According to multiple rankings, the Canucks have one of the best prospect pools in the NHL. The Athletic’s Corey Pronman ranks their pool fifth in the league, while Elite Prospects has them a notch higher at fourth.
The Canucks’ prospect pool boasts both top-end talent like Quinn Hughes, Thatcher Demko, Olli Juolevi, and Vasili Podkolzin, and also intriguing depth, like Jett Woo, Nils Höglander, Tyler Madden, Kole Lind, Jack Rathbone, and many others. A good chunk of that prospect pool will be showing up at Rogers Arena this weekend; unfortunately, Canucks fans won’t get a chance to get a glimpse of them.
The annual prospect camp that always precedes the Canucks’ main training camp will be a less formal affair than in previous years, with no public access to the on-ice sessions at Rogers Arena. That’s not unusual, though the Canucks have opened up these sessions in the past and their summer development camp at UBC was open to the public.
EDIT: The Canucks have evidently changed their tune, opening up Rogers Arena for Saturday and Sunday's on-ice sessions.
We're opening @RogersArena this Saturday and Sunday! Enter through Gate 10 between 11AM and 12PM. Admission is free. The parking garage will be closed so we encourage you to take @TransLink. https://t.co/Rx5D3BVtAU— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) September 5, 2019
What’s different this year is that there will be no chance to see these prospects in game action unless they get invited to main camp and get in the lineup for a preseason game or two. The Canucks won’t be playing any games with their prospects against other teams, with the annual Young Stars tournament in Penticton canceled or at least put on hiatus.
Last season, the only team that didn’t play prospect games prior to pre-season was the Florida Panthers. It’s unclear how many NHL teams will forego prospect games in the coming season like the Canucks, but the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, former participants in the Penticton Young Stars tournament, will be playing a pair of prospect games starting on Saturday. The Young Stars Battle of Alberta will be played on Saturday and Wednesday and livestreamed online.
The Canucks were originally expected to join the Oilers and Flames for this prospect tournament, but chose to opt out.
“We’d have more invitees than players,” said Benning to The Province’s Patrick Johnston about the decision. “That’s because of many of our prospects playing in Europe or college.”
The Canucks’ prospects playing in Europe and college won’t be part of the prospect camp, but also missing: invitees. Instead of having more invitees than Canucks prospects, the camp won’t have any invitees at all.
That seems like an odd decision. The Canucks had invitees at their summer development camp and invitees have paid off for the Canucks in the past. Troy Stecher was once an unsigned invitee at Canucks camp, as was recent college free agent signing Josh Teves, and they’re not the only invitees to earn Canucks contracts. Even Antoine Roussel was once a Canucks camp invitee and his experience in Vancouver was one of the reasons he signed with the Canucks in free agency last year.
One rationalization for the lack of invitees is that it allows the Canucks to focus more on the prospects already in the system, though that hasn’t prevented other teams with strong development programs from inviting large numbers of undrafted prospects to their camps. Likewise, sources suggest the Canucks don’t see much evaluative use in prospect games, though that doesn’t account for their value as entertainment for fans, particularly at a time when Canucks fans are more excited than ever about the prospect pool.
Also, since the annual invitee profiles are one of my favourite things to write, the lack of invitees hurts on a personal level.
So, no invitees, no prospect tournament, and no open practices (Ed: Well, apparently there will be now). The camp will, however, feature Quinn Hughes and Canucks fans will definitely get to watch him this season, with or without prospect games.
Eight forwards, eight defencemen, and three goaltenders are on the camp roster, with Hughes the biggest name. He’ll be joined by 2019 draft picks Ethan Keppen, Carson Focht, and Arturs Silovs, as well as Olli Juolevi, Michael DiPietro, Kole Lind, and Jonah Gadjovich, along with Utica Comets standouts Zack MacEwen and Lukas Jasek.
Here’s the complete camp roster: