Canucks Army Player Previews: Dan Hamhuis

Thomas Drance
October 02 2014 12:58PM

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You'd be hard-pressed to find an unrestricted free agent who has provided his club with more value during the salary cap era than Smithers native and good local boy Dan Hamhuis, 31, has brought to Vancouver since signing here in 2010. An oft-criticized second pairing guy in Nashville (his regular pairing with Kevin Klein was never very good for some reason), Hamhuis has spent his late-20s with the Canucks, where he's blossomed into a bona fide top pairing defender, and one of the league's best hybrid-type shutdown types.

While Hamhuis remains a credible top-pairing guy, even a fringe "1A defenseman", and isn't quite at the age where we might reasonably expect the Canucks to begin to incur some significant diminishing returns on their investment, he had something of an off year last season (though he can take solace in the Olympic Gold Medal he won as a depth defender with the Canadian men's ice hockey team). Was it the so-called 'Torts effect' or has Hamhuis lost a bit of his fastball in his early 30's? We'll answer that question and more on the other side of the jump.

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Prospect Profile #3: Jake Virtanen

Thomas Drance
September 08 2014 11:56AM

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Selected by the Vancouver Canucks with the sixth overall pick at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, Calgary Hitmen forward Jake Virtanen is the highest draft pick amongst all current Canucks prospects and debuts as the third highest ranked junior aged player on our list.

If you've been following this blog over the past year, you're probably a bit surprised to see Virtanen check in this high on the list. The CanucksArmy consensus has generally contended that the Canucks erred in drafting Virtanen with the sixth overall pick, something I don't quite agree with. This might be why I drew this particular assignment (despite being much more familiar with the OHL), or maybe I drew it because I had Virtanen ranked as the organization's second best prospect, which I've been assured is the highest such ranking the Abbotsford, B.C. born power forward received from our team of erstwhile Canucks bloggers. 

Here's my logic: if the Canucks organization folded tomorrow (god forbid), and all of the club's prospects were suddenly made available to rival NHL clubs in a dispersal draft, which aspiring NHL player would be selected second, immediately following Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray tripping on his way up to the podium to shout "Bo Horvat! Yess!" into the microphone? I don't think this is close. Quite obviously the 18-year-old who is coming off of a 45 goal age-17 season in the WHL would be the second selection; and well ahead of the undersized 20-year-old winger who just lost a full season to a serious hip-injury; and also ahead of the quick, reliable AHL defenseman who projects to have limited (if any) offensive value at the NHL level. 

Read past the jump for more on Virtanen.

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Prospect Profile #7: Brendan Gaunce

Thomas Drance
August 29 2014 12:01PM

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Just one summer removed from being controversially named CanucksArmy's top Vancouver Canucks prospect, 2012 first round pick Brendan Gaunce has seen his stock plummet and is ranked at #7 this time around.

In my view, Gaunce's stock isn't down as much as his slide down our rankings might suggest. Bear in mind though, I say that because his stock shouldn't have been high enough to place him at number one in the first place. I had Gaunce at number three last year, and I had him at number six this time around - which isn't a huge fall considering that the Canucks have drafted twice in the top-10 at the past two NHL Entry Drafts.

Meta-commentary that quibbles about Gaunce's place in our prospects list is so last August though. While Gaunce's slide down our list probably overstates the extent to which his development has flat-lined, It's probably fair to say that the sturdy two-way forward's development and production have not come along as hoped since his draft year. Still, it's not all doom and gloom here, Gaunce has scored 30 goals in each of his previous two OHL seasons, he's still just 20-years-old, and he's only just about to turn professional.

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Prospect Profile #9: Cole Cassels

Thomas Drance
August 27 2014 11:09AM

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A third-round pick in 2013 whose selection caused us to scratch our heads a bit at the time, Oshawa Generals forward Cole Cassels showed significant progress in his draft plus-one season.

After the 19-year-old forward, who won't turn 20 until May, played third-line minutes and produced a meager amount of offense in his draft-eligible season, he took a gigantic step as a point producer in 2013-14. Cassels played a top-of-the-lineup role while replacing departed (and high-end) forwards like Columbus Blue Jackets forward Boone Jenner and Phoenix Coyotes winger Lucas Lessio. 

On a line with top-prospects Scott Laughton and Michael Dal Colle, Cassels saw his production spike significantly as he scored 24 goals and 73 points in 61 games. That's 30 more points than he managed in his draft season the year before, and 19 more points than he recorded in his first two campaigns in major junior combined.

For his commendable efforts Cassels earned himself an entry-level contract with the maximum signing bonus, an invite to Team USA's U20 summer development camp (though he ultimately didn't attend with some sort of undisclosed illness or injury), and most importantly, the #9 overall slot on our prospects list - up from #18 just one year ago.

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Prospect Profile #12: Dane Fox

Thomas Drance
August 22 2014 11:21AM

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In his first year of eligibility for our cherished annual prospects list, Erie Otters forward Dane Fox makes his debut at number 12. An undrafted free agent, the 20-year-old Fox cashed in a whopping 64 goals while playing triggerman for Connor McDavid and Connor Brown with Erie in 2013-14. Sought after by a number of teams this winter, Fox signed a three-year entry-level contract - a deal that included the maximum signing bonus - with the Canucks in December. 

Fox is the very last of a diverse and relatively successful class of undrafted free agents that were signed by the Canucks during the Mike Gillis era. It's a class that can claim a couple of star graduates, including Eddie Lack and Chris Tanev, and some big misses in Sebastian Erixon and Evan Oberg. No matter, the thing about an undrafted free agent is that they're found money, basically no-risk propositions. 

In Fox's case, it's easy to get carried away looking at his massive OHL goal totals and forget that he managed his feat, and it's still impressive, while playing as an overager with a generational talent on a stacked team. That's critical context, and it's pretty unlikely that Fox will be a top-line scorer at the NHL level. Fox is still an intriguing depth prospect though, and his relatively high debut ranking slot speaks to that.

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