Sep 112011
 

The Canucks Young Stars Tournament is about to start. Want to read about the top forwards? Already got you covered. Now it’s time to preview the best young defensemen the Canucks have to offer.

Kevin Connauton

Before I start I’ll admit that I’m already a big Kevin Connauton fan. I thought he was impressive when he was with the Vancouver Giants and he got quite a bit of well deserved attention during training camp last season. He posts excellent Twitter pics of nights at the Roxy and of winning giant stuffed pigs at the PNE.

Although he admittedly did not have an amazing season with the Manitoba Moose last year, I still held out hope that as the injuries piled up he would get the call to pack his bags and head to Vancouver. No, he wouldn’t have been the best choice, and he wasn’t, and most likely still isn’t ready to make the NHL jump, but I just like watching him play.

Maybe it’s the fact that he puts up impressive points for a d-man. During his only season with the Giants he shattered franchise records for single season points (72) and goals (24) by a defenseman. He was also the top scoring d-man and rookie in the league, which earned him a spot on the WHL’s First All-Star team and votes of his fellow players declared him to have the hardest shot in the league.

Hopefully, now that he’s had a year to adapt to the pro calibre of play, Connauton can up his game, continue to improve in his own end and shine not only in Penticton this week, but all season with the Wolves.

Sawyer Hannay

If the name Sawyer Hannay doesn’t sound familiar, that’s probably because he was the Canucks’ 7th-round pick in 2010 and he’s been playing all the way out in Halifax for the last three years.

Last season he racked up 164 penalty minutes in 58 games. According to hockeyfights.com this included 18 fights. As you’d expect, he’s good at it too, in the quick sampling I did of the available Youtube clips he seems to win a lot more often than not.


Don’t expect to see him anywhere near a Canucks roster this season, but he could liven up the tourney with a some fisticuffs. He’s currently serving a one-game suspension for taking an aggressor penalty during a Halifax Moosehead preseason game.

Adam Polasek

Hailing from the Czech Repulbic, the 6’3″, 200 lb. Adam Polsek has spent the last two seasons with the PEI Rockets of the QMJHL. He’s shown some serious promise, but more importantly, he’s quite skilled at reading plays and putting himself where he needs to be.


Yann Sauve

Yann Sauve is the only Canucks prospect playing this week who has some NHL experience under his belt, even if it is only five games.

Sauve split last season between the Victoria Salmon Kings, Manitoba Moose and the Canucks, but just a few months before he was called up by Vancouver after the team suffered yet another round of defensive injuries, there was some doubt if he would be playing at all.

Last September, when the Quebec native was crossing a street in Vancouver, he was hit by a car and suffered a concussion that kept him sidelined for three months. Fortunately, he hasn’t suffered any lasting performance issues, and put up decent minutes in 39 games with the Moose last season.


Hopefully this season will give him a fresh and healthy start to work with.

And what has he learned from last season? As he told Ian Walker of the Vancouver Sun, “To look both ways before crossing the street”. At least the kid has a sense of humor about it.

David Honzik

David Honzik is the only goalie officially associated with the Canucks coming to Pentiction this week. He was drafted by the Canucks in the third round this summer.

Some observers weren’t particularly impressed with his stats with the Victoriaville Tigres of the QMJHL last season (3.54 GAA,  .884SV%), but a closer look shows that those stats were skewed by an inconsistent start to the season. Once February hit, however, Honzik just took off, carrying his team through the first round of the playoffs and earning comparisons to a certain Pekka Rinne.

Even Honzik himself was at a bit of a loss to explain his improved performance.

“Sometimes I have luck because I’m pretty big in the net,” the 6’2 Czech Republic native told Patrick King. “Pucks just hit me. Sometimes I don’t understand how (I) stop pucks too.”

While the Canucks and the Wolves are pretty much covered as far as goalie talent goes, it will be interesting to see in Honzik can figure out what he did to stop some pucks in the Spring and bring it out this Fall.

So what do you think? Anyone I didn’t list that you’ll be keeping an eye on?

Sep 082011
 

For the second year in the row the Canucks are hosting their Young Stars Tournament in Pentiction. This year they will be joined by prospects from the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, San Jose Sharks and Winnipeg Jets.

Whether you’re making the trip to scout the potential Canucks in person or following along at home, I have your prospect primer right here.

