Jalen Chatfield Eyeing a Successful First Professional Season

It didn’t take long for Canucks defenceman Jalen Chatfield to make his mark in Penticton. Seven minutes into his debut in a Canucks sweater, Chatfield launched a seeing-eye wrist shot past the Jets netminder to give the Canucks a 2-1 lead in the first period.

Only three minutes later, Chatfield was on the ice after suffering a high-hit from a Jets forward on the forecheck. It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.

Chatfield went through the concussion protocol and was cleared by the doctors just in time for the second period. Talk about baptism by fire.

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When you think about Chatfield, it’s not his offence or his ability to deliver or take a bone-crushing hit that stands out, though. Chatfield is a defensive defenceman in the modern mould. It’s all about making smart reads and moving the puck efficiently up the ice.

“I just like to play good defence. I help the penalty kill a lot. I play in a lot of situations in the OHL,” Chatfield told Canucks Army. “I wouldn’t say I’m the most offensive guy, but I can get my legs moving and I can help out. I think I can transition the puck pretty good. I like to take pride in defence first, obviously. Over the last few years, I started playing a shutdown role more”.

To say a lot of this is new would be an understatement. Chatfield, who was passed up in back-to-back-to-back drafts, only signed his entry-level contract with the Canucks a few months ago.

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Not long afterwards, Chatfield helped lead the Windsor Spitfires to a Memorial Cup win on their top pair, as a co-captain.

The next challenge is making the NHL. Only a year after another undersized, undrafted, transitional defenceman, Troy Stecher, was able to impress the Canucks’ brass in Penticton, Chatfield hopes to make a similar impression. It’s not the NHL or bust, though. Chatfield is well aware of the difficulty of making that leap in his first professional season, and seems to have his goals set accordingly.

“Yeah, everybody is coming here, and everybody is battling hard and competing. Everybody wants to make the NHL at some point” Chatfield said. “There’s no timetable; it’s hard to crack the roster and make the league because how many good players are out there. From here, I just want to learn as much as I can and keep developing. This is going to be my first year pro, and wherever I end up, I just want to keep improving and do the best that I can.”

It doesn’t sound like the Canucks have any specific areas in mind for his development. Chatfield told Canucks Army that the goal right now is to improve on his overall game and to become a professional on and off the ice.

“Obviously, [the Canucks want me to] just improve my overall game. You gotta get better at everything. You gotta get faster; you gotta get stronger; you gotta move the puck a little bit better and see the ice. Become a pro on and off the ice. It’s just the little details like that that can make a huge difference in your game”.

It’s a difficult road ahead for Chatfield. The Canucks have eight defencemen on one-way contracts, and most are fairly cemented in their role. There is a precedent, though. Few expected Ben Hutton to make the team two years ago, and he had to force some uncomfortable decisions en route to his NHL debut. Stecher didn’t crack the Canucks roster out of training camp, but injuries gave him an opportunity, and he held onto his spot it for dear life once he had it, sticking with the Canucks until the end of the season.

“Obviously, anything can happen. There’s a lot of good defencemen here, and everybody is just battling. You just gotta go out there and give it your all. Whatever happens, happens.”

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Maybe there’s another chapter yet in the almost annual tradition of training camp surprises coming from the blue line. And another hard decision for the Canucks front office, too. They promise that they’ll make room for young players if they’ve proven themselves ready for the NHL. The sincerity of that message might be tested yet.

  • Bud Poile

    Sept. 8th
    Benning confirms with McKenzie that Edler, Tanev, Gudbranson, Hutton, Stecher, MDZ are the set top 6 .

    Wiercioch,Biega,Holm,Olli,McEneny,Subban,Pedan are all in the picture,as well.

    • Thanks Mike.

      Chatfield could be this years Stecher or Hutton. Jim Benning gave him an entry level contract for a reason. He didn’t with Tate Olson, who I thought would be here now.

      Chatfield took a nasty hit, like really nasty. He has to watch for that or his pro career may end sooner rather than later.

  • Gin0

    I like what Benning has done this year. It is frustrating that it has taken this long. After the Torts year fans could have accepted bringing in cheap depth, stockpiling youth and slow developing young talent. “Retooling on the fly” and “turning things around quickly” have set this franchise back, let’s hope us long time suffering Canucks fans don’t have to relive the late 90s… or late 80s… or late 70s. Hmmmm the 2020-2025 window sounds about right.

  • Maxxx

    Last prospects game vs the Oiler youngsters and Chatfield looked great, mobile, attacking coming back hard. Clearly he really wants to be in the main camp as a contender.