draft year articles from Hockey’s Future (here and here) – and according to a couple of posters from HF Boards who had regularly watched him play in Colorado College he was smart, good on the PK, responsible defensively and played with a lot of energy. He used his speed to create scoring opportunities, and in fact the knocks on him are his lack of size and that his hands haven’t caught up to his feet.
Maybe he’ll be another Brandon Reid, or then again, he could turn into another Mason Raymond. Let’s hope for the latter.
Taylor Ellington, D
Only 21 years old, it’s probably too early to label Ellington a bust. However, the fact is that he didn’t dominate in his last year – playing as an overage player – with the Everett Silvertips, had trouble adjusting to the pro game during a brief stint with the Manitoba Moose, and ended being demoted and spending most of last season with the ECHL Victoria Salmon Kings.
It’s not exactly the kind of progress you want to see in a high second round draft pick, especially one who was drafted when guys like Oscar Moller and P.K. Subban were still on the board and selected only a few picks later. Even former Moose coach, Scott Arniel, didn’t mince any words in his evaluation of Ellington’s first foray into the pros:
“I’m not going to lie to you — he’s got a ways to go,” said Arniel, now head coach of Columbus. “I don’t know if he was getting mixed messages coming from junior or from the Canucks that he was a shutdown penalty-killing defenceman. It got so into his head that he didn’t worry about puck skills and he got running around trying to make hits.
“He’s got to settle down and let the play come to him. He’s got to make that first good pass and he struggled with it. It comes with confidence. When he keeps it simple, you don’t notice him.”
Ellington’s not a bust yet, but he needs a good camp to change that perception.