Today we have some top forwards to watch:

Steven Anthony

In March, the Canucks signed Steven Anthony to a 3-year entry level contract. With a Memorial Cup win under his belt, the 20 year-old is setting his sights on the AHL this season. After recording 60 points and an impressive plus-35 in the regular season he missed most of the post season due to a knee injury. He did still score 12 points (5 goals and 7 assists) in the 14 games he played.

Darren Archibald

The Canucks may have found an incredible steal when they signed Darren Archibald last December. With his size, toughness and scoring ability it’s hard to see why he was overlooked by the entire league for so long.

The 6’3″, 210 lb., 21-year-old scored 41 goals and 25 assists in the OHL last season. Now, admittedly I do have a soft spot for players who make the NHL without getting drafted, but despite some inconsistencies earlier in his junior career there is no reason to believe that Archibald can’t make an appearance on the Canucks fourth line at some point this season.


Keep an eye on him in Penticton and he just might show you something special.

Alex Friesen

20-year old Alex Friesen also played his final season with the Niagra Ice Dogs last season, finishing fourth in team scoring with 66 points (26 goals – 40 assists). That stands out, not only as a career high but also as a testament to the steady progress he made through four years in the OHL. Although he does handle the puck well, what caught my attention was his physical play. He already has an impressive list of fight cards at hockeyfights.com and this hit on Taylor Hall means that Oilers fans won’t need to come up with their own reasons to hate on him.


Friesen won’t be ready to make the NHL jump this season, but he is an incredibly hard worker and should be worth keeping an eye on in the next few years.

Nicklas Jensen

18 year-old Danish boy Nicklas Jensen was selected by the Canucks in the first round of this years draft. And not just so fellow countryman, Jannik Hansen, would have someone to talk to in the locker room.

After being named Rookie of the Year in the Danish league (which, to be fair, isn’t saying all the much when coming from a country that has produced a grand total of seven NHLers…ever), Jensen was drafted by the Oshawa Generals. He spent last season there – his rookie season in the CHL – and recorded 58 points (29 goals – 29 assists) in 61 games.

A combination of quick skating and nice hands made the kid a tough guy to defend against in juniors, but he’ll need to grow into his 6’2 frame before turning pro. He could prove to be entertaining to watch in Penticton, but Danish Canuck fans will have to make due with Hansen for the time being.

Jordan Schroeder

Some people have viewed first round pick Jordan Schroeder as a potential draft bust, but I think it’s much too earlier to call it just yet.

After receiving a lot of attention at his first NHL training camp last September, Schroeder was set to have a promising season with the Moose. He recorded 3 assists in his first game of the season. Unfortunately, he suffered a high ankle sprain in December, sat out 16 games and was never the same afterwards. He recorded just 28 points in 61 games, plus another 6 points in the postseason.

With Vancouver appearing to be looking for some size and grit this season in seems unlikely that Schroeder, who weighs in at 180 and is listed as a generous 5’9, will crack the starting roster, at least not this season.

Bill Sweatt

Bill Sweatt joined his brother Lee as a potential Canuck last preseason after failing to sign a contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs earlier in the summer. Although he didn’t crack the NHL in his first attempt, I was prepared to like him before he even rolled into town. Not only did he provide another brotherly connection on the Canucks roster, he also managed to piss off Toronto fans before he even hit the ice, adding a bit of zest to his background (late in the season he was still getting the occasional angry tweet from Toronto haters).

Sweatt excelled in Manitoba last season, recording 46 points (19 goals – 27 assists) in 80 games, good enough to finish second in team scoring. This will be Sweatt’s second Young Stars tournament, so he’ll be coming in with more to prove this time around, especially if he wants to see more than the three NHL games big brother Lee played last season.

Prab Rai

Local boy Prab Rai received a lot of attention at last years prospect camp. Not only does he hail from Surrey, but should he ever make the jump to the NHL, he’ll be only the third player of East Indian descent to do so (after Manny Malhotra). A solid back story was further enhanced by the fact that the kid could actually play some hockey.

Rai has some serious speed on the ice and handles the puck well, although he tends to stay away from high-traffic areas. Rai hoped to spend the 2010-11 season with the Manitona Moose, but a nagging back injury essentially lost him his rookie season.

If he has made a full recovery he could stir up some excitement this season. After all, everyone loves cheering for a home town boy.

So what do you think? Any chance we’ll be seeing any of these guys on Vancouver ice? Let me know!

