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 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?

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.

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