The Canucks prospect development camp kicks off on July 2nd with three days of open practices, followed by the Summer Showdown game on July 5th. Most of the Canucks 2018 draft class should be there, along with several other top prospects like Kole Lind, Jonah Gadjovich, and Petrus Palmu.
Along with the players drafted and/or signed by the Canucks, several undrafted and unsigned players will attend as well. These invitees are always intriguing, as they represent an opportunity to add to the Canucks’ prospect pool at no asset cost. Every once in a while, these invitees produce an NHL player (such as Troy Stecher), so it’s worth getting to know them a little better.
First up is Jarid Lukosevicius, a goal-scoring winger out of the NCAA.
Jarid Lukosevicius – Right Wing
5’10″ – 199 lbs – Feb 5, 1995 (23)
University of Denver Pioneers (41-21-13-34)
Lukosevicius won’t have far to travel to go to the Canucks camp, as he was born in Squamish and grew up playing hockey in Vancouver. A bit of a late-bloomer, he didn’t play in the BCHL until after his first year of draft eligibility, but put up better than a point-per-game for the Powell River Kings as a 19-year-old rookie.
“I was small, about 5-foot, when the WHL draft was held, but I was always thinking college,” said Lukosevicius at Montreal Canadiens camp last year. He’s now listed at a short but stocky 5’10” and 199 lbs.
After 26 goals and 59 points in 57 games in his first BCHL season, he followed it up with 33 goals and 73 points in 55 games in his over-age season. After that, it was off to the University of Denver.
While he was a point-producer in the BCHL, Lukosevicius, like a lot of NCAA freshman, had to battle for a spot in the lineup for the Pioneers. He earned a spot on the fourth line, which became known for their gritty, high-energy play. Despite his smaller stature, Lukosevicius loves to play the body and benefits from a low centre of gravity and a wide frame.
You can see a little of that grit and energy in this penalty-killing shift with Powell River. He forces a turnover in the neutral zone with positioning and a good stick, creates a scoring chance on the wraparound, then hounds the puck in the offensive and along the boards. He kills off the penalty almost single-handedly and draws a penalty in the process.
That’s not the primary reason why he was recruited by the University of Denver, however.
“Luko was brought in here to help us score goals,” said head coach Jim Montgomery. “In the second half of the year, he started to understand that consistency and effort in practice and it translated to him playing on a line that was extremely important to us down the stretch. We had four balanced lines that I had a lot of confidence in.”
In his sophomore season, Lukosevicius found a home on the Pioneers’ top line in his sophomore year, and put up a respectable 16 goals and 32 points in 43 games. That was a promising development, as was his ability to get the puck on net. He was 13th in the nation with 150 shots on goal, and he loves to get to the dirty areas in front of the net looking for rebounds and jam plays.
More than that, he developed his game away from the puck.
“His work ethic on the forecheck and on the backcheck — he’s become a 200-foot hockey player,” said Montgomery. “Last year, there’s no way he would have been out with a one-goal lead in the last five minutes of the game. He’s out there all the time now.”
Lukosevicius grabbed headlines at the 2017 Frozen Four when he scored a hattrick to win the NCAA Championship and was named the tournament MVP. All three goals came in the second period, with the first two breaking a record for the fastest two goals in an NCAA final.
In fact, it was the first hattrick in an NCAA championship game since his head coach, Jim Montgomery, accomplished the feat 24 years earlier.
The first goal came on a tip in the slot, sending the puck up over the shoulder of the goaltender.
The second goal came on a great play by Troy Terry, as Lukosevicius got into position in front and banged home the puck as Terry drove to the net.
He completed the hattrick by sending a loose puck into the net with some authority.
These three goals demonstrate one caveat when it comes to Lukosevicius: his linemates.
Over the past two season, Lukosevicius has played with two very talented linemates on the Pioneers’ top line: Troy Terry and Dylan Gambrell. Terry and Gambrell are both NHL draft picks, Terry by Anahem and Gambrell by San Jose, and both put up better than a point-per-game over the last two seasons. Lukosevicius greatly benefited from their cycle game and playmaking.
Additionally, all three had the benefit of playing on the same team as Henrik Borgstrom, a first round pick of the Florida Panthers. He centred the “second” line, but led the Pioneers in goals and points this past season. Borgstrom took a lot of pressure off the top line and made their power play all the more dangerous.
Terry, Gambrell, and Borgstrom have already made their NHL debuts after the Pioneers were eliminated, and Terry even played for Team USA in the Olympics, putting up 5 points in 5 games.
So the question for Lukosevicius is if he can be productive apart from his prodigious linemates.
In his Junior year, Lukosevicius was once again near the top of college hockey in shots on goal, finishing 9th — just ahead of Adam Gaudette — with 158 shots in 41 games. He was second on the Pioneers behind Borgstrom with 21 goals and third in points with 34. He tied with Gaudette at fourth in the nation in power play goals, with 11.
His positioning on the power play will look familiar to anyone who has watched Gaudette’s college highlights.
Apart from his scoring skill on the ice, Lukosevicius is known for his character and leadership as well.
“He’s become a glue guy — not only a nucleus in the lineup — but off the ice too,” said Montgomery. “He holds his teammates accountable and he relishes his role on our team and loves being a Pioneer.”
One thing to keep in mind heading into development camp is that he’ll be much older than some of the Canucks prospects. Lukosevicius is already 23 years old, which means he should be nearing the prime of his career. With that extra age and experience, he should stand out in some way at camp.
As for whether he has a chance at playing in the NHL, it’s a possibility. He clearly has the hockey sense to play with talented linemates and has some energy and grit to his game. He’s a hard-working player that plays in all situations for the Pioneers and has been given a lot of credit by his coach for his practice habits. All of those things bode well for a future in professional hockey, even if it’s not at the NHL level.