Dec 312010
 

The first part of CHB’s three-part Canucks prospects analysis gave a glimpse of the Canucks prospects playing for the Manitoba Moose, and the second looked at the team’s prized European prospect, Anton Rodin. In the final installation of a look at the Vancouver Canucks prospects, we highlight the players who are currently playing in the college and major junior ranks.

Steven Anthony, LW — St. John’s Sea Dogs (QMJHL) — Drafted 7th round, 187th overall in 2009: The late selection by the Canucks was once projected to be a top selection in his draft year of 2009 but fell far off the charts. However, given he was a seventh round pick, he’s a project player who is a quintessential boom or bust prospect. Anthony’s got the size needed to succeed in the NHL game, but still needs a ton of work. In his fourth year with the Sea Dogs, Anthony is producing at a point per game clip (11 goals and 31 points in 30 games), which makes for his most productive season to date. He’ll be playing for the Moose next season if he continues to develop.

Patrick McNally, D — Milton Academy (HS) — Drafted 4th round, 115th overall in 2010: With the Canucks having squandered their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round picks (plus more) for Keith Ballard, Steve Bernier, and Andrew Alberts (plus more), they were left with a 4th round pick as their highest selection. Defenseman Patrick McNally was taken, and GM Mike Gillis said they had pegged McNally as a first round pick. Whether he was attempting to justify his trades or not, McNally is still an excellent puckmoving defenceman who reminds people of Brian Rafalski. He was named the USA Hockey’s top prep defenseman of the year. McNally is headed to Harvard next fall.

Kellan Tochkin, RW — Everett Silvertips (WHL) — Signed as a free agent in 2009: For a diminutive winger who is just 5’9″, you’d think Tochkin would be an above-average skater. But truth be told, it was his main weakness a year ago and that continues to be the case today. The 19-year old is in his third year with the ‘Tips, and isn’t producing at the point-per-game pace he did two years prior. Time is running out on the Abbotsford native.

Sawyer Hannay, D — Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL) — Drafted 7th round, 205th overall in 2010: Plain and simple, Hannay is a rough and tough enforcer who last year was among the penalty minutes leaders (158 in 54) at just age 17. He makes a decent first pass, but that’s about it. His three assists in 29 games this year are certainly not going to put him in an All-Star game any time soon, but his 96 PIMs are noteworthy.

Jeremy Price, D — Colgate University (ECAC) — Drafted 4th round, 113th overall in 2009: Another blueliner who went the college route, Price is getting accustomed to the game. His sophomore season has seen him produce a goal and six points in 16 games of action. The offensive defenceman will likely play out all four years with Colgate, but the problem is that the ECAC is one of the weaker conferences in the NCAA, which could hinder his development.

Jun 082010
 

With the 2010 NHL Entry Draft in Los Angeles only a matter of weeks away, it’s time to look back at recent Vancouver Canucks draft picks and see where they are in the pipeline in order to assess their needs at this year’s draft. Some of the Canucks’ prized draftees have potential to be bonafide and prolific players in the NHL; however, a few are approaching bust status.

1. Cody Hodgson: Even though Cody Hodgson missed 55 games for the OHL’s Brampton Battalion as well as an opportunity to captain Team Canada at the World Junior Championships in Saskatoon, Canucks fans have reason to remain positive at the prospects of seeing the 10th overall selection in 2008 in Vancouver colours in the fall. As most fans know, Hodgson’s stunning 2009 year which saw him named the CHL’s player of the year as well as play in the AHL playoffs with the Manitoba Moose took a toll on the 18-year old. By July’s prospects training camp with the Canucks, Hodgson was playing with a bulging disc for months before it sidelined him indefinitely in September. However, with time off to repair his ailing back, many are hopeful Hodgson will slot himself into the third-line centre role with the Canucks next season. Canucks Projection: Ready now

2. Cory Schneider: The 2004 first-round selection has had a long and winding road towards sticking in the NHL but it appears as though Cory Schneider will finally stick with the big club next fall. At the end of May, Vancouver inked the former Boston College netminder to a two-year contract, but most importantly a one-way deal. With last year’s backup Andrew Raycroft set to hit the free agent market, the waiting game is over for Schneider, who will “play at least 15 games next season” according to Canucks assistant GM Laurence Gilman in order to audition himself to other NHL teams in need of young goaltending. Canucks Projection: Ready now

