Sep 122011

At the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, we had an opportunity to ask some of them some questions. Today, we present a one-on-one with former Saint John Sea Dog and Memorial Cup champion, Steven Anthony.

Steven Anthony

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CHB: Describe how you felt after winning the Memorial Cup.

Steven Anthony: It was exciting. It’s what every junior player in Canada play for the whole year. For us to be able to put a team together, and have an incredible group of guys on one team, it was something we knew was possible throughout the year and to get it was pretty amazing. A lot of guys up here who played junior said congratulations to me so it definitely means a lot and something I’ll have for the rest of my life.

CHB: You played with a lot of talented players last year – a lot of 1st, 2nd and 3rd round NHL draft picks. What did you learn from them?

Steven Anthony: Everyone on our team was so down-to-earth and so focused on the team. We knew we had some special players like Huberdeau, Beaulieu and Phillips, who were going to be high NHL draft picks, but we had a core of everybody together and (playing) as one team. I think, over the course of the year, everyone learned different things from one another. It was the closest team I’ve ever played on my life in terms of personalities.

CHB: What would you attribute that closeness to?

Steven Anthony: I think it was a big help to have two incredible coaches. They emphasized a lot of fun team activities and everyone getting together. They had everyone on the same page together and liking each other. It was a big reason why we were so successful throughout the year.

CHB: And that obviously translated on the ice.

Steven Anthony: Everyone was on the same page. Everyone knew the goal. Some teams are talented teams, but there are players who want to get points, there are players who want to go home early or something. This team was all about winning and that’s why were so successful.

CHB: What area of your game do you feel you improved on the most?

Steven Anthony: The area I improved the most was all areas, if that makes any sense. I tried to improve a lot (in terms) of completing my game. I’ve been told that I have a good skill set in terms of skating and size and puck mobility. I’ve tried to add a lot more to it and put it together, and work on the defensive side, faceoffs, penalty-killing, hitting guys more – just playing a complete game. Watching a lot of the guys on the Canucks like Kesler, Burrows and Malhotra – these guys are complete players who can do everything and I learned a lot from watching them in training camp and throughout the year.

CHB: What are your expectations this seasons?

Steven Anthony: I focus on what I can control. I can set a goal and say I want to play 3 exhibition games this year, but that’s all up to the coaches. I want to be able to play my way in to be able to play 3 exhibition games and see where that takes me. I’m coming into camp as focused as I can be, be as ready as I can be, and I think that’s going to translate into camp.

CHB: What about your expectations from this tournament?

Steven Anthony: After the last couple of years in Saint John – with us winning so much and having so much success as a team – I don’t want to get back to the feeling of losing again. I think everyone’s going to sit out a game because we have so many players, but I want us to be able to win every game and soak in the team atmosphere. It’s fun seeing other teams’ prospects, especially having the young guy Hopkins, the first overall pick. We had Hall here last year too. It’s gonna exciting, a lot of people are going to watch him, and you want to beat him.

CHB: Tell us about some of the guys you played with last year that are also in this tournament.

Steven Anthony: I’ve played with Yann Sauve for 3 years. We know each other. Ian Saab, he played in Lewiston last year, but he’s in Saint John this year so we know a lot of the same players. But another player, Michael Kirkpatrick, one of my closest friends in Saint John, he’s playing for the Winnipeg Jets team. Someone said that Winnipeg is rooming in the same hotel as us this week so I’ll have to give him a shout and see. He’s one of my good buddies for four years in Saint John so it’ll be cool to finally play against him.

CHB: And we have to ask you this… Which player would you compare yourself to?

Steven Anthony: Style-wise, I want to create my own game for myself, but there are a lot of players that I try to take things from. With my skating ability and size – and he’s a lot better than me – but the guy who I watched and tried to emulate in the Quebec league is Ryan Kesler. He’s one of my favorite players. In terms of the overall game that he brings, whether it’s his skating, his defense, or his offense, that’s something that I’ve tried to bring back this year.

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 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!

Jun 212011
Eddie Lack

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Now that Vancouver Canucks fans have (we hope) managed to begin the healing process from the emotional rollercoaster of the 2011 Playoffs, it’s time to shift the focus to the 2011 Draft, where the building blocks for future success are put in place.

Given that the 2011 crop has, for some time, been viewed as a generally weaker class than previous years, perhaps the Canucks would be best served to once again parlay their first-round selection in order to acquire the talent needed to win right now. But seeing as how the club already forked over their top pick last season along with Michael Grabner and Steve Bernier, perhaps its in the best interests of the organization to keep the 2011 draft choice and not gut an already thin prospect pool.

In the mean time, let’s get a sense of just where exactly the Canucks are at when it comes to their top prospects.

