The Canucks management has gone on a signing rampage of late. They’ve inked several of their supposedly top prospects to entry-level deals in the past couple of weeks. The problem, if you want to call it a problem, is that the Canucks don’t have the room in their lineup for all these prospects. Many of them will end up with the Manitoba Moose next season, who are in desperate need of replenishing. But they won’t all stay in the Canucks system.
So the question is… Which Canucks prospects will stay and which will go?
Using the list of the Canucks entry level prospects from to capgeek.com, here is the Canucks Army look at the next wave of potential young Canucks and where they will play this coming season.
Desbiens, Guillaume – He had a few call-ups through the season, but he is destined to be a career NHL fourth liner. If the Canucks give up on Hordichuk and Rypien, Desbiens, from Alma, Quebec, would fill that roll. If they keep Aaron Volpatti (see below) and one of Hordichuk or Rypien, it’s very likely that Desbiens will be traded.
Gendur, Dan – From Vancouver, he split time in the ECHL last season. A career minor leaguer, he won’t see any time with the Canucks. He has spent a few years in the Canucks system, so the Canucks may simply give up on him and trade him, although they aren’t likely to be any takers.
Grabner, Michael – A freak injury at the beginning of the season kept the talented and speedy Austrian from likely spending the entire year with the Canucks. He played very well during the playoffs, despite low numbers. Most encouraging is that he has improved every year for the past 3 years. He is a lock to play with the Canucks next season, possibly on the second line with Kesler and Raymond.
Hodgson, Cody – A bulging disc in his back kept the native of Toronto from playing most of last year. Listening to Mike Gillis talk about him, Hodgson would have likely made the team, if not for his back problem. I hate to admit this, but Hodgson could control the success of the Canucks this year. He would probably start as the third line C, replacing Wellwood. If Hodgson is healthy and productive, the Canucks will be truly explosive. If his back continues to cause him problems, the Canucks will struggle to find a third line C, unless they bring back Wellwood as insurance.
Rödin, Anton – He had an very impressive World Junior Championship, and scored 13 points in 10 international junior games for team Sweden. However, he struggled when playing in the Swedish Elite league, with only 5 points in 36 games. He will certainly get a look at the Canucks tryouts, but he would probably be best served by playing next season with the Moose, or back in the SEL to get used to the pro level.
Rai, Prab – From Surrey, Rai had a great year on an absolutely terrible Seattle Thunderbirds team. He led his team in scoring with 69 points in 67 games, including 41 goals. Now that he is 20, he will graduate from juniors, and is likely bound for the Moose, given they will need some scoring with Grabner destined for the Canucks. He is also possible trade material if the Moose do not have room for him.
Schneider, Stefan – Schneider was well down the depth chart on a stacked Portland Winterhawks team this year. He didn’t put up much in the way of numbers and appeared to have a shaky playoffs as well. Like Rai, he is also 20 so he’ll graduate from juniors this year. The Vernon, BC native will likely playing for the Moose or possibly the Victoria Salmon Kings if there isn’t enough room.
Schroeder, Jordan – The Minnesota native is last year’s 1st round pick for the Canucks, Schroeder had a great but short spell with the Moose this season in both the regular season and the playoffs, after leaving University of Minnesota to turn pro. Undersized but very quick, he will likely play as the 1st line C for the Moose this season.
Shirokov, Sergei – The Russian had an utterly forgettable stint with the Canucks to start the season, going pointless in 6 games. He had a respectable regular season with the Moose, finishing second in team scoring. Once the playoffs began, he crumbled again with only 2 points and a -1 in 6 games. I could definitely see Shirokov traded. He has talent and skill, but just hasn’t development enough under the Canucks system.
Tochkin, Kellan – From Abbotsford, Tochkin had a great regular season with Everett in the WHL. However, he struggled in the playoffs and was a key reason why the Silvertips were knocked out in the first round. Ever improving, Tochkin is still 19 so I would see him playing his final year in Everett then moving to the Moose next season.
Volpatti, Aaron – The Brown University product from Revelstoke BC has a similar game to Desbiens. He is rough and tumble player and will probably be a career 4th liner or minor leaguer. At 25, he is the oldest prospect on the list and although he may see some tryout time, he is destined for the Moose next year. Although he was only recently acquired, he could also see his way out of the Canucks organization. Just like Desbiens, he fits only a very specific role and there are only so many players that the Canucks can have. Frankly they already have too many to begin with.
Andersson, Peter – Like his Swedish world junior teammate Rödin, Andersson played in the SEL last year, but arguably had a better season. Andersson had 5 points just like Rodin, but in only 21 games. Plus… Andersson is a defenseman! At 6’3" and 197 lbs, he is destined to be a big presence on the blueline, but has a couple years yet before he packs on some weight and is ready for the NHL. Look for him to return to the SEL to continue his pro career there.
Connauton, Kevin – The Canucks found a stud defenseman in this Edmonton native. He led the WHL in defensive scoring last year, and added 13 points in 16 playoff games. Like most defensemen, he needs more time to develop, so he’ll be on the Moose roster next season, likely in their top D pairing. However, if he impresses at training camp, don’t be surprised to see him playing some games for the Canucks next year.
