Much has been stated regarding the depth of the Vancouver Canucks organization. Not only at the National Hockey League level, but concerning their prospect pool as well. With one month gone in the 2019-2020 season, let’s take an in-depth look at the progress of those prospects.
The Utica Comets established a new franchise record by posting eight consecutive victories to start the season and are now 8-2. Much of that success is attributed to players with NHL experience that were sent down to the American Hockey League, due to the added depth that the Canucks acquired this past off-season. However, there have also been significant contributions from several of the Canucks prospects.
Michael DiPietro has provided stable, if not spectacular, goaltending when called upon to start. DiPietro is 3-1 in his four starts having posted a 1.94 goals-against average, and .927 save percentage. His quickness and agility are very noticeable, but I have also noticed a calmer, less frantic style to his game as well. Some of the success that both netminders are enjoying comes from an improved defence core.
Olli Juolevi has looked great at times, but I still notice concerns with certain aspects of his game. His ability to run a powerplay and his transition game, and in particular, his outlet pass have been exceptional. His work on the penalty-killing unit has been remarkable, especially when it comes to shot-blocking. Juolevi has five points in the ten games the Comets have played. However, his five-on-five play has been spotty. He has occasionally been danced around where he has been caught flat-footed and needs to learn to angle players to the outside using better body-position. Some of his pinches have been ill-advised as well. Nonetheless, these are areas that can be corrected and the overall outlook when it comes to his future is still extremely positive.
Brogan Rafferty has been utilized on the second powerplay unit and has demonstrated amazing poise and patience with the puck. His decision making is remarkable, and his defensive zone play, efficient. Rafferty has five points thus far and has a plus-minus rating of +9.
Josh Teves is currently tied for the lead in the AHL with a plus-minus rating of +11. He has shown signs of having offensive capabilities with his smooth skating style but only has one point thus far.
Guillaume Brisebois has, in my opinion, been the Comets steadiest defenseman. He plays a very mature stay at home style, but can occasionally join the rush. He is currently +5 with one goal and two assists to his credit.
Jalen Chatfield and the style that he plays remind me of Chris Tanev. Chatfield skates well and is proficient in his zone exits and defensive game. However, his offensive upside is limited. He has been held pointless so far this season.
Ashton Sautner is the most NHL ready of all the Comets’ defensemen. His game is steady, and he has spent much of this season with the Canucks as their seventh defenseman. He has only appeared in four games for the Comets this season.
Mitch Eliot has split his time between the Comets and the Kalamazoo Wings of the East Coast Hockey League. He is yet to record a point with either club.
Goaltender Jake Kielly was sent down to Kalamazoo, where he has posted a respectable 2.93 goals-against average, and .923 save percentage in three games.
Kole Lind has demonstrated a drastic improvement to the start of his season, compared to a year ago. He has contributed offensively while furthermore, agonizing the opposition players. Thanks to his improved play Lind has seen time on the top line as well as the first powerplay unit, resulting in three goals and six assists to this point in the season.
Jonah Gadjovich had a promising start to his season derailed by an unfortunate injury. He had one goal in the three games that he has played. While in the lineup, he was providing a strong net-front presence and was aggressive on the forecheck.
Zack MacEwen continues to improve his overall game. He offers both a physical presence as well as being someone who can contribute offensively. His versatility allows him to play up and down the lineup in a multitude of roles. MacEwen has six points in nine games this season.
Lukas Jasek is a very underrated prospect that plays a complete game. He is tied with Reid Boucher for the best plus-minus among the forwards with a +7 rating.
Francis Perron has been a pleasant surprise. He is an excellent skater with decent offensive ability. Perron is currently a point-per-game player with eight points so far despite spending some time on the fourth line.
The Canucks have numerous prospects playing in a variety of countries spread across several different leagues.
As well as having the playing rights to Nikita Tryamkin, who has played enough NHL games to no longer be considered a prospect, the Canucks have three Russian prospects.
