Canucks invite 9 free agents to development camp, including 1 giant goalie

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Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports

The Vancouver Canucks invited 29 players to their three day prospect development camp on Thursday, a group that includes 2015 first-round pick Brock Boeser, nine free agents and one massive goaltender.

The camp will take place at a private boarding school called Shawnigan Lake this year, which means we won’t get the annual post Grouse Grind rookie shot this time around. Anyway let’s take a quick look at the list of invites after the jump.

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Here’s the full roster:

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(Courtesy: the Vancouver Sun)

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Defense

The Canucks will bring 12 defenseman to their development camp, a group headlined by recent third-round pick (or “recent early third-round pick”) Guillame Brisebois. Other 2015 draft picks Tate Olson, Carll Neil will also attend as will a variety of recently signed prospect defenders including MacKenze Stewart, Jordan Subban, Ben Hutton and Ashton Sautner.

Included among the free agent invitees are NCAA player Matthew Caito and Robert Hamilton, as well as OHL defender Justin Lemcke.

Caito is an undersized puck-moving type defenseman, who was ranked by central scouting ahead of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft but wasn’t picked. The 21-year-old has managed three decently productive seasons with the University of Miami (Ohio) – although if he were a top prospect, we’d probably describe his production as flat since it hasn’t really improved since his freshman year. 

The PCS% tool produces Alex Goligoski, Steve Kampfer and Lee Sweatt as recent comparable players for Caito, and under five percent of defenseman with similar counting stats and a similar stature went on to play at least 200 games at the NHL level.

Hamilton, 21, managed to score just one point for the University of Vermont in his sophomore season, which is pretty rough. His freshman season was better (13 points), but it’s rare for non-scoring defenseman to ever make the NHL in any capacity. The PCS% tool amusing produces some comparable players for Hamilton including Rob Scuderi, Jeff Finger and Brian Strait, though it also suggests that fewer than one percent of NCAA defenders with similar counting stats and a similar stature went on to play 200 games at the NHL level.

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Lemcke, a big Belleville Bulls defenseman who is a very fluid skater for his size, is probably the most intriguing of the free agent development camp invites. The six-foot-two, 200 pound blue-liner was rated by a variety of scouting services (including ISS, and NHL Central Scouting) and it’s a bit of a surprise that he wasn’t selected. He is just two years removed from being picked in the first-round of the 2013 OHL Priority Draft where he was selected one pick ahead of Mitchell Marner.

The PCS% tool produces recent Ryan Wilson, Derek Joslin and Jakub Kindl as recent comparables – based on production and stature – for Lemcke.

Forwards

The Canucks have invited 12 forwards to their rookie development camp, a class headlined by recent Memorial Cup winner Cole Cassels and 2015 first-round draft pick Broeser. Vancouver’s later-round selections at the draft like recent top-10 pick at the CHL import draft Dmitry Zhukenov, Northeastern bound forward Adam Gaudette and Czech-born speedster Lukas Jasek will also be at the development camp.

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There are only three free agent forwards who have been invited: NCAA forward John Stevens, WHL forward Reid Gardiner and NCAA grinder Matthew Lane.

Lane has spent three years playing a depth role at Boston College and the PCS% tool suggests that fewer than one percent of players of a similar stature, who produced at a similar level in NCAA have gone on to play 200 career NHL games. Some recent comparables for Lane include Luke Glendening, Chris Mueller and Tommy Wingels. 

Stevens has played two seasons at Northeastern, which is where Gaudette is committed to. He’s one of two development camp invites from the Northeastern program, which combined with the Gaudette selection, makes you wonder if there’s some sort of tie between Benning or someone in the Canucks front office and perhaps Northeastern coach Mark Carlson. 

Anyway Stevens has chipped in 20 points in his first two years at Northeastern and players of a similar height who have produced at a similar rate have gone on to play 200 NHL games roughy three percent of the time. Those players are your Brandon Yips, Chris Vandeveldes and Bobby Butlers generally speaking, but if you can find a player like that at a prospect camp, that’s a win…

The third and final forward invitee, Gardiner, could be an interesting bet. Unheralded and undrafted as an 18-year-old, the physical 19-year-old winger saw his production explode in his draft plus-one season with the Prince Albert Raiders. With his career trending in the right direction the PCS% tool suggests that 10 percent of players with similar WHL counting stats and of a similar stature to Gardiner have gone on to play at least 200 NHL games, a group that includes Devin Setoguchi, Derek Dorsett and Blake Comeau.

Goaltenders

Obviously the most interesting of the goalie invites is 25-year-old John MacLean, a behemoth puck stopper who stands six-foot-nine and dominated for NCAA Division III school Gustavus Adolphus College.

He’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen on skates:

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Image courtesy BarDown/TSN.ca

Here’s some highlights of his work:

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Yes, yes, he’s a very tall man. 

MacLean will be joined by 24-year-old invitee Justin Ginn who managed some quality results playing for NCAA school Holy Cross and the ECHL’s Florida Everblades last season and by 23-year-old Clay Witt out of Northeastern of the NCAA.

The third goaltender invited, WHL player Jackson Whistle, is the youngest goalie who will play at prospect camp (Thatcher Demko is still recovering from offseason hip surgery). Whistle hasn’t been drafted, but he played some pretty decent hockey for a Kelowna Rockets team that stormed through the WHL playoffs. Whistle didn’t quite manage average results in the regular season, but he was sturdy in the playoffs.

It’ll be interesting to see if any of these players are able to earn contracts as a result of their development camp performance. Lemcke and Gardiner in particular, would appear to be players worth watching.