Ellington, Taylor – The Canucks 2007 draft pick played most of last year in his hometown of Victoria for the Salmon Kings. At 22, this is the year that Ellington needs to make the leap to either the Moose or the Canucks. With the recent spate of signings that the Canucks have made with blueline prospects, Ellington’s days in the Canucks system may be numbered if he can’t break through. If fellow defensemen Connauton, Oberg and Sauve all impress, they will all be playing for the Moose next year, and Ellington would be the odd man out, either staying with the Salmon Kings, or being traded out.
Oberg, Evan – Oberg certainly impressed last year, even playing two games for the Canucks. You could argue though that this was a simple matter of the Canucks and Moose both being eviscerated by injuries on the blueline. But at only 165 lbs, Oberg needs to fill out fast. Arguably, he would have to put on 30 lbs. While he put up some respectable points with the Moose, he was also a -13, tied for second-to-last on the team. The Forestberg, AB product still needs to develop physically and, like Ellington, will need to have a much improved season. Given that the Canucks have shown they like him, he’s probably not going to be traded, so he’s a lock for the Moose next season and a likely call-up for the Canucks.
Sauve, Yann – Sauve was an all-out star in the QMJHL last season, winning Scholastic Player of the Year, being named to the Q’s all-star team that played against Russia, and finished the year at a sparkling +42. His Saint John Sea Dogs also finished first in the entire league and lost in the playoff finals to Moncton. He is a big kid already at 6’3" and 209 lbs. and given his noteworthy season last year, the Canucks look to have two legitimate top defensive prospects in Sauve and Connauton. It appears as though Sauve is further along and closer to an NHL career, so we might see the Montreal native as a call-up next season, and will get serious consideration during training camp.
Sweatt, Lee – Sweatt, a native of Elburn, IL, split time last year between Turku in the Finnish league and Dynamo Riga in the KHL, put up decent numbers with both clubs. At 25 and only 5’9" he is a longshot to make the Canucks, but he likely insurance and depth for the Moose, in case they get hit with the injury bug like last year.
Tanev, Chris – Tanev played his first year in the NCAA at RIT last year and chipped in with some great numbers, leading his club with a +34 over only 41 games. Prior to the NCAA, the Toronto played mostly in the OJHL (the equivalent to the BCHL). At 21, he is still developing and growing and will still need to put on weight and muscle, but he definitely has some potential. Look for him to start for the Moose next season, if there is room for him there. If not, he is possible trade bait.
Eddie Läck – Läck played in the SEL last year and back up for Brynäs, the same team where Rödin spent last year. In 14 games, Läck had a 2.67 GAA and a .911 Sv%. He played even better in his two games in the playoffs, with a 1.53 GAA and .946 Sv% in 2 games. Läck could certainly be a great addition to the Moose and could act as a confident call-up, should the need arise. It is almost a guarantee that Cory Schneider will be the Canucks back-up, so Läck could very likely be the main starting goaltender in Manitoba next season. It is also possible that the Canucks use Läck as a trading chip, if they seem intent on keeping Schneider for the entire year as back-up, and if they bring in some more goaltending depth for the Moose.
Schneider, Cory – The Canucks announced today that they have signed Schnieder to a contract extension, at what is believed to be a 2-year deal at just under $1m per year. It is clear that the Canucks are positioning Schneider, the NCAA and AHL standout, to be the defacto backup to Luongo next season. Given his palatable contract and the fact that Lack is also signed, the Canucks have a very good trade chip as well. So if comes down to the trade deadline, the Massachusettes native is definitely going to be play, especially if Lack is having a good year with the Moose.
So who makes it out of this grudge match of talented prospects?
Up front, Grabner is a lock for next season, Hodgson is very likely (provided his back holds up) and Jordan Schroeder could be a dark horse. Volpatti and Desbiens will literally fight it out to see who stays, as the other is likely traded. The Canucks will likely give up on Gendur and could do likewise with Shirokov if he doesn’t break out in a hurry. Rödin is still at least a year away and will play again in the SEL. Tochkin is probably playing his final year in Everett, while junior grads Rai and Stefan Schneider look poised for an AHL stint next year.
A recent flurry of signings have given the Canucks some young depth on defense. Sauve and Connauton could see time on the Canucks roster this year if they have strong camps. Although, like most defensemen, they need a bit more time to mature and fill out. Andersson will likely join his countryman Rödin and stay in the SEL for one more year. Ellington is on thin ice and could be traded away, while depth signings Sweatt and Tanev will probably fill out the Moose roster, if they aren’t traded themselves. It seems highly unlikely that any of these young defensemen will play a full season with the Canucks next year. Given that the Canucks need legit D all the way through the blueline. The only possible candidates at this point are Sauve or Connauton, with their size and pedigree, and even they would have to have mindblowing training camps to get real consideration.
Cory Schneider will play as Luongo’s back up next year, and Canucks fans hope he plays around 20 games next year. And Eddie Läck looks like a solid choice to replace Schneider as the Moose starting goalie.