Vasili Podkolzin was selected tenth overall by the Canucks in the 2019 NHL draft. To date this season, he has played with three different clubs. While playing with SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL, he has seen very little ice-time. He played two games in the MHL, which is a Russian junior league where he recorded four points. He seems best fitted for the VHL, which is a Russian men’s league, and that is where he has been playing most of his recent games. Podkolzin plays a strong physical game with tremendous play along the boards with a non-stop motor. His work ethic is undeniable, and his defensive play extraordinary for someone his age. Podkolzin is playing for the Russian U20 team, which is currently involved in the CIBC Canada-Russia series.
Artyom Manukyan was injured early in the season, and as such, he remains out of the lineup.
After a couple of disappointing seasons, Dmitri Zhukenov has settled in with Gornyak Uchaly of the Russian VHL. The 22-year-old has five goals in 21 games this season.
Skillful and dynamic winger Nils Hoglander is an exciting player that has Canucks fans anxiously awaiting his North American arrival. He is capable of highlight-reel goals while additionally having a temper. Hoglander recently served a five-game suspension for a vicious elbow. He is currently playing in the SHL with Rogle BK, where he has three goals in 12 games to go along with 27 minutes in penalties.
The return for Jonathan Dahlen was not what most Canucks fans were hoping for, but Linus Karlsson plays a responsible two-way game. Although he doesn’t possess the offensive skills that Dahlen has, his compete level and hockey IQ are intriguing. After somewhat of a slow start this season, Karlsson has shown some offensive promise of late. He has nine points in 17 games this season for Karlskrona in the Allsvenskan.
Selected in the seventh round of the 2019 NHL draft, Arvid Costmar leads the SuperElit league in faceoff percentage at 67.11%. The Linkopings center has also produced six goals and five assists in eight games. He played three games in the SHL this season and has also missed some time with an injury.
An injury suffered early in Champions League play kept Toni Utunen out of the lineup for Tappara until a few games ago. He has one assist in four games in the Finnish Liiga this season.
A return to Finland again this season seems to be just what the doctor ordered for Petrus Palmu. Since signing with JYP of the Finnish Liiga, Palmu has been scoring at a scorching pace. He has 16 points in ten games and leads the entire league in points per game for qualifying players.
Karel Plasek Jr. plays for Kometo Brno in the Czech Extraliga. He has been gaining valuable experience playing on the second line alongside ex-NHL player Tomas Plekanec. I would expect Plasek to be on the roster for the Czech Republic at this year’s World Junior Championship.
The college season is just getting underway, and a few of the Canucks prospects have had promising starts, while others are needing time to adjust.
Tyler Madden went scoreless in his first two games but had been finding the back of the net regularly since, firing five goals in his last six games. Meanwhile, teammate Aidan McDonough did not dress for Northeastern as the season began. However, he did suit up for the five games following and recorded his first collegiate goal in his most recent game.
Harvard University has only played one game this season, and Jack Rathbone was incredible. The speedy defender fired two goals in powering Harvard to a 7-3 victory.
Will Lockwood is entering his senior year at the University of Michigan as the Wolverines team captain. He has three goals in eight games thus far.
It took very little time for the 2019 NHL draft pick, Jack Malone, to adjust to college hockey. The Cornell forward recorded a goal in his first game.
The transition to the collegiate level was not as kind for goaltender Matthew Thiessen. In a recent start, he was given an early hook, surrendering three goals on just six shots.
The Canucks have four prospects playing in the Canadian junior ranks, and all have had decent starts to their seasons.
The Flint Firebirds are a much-improved team this season and are relying on another outstanding season from Ethan
Latvian goaltender Arturs Silovs has been terrific of late for the Barrie Colts. He has won seven of ten starts and has posted a very respectable 2.87 goals-against average to go along with a save percentage of .913.
The Calgary Hitmen have two outstanding Canucks prospects. Carson Focht has been exceptional in leading the Hitmen in scoring with ten goals and 16 points in 13 games. Jett Woo has been off his pace of last season but been solid on the backend.
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