3. Michael Grabner: On some occasions during the postseason, the Austrian native was one of the few players on the Canucks who generated chances against the Chicago Blackhawks. Grabner, drafted 14th overall in 2006, got a 20-game audition with the Canucks last season and acquitted himself well in the playoffs, scoring a goal in nine contests. While an unfortunate shoulder injury off the ice sidelined him for 21 games, it’s clear that Grabner has improved his game by leaps and bounds in Manitoba and he appears poised to join Hodgson and Schneider in the pro ranks. Canucks Projection: Ready now

4. Jordan Schroeder: Last year’s first-round selection had a lukewarm season with the University of Minnesota after a sparkling freshman season, and wasn’t exactly a force for Team USA at the World Juniors (His production totals were down from last season for both teams), but the diminutive and shifty centre titillated Vancouver fans with a strong showing in the AHL, scoring four goals and nine points in 11 regular season games with the Manitoba Moose before tacking on another six points in six playoff games. If his strong finish with the Moose has shown anything, it’s that Schroeder has potential to be a high-end forward in the NHL but will likely need a year-long apprenticeship in the minors before scratching the surface on that potential. Canucks Projection: Ready in 2011

5. Anton Rodin: Playing with Brynas of the Swedish Elite League, Rodin registered a paltry five points in 36 games. Nothing to write home about for the 2009 second-round draft pick, but it was his performance at the World Juniors with Sweden which has Canucks management salivating at what he could become. Rodin had three goals and seven points, tying him with Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson (one of the Edmonton Oilers’ top prospects) for the team lead. He also apparently grew a couple of inches in the last year, which is significant because his (lack of) size was a consideration when he was drafted. As a second round selection not many fans are expecting Rodin to have a long-term impact like Hodgson or Schroeder, but it’d be nice to see and wouldn’t be a surprise, either. Canucks Projection: Ready in 2012

6. Sergei Shirokov: Of all youngsters to crack the Canucks lineup last fall, it was Shirokov who survived. But evidently the journey didn’t last long after a six-game stint saw Shirokov go pointless and forced the Canucks to send the youngster to the Moose. But unlike many of his Russian counterparts who sulk back across the Atlantic to the land of borscht and vodka, Shirokov stuck to his game in Manitoba and performed admirably, scoring 22 goals and 45 points in 76 games. Despite his lack of playoff production (two assists in six games), Shirokov will again get another look in the summer for an NHL roster spot and at the very least is tantalizing trade bait should the Canucks pursue that route. Canucks Projection: Ready in 2011

7. Yann Sauve: For the fourth straight season, the hulking Montreal native saw his point totals improve from the year before. Sauve, selected 41st overall by the Canucks in 2008, was a frequent member of the Saint John’s penalty kill but also showed prowess at even strength. In 2009, Sauve finished the season with a minus-4 rating and in his rookie season was a woeful minus-25, but this year was a staggering plus-42. While part of that improvement goes to the Sea Dogs’ success, Sauve’s biggest flaw has been his play in his own end. If Sauve can make strides in Manitoba next season, the Canucks could have a strong defenseman on their hands. Canucks Projection: Ready in 2011

8. Kevin Connauton: “K-Conn” left a Western Michigan program in shambles for the Vancouver Giants in the WHL last season and showed he could put up big numbers. In 69 regular season games, the 2009 third-rounder scored 24 goals and 72 points before adding 13 points in 16 playoff games. However, despite being a powerplay demon and a scoring threat almost every shift, Connauton was a plus-4 on the year, dreadful numbers considering his totals. The Edmonton native must improve his play in his own end if he wants to take the next step. Canucks Projection: Ready in 2012

9. Peter Andersson: As a Swedish blueliner taken in the third round, it’s easy for Canucks fans to think they may have another Alexander Edler on their hands. Even though Peter Andersson’s time is far, far away at this stage, he was one of the youngest players for the Sweden team at the WJC and the youngest on the Frolunda team he plays with at the Swedish Elite League. He has the same height as Edler did in his youth and the Canucks hope he will fill out in the next couple of seasons. Evidently, the club has shown they are optimistic about him after the team signed both he and Rodin to pro contracts at the beginning of June. Canucks Projection: Ready in 2012

