The Canucks’ four-win start to the season had fans focussing on the present, but a few losses in a row gets you thinking about the future in a hurry. Fortunately, the Canucks’ prospects have been in fine form to start the season.
In the first edition of The Prospector for the 2016-17 season, we’re going to try to get a comprehensive look at the entire system, getting a quick look at pretty much every prospect.
Brock Boeser is the star in the college ranks, but all three Canucks’ prospects in the NCAA are off to a strong start to the season.
Boeser had five goals over the weekend and now has six goals and six assists in five games. As a result, he’s been named the NCHC Offensive Player of the Week twice already and was the NCAA’s third star this past weekend.
Brock Boeser completes the hattrick! pic.twitter.com/ACn4cFETY1— WTG (@WinThaGame) October 22, 2016
As Ryan Biech points out, he has 28 goals and 65 points in his last 32 games, which is nuts and comparable to Kyle Connor last season. Connor led the NCAA in scoring with 35 goals and 71 points in 38 games. If Boeser can continue this pace, he’ll be a strong candidate for the Hobey Baker Award.
Boeser is second in NCAA scoring, behind 23-year-old Mike Vecchione, but Adam Gaudette isn’t far behind. Gaudette seemed to flip a switch when the calendar changed to 2016, and he’s kept it going in the first few weeks of this season, scoring four goals and adding five assists in six games, placing him tied for ninth in the NCAA.
A good sign that Gaudette may be able to maintain this level: he leads the NCAA in shots, averaging 6.67 shots-on-goal per game.
Finally, there’s William Lockwood, the Canucks’ third round draft pick from this year. It was hard to know what to make of him, as his production for the US National Team Development Program was limited, but he did put up a point-per-game in the World Under-18 Tournament.
The University of Michigan Wolverines have no questions about him, however, as he’s already on the top line, unusual for a freshman at Michigan. He’s put up three goals and three assists in five games, tied for the team lead in scoring.
The surprise star for the Canucks in Junior has been Brett McKenzie, the Canucks’ seventh round pick in 2016. McKenzie is known more for the defensive side of his game, but he’s been racking up goals to start the season. He has eight goals and 13 points in 11 games, leading the North Bay Battalion in goals and points.
Defencemen Carl Neill is off to a great start as well, with 11 points in 10 games, though five of those points, all assists, came in one game. As for the Canucks’ other defencemen in Junior, Tate Olson has two goals and eight points in 12 games, Guillaume Brisebois has three goals and eight points in nine games, and Cole Candella has four assists in 10 games.
The player everyone is curious about, however, is Olli Juolevi. He’s off to a solid, if unspectacular start, with one goal and five points in seven games. Nothing to be concerned about; he’s still producing, and it seems likely he’s used in more of a shutdown role with partner Evan Bouchard, while Victor Mete and Brandon Crawley get more offensive opportunities.
As for the other forwards in Junior, Kyle Pettit has been a pleasant surprise. With Dylan Strome in Glendale trying to stick with the Phoenix Coyotes, the Erie Otters needed Petit to step up his game in his over-age season. He had just 10 goals and 21 points in 58 games last season, but is already halfway to bettering those totals this season, with five goals and 12 points in 10 games.
Pettit’s protection is particularly notable when you consider that he’s still not playing on the top line with the team’s leading scorers, so his production isn’t being propped up by them. We’ll see if he can keep it going and keep the hype machine in check—he is an over-age player—but it’s nice to see some progression from him. [Editor's note: It's been brought to my attention that Kyle Pettit is no longer in the Canucks' organization, as they chose not to sign him this past off-season. Of course he picks now to break out.]
Then there’s Dmitry Zhukenov, who’s off to a point-per-game start in his second season in Junior, with three goals and seven points in seven games. Jakob Stukel isn’t a point-per-game, but does have three goals to go with one assist in six games, and he can score pretty ones:
Finally, there’s the odd case of Rodrigo Abols, who the Canucks surprisingly picked up in the seventh round, when it seemed likely they could have waited and signed him as a free agent after the draft. He’s no longer playing with the Portland Winterhawks, as they already have two other import players, which is the maximum.
Those two players are 17-year-old defenceman Henri Jokiharju from Finland and 18-year-old Joachim Blichfeld from Denmark, both of whom are key players for the Winterhawks that could play for several more seasons. They obviously wanted to keep the two teenagers over the 20-year-old.
The problem for Abols is that he takes up both an import and over-age and it’s tough for a team to take up both those limited spots with one player. Fortunately, he appears to have found a spot in the QMJHL with the Acadie-Bathurst Titans, though they will need to release one of their other over-age players to accommodate him.
The Canucks (technically) have two prospects playing in Europe right now: Lukas Jasek and Anton Cederholm. I mean, technically Cederholm is still in the system as the Canucks retain his rights, but he never even got into an AHL game in Utica, so unless he dominates in Sweden, he’s likely done.
As for Jasek, it’s really hard to judge his progress, as he bounces around the Trinec system constantly; you could say he's a bounced Czech. He’s far too good for the Czech U-20 league, where he put up two points per game in the regular season last year and was even better in the playoffs, putting up 25 points in just 10 games.
This season, he had three assists in two games for Trinec in the U-20 league, but was then put with the big club in the Extraliga, the top men’s league, where he barely played and had no points in six games. Now he’s been loaned to Frydek-Mistek in the WSM-Liga, the second-tier Czech league, where he has four points in six games. Is that good? I have no idea. It’s like comparing apples to oranges, because we have no point of comparison or standard to measure him against in those leagues.
The Utica Comets have stumbled to start the season with just one win in their first four games. Unsurprisingly, the Canucks’ prospects in Utica have been a bit of a mixed bag.
Jordan Subban has two goals and two assists in three games, but was a healthy scratch for a game because of his defensive play. Michael Chaput leads the Comets in scoring with a goal and five assists in four games, but at 24 it’s a question of whether he’s even a prospect.
Yan-Pavel Laplante has no points. Cole Cassels has no points and has suffered an injury. Joseph LaBate was a standout in the pre-season for the Canucks, but has no points and has been given a three-game suspension for an ugly blindside hit to the head.
Here's the hit that landed Joseph LaBate his three-game suspension. pic.twitter.com/XQzT2V2OpM— J.D. Jerk (@JDylanBurke) October 24, 2016
It’s not all bad news. After a tough pre-season, Alexandre Grenier is playing well in Utica, with two goals and two assists in four games, while leading the Comets in shots on goal, with 11. Michael Carcone scored his first professional goal, a good old-fashioned go-hard-to-the-net one:
The top pairing in Utica has been decent enough despite the losses: Troy Stecher has been playing well, at least well enough that he didn’t dissuade the Canucks from calling him up. Andrey Pedan has been appropriately tough and physical. The two of them are even in plus/minus for what it’s worth.
Pedan dropping the 🔨. pic.twitter.com/JcIsuoEdIp— Utica Comets (@UticaComets) October 16, 2016
Finally there’s Thatcher Demko, who has been lit up in his two starts, giving up eight goals. Nothing much to worry about on that front; the transition from college to the AHL is a tough one. Cory Schneider gave up nine goals in his first two AHL games
Michael Garteig and Mackenze Stewart are the Canucks’ lone prospects with the Alaska Aces. Garteig has started one game so far this season, making 36 saves on 38 shots, an excellent start to his professional career. Smaller jump from college to the ECHL than to the AHL.
Stewart has no points, but is playing on the top pairing and has six shots on goal.