With the Canucks’ prospect development camp moved up a week so that it’s right after the draft, there’s barely time to breathe. The Canucks released the roster on Monday and the camp kicks off on Tuesday.
26 players are set to attend the camp, including seven of the Canucks’ picks from the 2019 draft. Along with the players drafted and signed by the Canucks, however, there are eight invitees set to attend the camp.
I am always intrigued by the invitees, as they represent a chance to add to the prospect pool at little to no expense. While there’s generally a reason why such players have gone undrafted, there’s always the possibility of finding a diamond in the rough. Troy Stecher and Antoine Roussel, for instance, were both invitees at Canucks camps in the past, and the Canucks have also signed one of their 2018 camp invites, Josh Teves.
There are some interesting possibilities among this year’s ogdoad of invitees, which includes everything from 18 year olds that just went undrafted on the weekend, to college players in their early 20s that could turn pro as early as this season.
Let’s take a look at each of these invitees, starting with Keegan Stevenson out of the OHL.
Keegan Stevenson – Left Wing
6’1″ – 174 lbs – Dec 31, 2000 (18)
Sault Ste. Marie, ON
Guelph Storm, OHL (55-19-15-34)
Stevenson is a two-way forward that made a big jump up Central Scouting’s list of North American skaters to end the year, finishing 95th on their final rankings after being ranked 148th in their mid-term rankings.
It’s easy to understand why: Stevenson caught fire to end the season for the Guelph Storm, scoring 7 goals and 16 points in his final 15 games of the regular season before a dislocated shoulder took him out of action for a month.
That late surge, as well as a long playoff run for the Storm that took them to the Memorial Cup, got Stevenson a little more attention from scouts, though not all of that attention was positive.
Hockey Prospect’s scouting report on Stevenson praises his work ethic and hockey sense, but it’s also clear that they don’t see an NHL future for the two-way winger. They question his overall skill, but the biggest issue is Stevenson’s skating, which “doesn’t look fixable,” according to one NHL scout.
They were blunt in their final assessment: “We see him as having a productive OHL career and then helping a CIS team down the road.”
Others were far more positive about Stevenson and his potential. Future Considerations ranked him 218th on their list and saw a gritty, two-way winger with the capacity to grow his game, even if his skating and shot need a lot of work.
“He thinks the game at a very high level and positions himself very effectively in all three zones,” reads their scouting report on Stevenson. “He’s very effective on the penalty kill and is developing into a player that coaches can count upon.”
Stevenson’s tenacious, agitating game has certainly endeared him to his head coach in Guelph, George Burnett, who had to use him in a lot of different situations given their numerous injuries, and found that he thrived in every one.
“He played the net front on the power play, he killed penalties with a lot of success,” said Burnett. “When he missed the final 15 games of the season with an injury, we really missed him. He was a big part of our team.”
Forward @StevensonKeegan plays a responsible game for @OHLHockey’s @Storm_City and has risen in the #NHLDraft rankings ahead of the #MemorialCup where he’s among the event’s top prospects: https://t.co/8Zs4DXxqGy#SWTPdraftpick 🎥 via @Sportsnet pic.twitter.com/k6HQEqMQ7r— CanadianHockeyLeague (@CHLHockey) May 22, 2019
If Stevenson has an NHL future, it will be as a bottom-six, checking-line winger, with time on the penalty kill, given his attention to detail on the defensive side of the puck. To get there will take a lot of hard work, as his skating is a major weakness. Fortunately, hard work is in Stevenson’s nature, so there’s a chance he can get there.
“Keegan is a hard worker, he doesn’t say a lot,” Burnett said. “He’s a good teammate, a hard-working guy in the gym and in practice daily, you never have to question his habits, and it’s always fun to coach guys that can bring that kind of work, effort and attitude to the rink everyday.”
The Canucks can get a closer look at Stevenson this week at development camp and decide for themselves if his weaknesses can be overcome. It's not like he doesn't have any offensive upside, as he's capable of getting goals purely through grit and determination.
Overall, Stevenson is a long shot, but all invitees are long shots. The trick is figuring out which ones will hit the target.