10. Taylor Ellington: Ellington was the Canucks’ second pick in the 2007 draft and at the time was perceived to be the safe pick who had a good chance to one day crack the roster. He was taken 33rd overall ahead of other second round selections Oscar Moller (52nd), Wayne Simmonds (61st) and most importantly PK Subban (43rd). Ellington wrapped up his career with the Everett Silvertips last year and for the majority of this past season has played for his native Victoria Salmon Kings, with spurts of Moose callups mixed in between. His work ethic has come into question and he seems to have a problem adjusting to the pro game. Canucks Projection: Ready in 2012 (if that)

Jul 042009
 

Mike Gillis took another dip into the free agent market to pick up a supposed-to-be RFA who became a UFA due to fumbled paper work on the Panther’s part. Tanner Glass a former Florida Panther signed a 2 way deal for 500,000 and is a physical, energetic, two-way forward that occasionally drops the gloves and is the first to protect his team mates.

The Canucks also released their Prospects Camp Roster yesterday. The annual prospects camp begins next week and takes the rookies through a variety of activities from on ice practices to dryland workouts and a race up the Grouse Grind. This year’s invitees and players in attendance are:

    Defencemen


Peter Andersson
Kevin Connauton
Ryan Donald*
Taylor Ellington
Kris Fredheim
Evan Oberg
Jody Pederson*
Jeremy Price
Travis Ramsey*
Yann Sauve


    Forwards:

Steven Anthony
Matt Butcher
Mats Froshaug
Dan Gendur
Cody Hodgson
Taylor Matson
Tyler McNeely*
Matt Pope
Prab Rai
Anton Rodin
Jordan Schroeder
Kellan Tochkin*
Eric Walsky
Patrick White

    Goaltenders:

Joe Cannata
Morgan Clark
Brian Stewart*

*Players have not been signed by the Canucks

College prospects Kris Fredheim, Matt Butcher, Taylor Matson, and Patrick White who are attending, as per NCAA rules, cannot have their pro team pay for their travel expenses. Instead they will have to pay for themselves to keep their NCAA eligibility.

May 292009
 

The Canucks season may be over, but the Canucks affiliate the Manitoba Moose are ripping up the post season in the AHL which has those Canucks fans still around, excited about a few things.

There’s been one thing the Canucks have had problems over the last few seasons. Scoring. Scoring comes from shooting. Some of the most promising Canucks prospects, Hodgson, Grabner, and my personal favourite, Bolduc have just been racking up shots in the playoffs. One of the most telling stat of the Mooose’s playoff success thus far has been their shot dominance. Grabner has a whopping 68 shots 14 playoff games so far. Hodgson has 22 shots in 6 games and Bolduc has 26 shots in 10 games. Second leading shot getting is Jason Jaffray with 60 shots in 16 games.

Aside from shots, what’s impressed me is how Hodgson has fit in. He’s made is pro debut in the middle of the Moose’s run and in 6 games he has 3 points, 1 goal and 2 assists and as mentioned, 22 shots. He’s already showing that he’s closer and closer to being ready for the jump to the NHL as he’s fitting very nicely in with the Moose. In his 6 games he’s also a +2.

One guy that’s impressed me on the back end (which could be important if Ohlund goes and we don’t fill that void with a top 4 defenseman) is Shaun Heshka. He’s got 20 shots on goal, 3 assists, and is tied for the team lead in +/- with +10. Looks like he’s the Willie Mitchell of the Mooose, and had the Canucks not had so much depth on defense at the start of last season, I think he would have made the lineup. He’s developed into a very solid defenseman. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was one of the legitimate contenders for the blue line next season.

The Baby Canucks top players have also been producing on the score sheet. Grabner is averaging just under a point per game. What’s impressed me most is the play of Bolduc. He’s played 6 games less than most of the other players, and yet he’s also averaging a point per game. He’s making his time on the ice count. Krog leads the team in points with 18 points in 16 games, Jaffray is second on the scoring list and Grabner sits 3rd.

The fact that all these kids are playing so well only adds to the Canucks depth charts. Say we do lose Wellwood to Free Agency, bringing up one of the young guns from the minors wouldn’t be such a bad idea. Hodgson is making his bid for the big team next year, he just has to keep consistent. I think next year Bolduc is going to get his break. If Pyatt is gone (and I hope Gillis doesn’t re-sign him) that would be a nice spot for Alexandre “Bold Duck” Bolduc to slot in. Either way, Moose are in the Calder Cup Finals, and there’s nothing more important that that team can take away from all this, than learning how to win. If they can learn how to win at a minor level, thats one step closer to learning how to win in the NHL.

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