If you want to see the future of the Canucks, you can pretty much just watch a Canucks game. This week saw the NHL debut of one of the more intriguing prospects in the Canucks system, Nikita Tryamkin, but he was just one of 11 players in the lineup who were 24 or younger.
These last dozen or so games are on opportunity for young prospects to claim their place in the new Canucks order, but there are many prospects outside of the NHL who will be staking their claims in the years to come. Let’s catch up on some of the prospects in the Canucks system who have yet to make their NHL debuts.
I covered Brock Boeser’s outstanding freshman season for the Fighting Hawks earlier this week, but he can add another plaudit to his figurative mantlepiece: he was just named NCHC Rookie of the Year. It was pretty much a given at this point, considering he led the conference in scoring, but it’s always nice to get official recognition.
Boeser did what he could against Minnesota-Duluth in the NCHC semifinals , tallying two assists to bring him up to 50 points on the season, the first rookie to do that for North Dakota since Zach Parise. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough, as they lost 4-2 and were eliminated from the NCHC playoffs. They’ll get another shot at postseason success in the NCAA tournament.
Like Boeser, Adam Gaudette was also selected out of the USHL in the 2015 NHL draft but understandably gets significantly less attention. It didn’t help that he got off to a slow start in his freshman season for Northeastern, scoring just five points in his first 18 games.
Then 2016 hit and Gaudette seemed to flip a switch. Since the new year, Gaudette has 8 goals and 24 points in 21 games.
The game recaps from the Go NU Athletics YouTube page provide bits and pieces of his performance this season. He scored a power play goal at the beginning of this video, picks up a nice goal at the 0:53 mark of this video, and makes a quick move to tuck in a puck on a 5-on-3 at 0:42 in this video.
The highlights of this February 20th game against the University of Connecticut, however, showcase a wide range of his offensive capabilities.
You can see some of his passing as he sets up a scoring chance to kick off the highlights, picks up an assist at 0:35, then sets up two more scoring chances at 1:28 and 1:36. While he doesn’t score, he has a chance in front of the net, where he seems to spend a lot of time, at 0:18, has another scoring chance at 1:07 where he seems indecisive and dekes into the goaltenders pads, and hits the crossbar at 1:31.
Now, Gaudette and Northeastern have eliminated the next Canucks prospect from the Hockey East playoffs, tallying a goal and an assist to beat Thatcher Demko and Boston College to head to the Hockey East Championship.
An outstanding season generally leads to a plethora of awards and Thatcher Demko is getting plenty of those. He was named Hockey East co-player of the year, is one of five finalists for the Mike Richter award as the best college goaltender, and is a top-10 finalist for the Hobey Baker award as the best player in college hockey. He’s likely to make it to the top-3, in fact, though he’ll face stiff competition to take the top prize.
He set a Boston College record for shutouts with his 9th in early February and now has 10 on the season. He’s not quite at Cory Schneider’s school record 15 career shutouts, but tied Scott Clemmensen for second with 13, and still has the NCAA tournament to try to catch Schneider.
The school doesn’t keep track of save percentage as a school record, but his .938 SV% would surely be among the best, with his 1.78 GAA just off the record set by Matti Kaltiainen.
With Nikita Tryamkin and Andrey Pedan with the Canucks, eyes turn to the next defencemen in the system: Jordan Subban, Carl Neill, Tate Olson, and Guillaume Brisebois.
Jordan Subban is now the Utica Comets leading scorer, thanks to Brendan Gaunce and Alexandre Grenier getting called up and Hunter Shinkaruk getting traded. That’s good for Subban, but not great for Utica as Subban has just 10 goals and 32 points in 52 games. That said, Brandon Prust, Chris Higgins, and T.J. Hensick help fill the void. Except Higgins has now been called back up to the Canucks. And Prust has been shutdown for the season with an injury. Poor Comets.
Subban is tied for 16th in the AHL in points from a defenceman and is fifth among rookie defencemen. The question, as always, is how well he can play defensively, an area head coach Travis Green has always highlighted as an area for him to work on.
Carl Neill and Tate Olson are having solid post-draft season in Juniors. Neill has 49 points in 62 games, which is fourth among QMJHL defencemen, while Olson has 47 points in 64 games, tied for 15th among WHL defencemen.
Olson, in particular, has been noted for the progression of his game after he was the second-last pick of the 2015 draft, playing big minutes in all situations for the Prince George Cougars, including quarterbacking the power play. Craig Button named him the fourth best prospect in the Canucks’ system last month and with Shinkaruk gone, he’s now third. His combination of size and poise give him a strong chance of beating the odds and making the NHL as a seventh-round pick.
Finally, there’s Guillaume Brisebois, who signed an entry-level contract with the Canucks in December. Button has him right behind Olson in his top-5 Canucks prospects. He has 10 goals and 26 points in 51 games, good for 37th among QMJHL defencemen. His numbers may not excite, but his ability to soak up significant minutes for a mediocre team means that his numbers may not matter. You can watch a couple game reels from the past couple months if you want to get a better idea of his well-rounded game.
Dmitry Zhukenov came over from Russia for his rookie season in the QMJHL this season and it’s been a little underwhelming. His 15 goals and 54 points in 62 games isn’t terrible, by any means, but it’s not the type of production that suggests an NHL future. He’s fourth on his team in scoring and, among under-19 players in the QMJHL, he’s tied for 23rd.
On the positive side, he’s spent the season getting acclimatized to the smaller ice and the North American game and is still just 18. He still has potential for improvement, but his offensive production does suggest that Zhukenov has a long development path ahead of him.
Who the heck knows what to make of Lukas Jasek. Depending on where you check, he’s played in four or possibly five different leagues this season. In the Czech U-20 league, he’s put up 15 goals and 28 points in 14 games tied him for third in points-per-game in the Czech U20 league and the player in first only played two games. So that seems good. But he scored just two goals and three points in 25 games in the Czech league, which isn’t so great.
Jasek re-joined the Young Steelmakers, as Google Translate describes his junior team, for the playoffs and has three goals and seven points in three games.
You can watch some Jasek highlights from his September 11th game with the men’s team, where he picked up an assist. You'll also hear the play-by-play man pronounce his name as Yashek, so keep that in mind for the future.
He’s number 17 in white and red and you can see his assist on a bank pass at 1:47. He has a particularly strong shift starting at 2:59, winning puck battles, cycling the puck, and picking off passes.
Matthew Beattie hasn’t done much in his college career since he was drafted in 2012, but this season he’s done even less. Beattie hasn’t played a game all season for Yale, with little to no information available as to why. What’s going on there?
I was able to find just one clue, as this article off-handedly mentioned that he’s injured and out for the season. Beattie’s lackluster play at Yale was already an impediment to ever making the NHL, but an injury wiping out his Senior year is devastating to his chances of a hockey career.
Kyle Pettit was my least favourite pick of the 2014 draft, as his complete inability to put up points in the OHL suggests he lacks the skills necessary to ever play in the NHL, even as a defensive specialist. To his credit, he actually is a defensive specialist.
Pettit was voted best defensive forward and second best penalty killer in the Western Conference in the 2015-16 coach’s poll. It’s possible, if unlikely, that his 6’4” stature and defensive proclivity might help him beat the odds.