5 Utica Comets who have improved their stock during the Calder Cup playoffs

Thomas Drance
June 02 2015 10:55AM

Photo Courtesy: @UticaComets

With a massive 3-2 victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins on Sunday evening the Vancouver Canucks' AHL affiliate, the Utica Comets, are one win away from the Calder Cup final.

Though the team has largely been powered by a variety of career AHLers including Bobby Sanguinetti and Cal O'Reilly, there are a variety of Canucks prospects who have played very well and have made a strong case for inclusion on Vancouver's 2015-16 roster.

Here are the five Canucks prospects who have strengthened their case the most over the past six weeks. 

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Ryan Miller's agent: 'Ryan will be 100 percent by the end of July'

Thomas Drance
May 28 2015 10:03AM

Photo Credit: Candice Ward/USA TODAY Sports

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller was left in the net for all five goals.

As the club coughed up an early three-goal lead in an elimination game, it was apparent that Miller wasn't able to make lateral movements with his usual speed and effectiveness. Credit the Calgary Flames, who pulled Jonas Hiller aggressively in that crucial Game 6, because they attacked Miller backdoor repeatedly and with great success. 

After returning right before the postseason from a significant knee injury sustained in late-February, Miller was consistent in his conversations with reporters. He reiterated time and time again that he wasn't all that close to a fully recovery.

On Thursday we found out that he actually won't be back to 100 percent until July, his agent Mike Liut told News 1130 Sports on Thursday.

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Pending UFA Cody Franson intrigued by the possibility of joining the Canucks

Thomas Drance
May 25 2015 01:19PM

Photo Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports

British Columbian hockey fans get very attached to NHL players from Canada's westernmost Province, and take particular pride in the Province's habit of churning out the best defenseman in the country.

Vancouver hockey fans, meanwhile, have a particular attachment to former Vancouver Giants players. From Evander Kane, to Milan Lucic, to Brendan Gallagher, to Lance Bouma - every time the Vancouver Canucks miss out on landing a former Giant, the rallying cry of 'moar giants!" can be hearding echoing from the mountain tops all along the sea-to-sky highway.

In pending unrestricted free agent Cody Franson, you have the perfect storm. The 27-year-old right handed defenseman hails from the interior and played his junior hockey with the Giants. He excels on the power play and he could be had in free agency. The Canucks have a mild cap crunch situation on their hands though, and a glut of blue-line assets that would presumably serve to make acquiring Franson prohibitive. On the other hand, he seems to be interested in coming home, for whatever that's worth. 

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Jim Benning wants to build a deeper blue-line group that's better in transition

Thomas Drance
May 25 2015 11:27AM

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

In his first year as the general manager of the Vancouver Canucks, Jim Benning learned a crucial lesson about the importance of defensive depth in the Western Conference. 

"We’ll start with eight defencemen, but we want to have 11 D capable of playing in the NHL," Benning told Jim Jamieson of the Vancouver Province. "That’s something I learned this year from being in the West. The travel wears the team down a bit and it seems to take a toll on your defence."

It's an interesting statement, and for a variety of reasons. Let's unpack this on the other side of the jump.

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Evaluating Vancouver's defense using HERO charts

Thomas Drance
May 20 2015 10:00AM

The Vancouver Canucks defense, long a strength of the club, was something of an issue for the team this season. 

We know all about the club's team level defensive issues, and we all saw the club get tormented by Calgary Flames forecheckers in Vancouver's first-round series loss last month. Canucks defenders also struggled offensively. As a group Vancouver's blue liners combined for 135 total points this season, making them the 26th highest scoring defense corps.

Let's break Vancouver's blue line down to its individual components using Dominic Galamini's HERO charts as an evaluative tool, and see what we can see.

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