Centres: Unquestionably, this is the Canucks’ biggest strength. With Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler expected to play out the next five years of their career in Vancouver (and likely more), Vancouver doesn’t really have a need for some top flight talent down the middle. Because of the team depth at centre, Tony Gallagher of The Province recently posed the question of top prospect Cody Hodgson’s future with Vancouver, but don’t buy the notion just yet. Despite the fact Manny Malhotra is the team’s unequivocal third-line centre, Mike Gillis also noted that Malhotra also plays wing, which would allow Hodgson to potentially slot in the third line.

Jordan Schroeder, drafted in 2009 in the first round, is another intriguing player that oozes as much talent as he does mystery. On occasion with Manitoba last year Schroeder looked like an elite-level prospect but on others looked completely invisible. It’s clear he’s still a few years away from seizing any chance at getting into NHL action.

Wingers: Anton Rodin and Sergei Shirokov remain atop the Canucks’ winger rankings, with the latter finishing the season as the Manitoba Moose leading scorer (22-36-58). Shirokov’s brief audition with Vancouver this year was much better than the year prior, as he scored his first NHL goal in a two-game callup. However, the small winger still is a little fish in a Canuck pond, where the team needs for elite scoring wingers may be too demanding for him.

As for Rodin, he’s grown both physically and mentally, acclimating himself to the Swedish Elite League since beginning his tenure with Brynas in 2009. It’s argued that the next step for Rodin’s career would be to make the trek to North America, but it’s unknown if he will commit to the move just yet. (Editor’s note: Farhan Devji reported about a month ago that Rodin is indeed North America-bound, but I haven’t seen any official confirmation from the team yet. – J.J.)

The Canucks also recently signed left winger Steven Anthony, who played for the Memorial Cup champion St. John’s Sea Dogs. Anthony, who was once compared to Sidney Crosby not too long ago, only realized this season that success on the ice comes with hard work. The tantalizing prospect has so much skill but needs to up his compete level in order to achieve it.

Bill Sweatt is the other notable winger in the franchise prospect pool, finishing second in Moose scoring. Sweatt is still a few years away from making a major contribution, however.

Defense: Kevin Connauton entered 2010 as Vancouver’s most intriguing defensive prospect, and for stretches of the season carried over some of the offensive flare from his Vancouver Giants days which made him so highly regarded. Unfortunately, Connauton’s mobility has been an issue all season, resulting in a blueline-worst minus-11 rating. He’s still learning the professional game and needs more time.

Connauton was instead overshadowed by the steady play of Chris Tanev, who appeared in a handful of regular season games with Vancouver as well as a few playoff games over Keith Ballard. Tanev never panics in his own end and makes a smart outlet pass nine times out of 10, which is why the Vancouver coaching staff like his future with the big club. Of all defensive prospects, Tanev is the likeliest to earn a spot next year.

Meanwhile, Yann Sauve and Lee Sweatt continue to develop their skills in the AHL; both missed significant time due to injuries this season, which has stunted their professional growth. 2010 draft pick Patrick McNally just finished his first season with Harvard University.

Goalie: Eddie Lack is undoubtedly the prospect who made the biggest noise this season in the AHL. Lack was the team MVP on many nights and the sole reason the Moose made it to the North Division Final. “The Stork” arrived with little hype but all season long was so effective at taking away the bottom half of the net, forcing snipers to try and beat him glove side, which Lack has recently mastered as well. If the Canucks do decide to part ways with Cory Schneider, few would be hesitant to see Lack fill the backup void. He’s been that good.

Organization Direction: At this point it becomes simply a “best player available” approach for the Vancouver Canucks. Despite their strength at the centre position, there’s little to suggest the Canucks won’ take a centre in the first round if that’s the best player available. With the team’s “win now” approach, the club could very easily swap Hodgson or Schroeder or even both if it means acquiring the kind of immediate talent to put the team over the top. That said, it’s evident the team would love to draft a winger with scoring ability or a physically mature defenseman who has a quick learning curve.

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.

Sep 212009
Sep 162009

The Vancouver Canucks reduced their training camp roster by seven players today.

Dan Gendur is going to the Manitoba Moose. Steven Anthony (Saint John Sea Dogs), Prab Rai (Seattle Thunderbirds), Morgan Clark (Swift Current Broncos) and Kellan Tochkin (Everett Silvertips) are going back to their junior teams. Nolan Toigo and Dusty Collins were released.

No big surprises here, though I was hoping to see Tochkin and Anthony in a preseason game or two. But then again, with so many more roster decisions to be made before October 1st, I understand that it is best that the Canucks see more of those who had realistic shots at making the team.

[update: 09/16/2009 9:14 PM]

The Canucks made further cuts in the afternoon, sending Kevin Connauton back to the Vancouver Giants and releasing Marco Rosa.

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