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.
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.
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.
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 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 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?