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Notes from Canucks Development Camp

Some of the Canucks top prospects have descended on Vancouver to participate in the organization’s development camp this week.

Amid the fun activities like zip line, cooking, and Jenga, the players have seen some time on the ice over the last couple of days. A spattering of fans and media types were able to finally see Quintin Hughes join the group yesterday.

It can be easy to overvalue these on-ice sessions at development camp. These are drills and exercises done to help develop these players and not game situations. The excellent players will stand out, while some others may appear to struggle as they work to round out their games. The organization will use these as opportunities for development over the summer and into next season.

With that point made – here are some of the things that stood out to me while at the practice yesterday:

  • Jack Rathbone looked more comfortable and bigger compared to twelve months ago. Last year, it appeared that he had a bit of ‘deer in the headlights’ to his game, whereas this year, he was more assertive and confident in everything he did. He also appears to have added some upper body strength without sacrificing his agility. He is someone that I intend on following very closely at Harvard, to get an idea of how he will stack up with the increased level of competition. The Canucks took a good risk with him in the fourth round last year and he appears to be trending in the right direction that will be aided by the longer development path of the NCAA.
  • Petrus Palmu can really shoot the puck. Relying strictly on video the last year to follow him, it was hard to get a grasp on his shot. He has a quick and heavy release that was going top shelf or ringing off the post. He is still that fire hydrant with strong lower body strength that allows him to protect the puck well. It’s expected that he will head to the AHL next season and could very well be paired with his junior linemate Jonah Gadjovich.
  • Hughes is a really good skater and efficient puck mover. Not really much to say there as he is really good at this hockey thing. It’s shocking, I know.
  • Jett Woo is a really interesting player. He has good size and mobility already. It will be really interesting to see what role he has with Moose Jaw this upcoming season. If he is given that larger offensive role, as I expect, his numbers could rise quickly and make the pick look even better. He may not have been the player that I would’ve taken at 37, it’s a very defensible pick based on his position, stick-handedness, type of game, and potential.
  • Tyler Madden didn’t really stand out to me in any way. He looks very slight but that will naturally improve as he ages.
  • Michael DiPietro and Matthew Thiessen had a good session with the Canucks goaltending staff prior to the defenceman coming out. Working on some movements off the post, getting square after pushoffs, and directing pucks. All basic practice stuff, but was interesting to see that those two had all the top staff, while the top invites were on the other end. It makes sense to do it this way.
  • Colton Poolman was always the one who stood out to me from the invited group and continued to do so on the ice yesterday. He is not a flashy defenceman but moves the puck efficiently, skates well, and has a good shot. He will be returning to the University of North Dakota this fall, but when he does leave school, the Canucks would be wise to pursue him as a UFA.
  • Tyler Soy is a little rough around the edges as a player but I think he is someone that the Canucks will invite back for Young Stars and then possibly send him to Utica’s training camp.

Thursday’s scrimmage will be fun to watch as we get to see these players in a more game-like situation. You don’t want to take too much away from the intra-squad game, but hopefully, we’ll see some dazzling plays like we did last season.

After this, we will see Quinn Hughes, Jett Woo, Toni Utunen, and Michael DiPietro at the World Junior Summer Showcase in Kamloops.

  • Hey Ryan, great write-up. How does Rathbone compare to this Canucks Prospect video from January? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3lAuw_A__E

    In the video, Rathbone shows a lot of agility (nice spin-o-ramas in tight checking), heads-up offensive and defensive play, he jumps up a lot and isn’t afraid to shoot (or fake a shot). He shows some rawness like falling down while rushing the puck (no pressure) or getting knocked to the ice while throwing or taking a hit. He definitely looks like a player with NHL potential.

    • It can be hard with these types of practices – as there is no checking or hard battles.

      I was able to catch some Rathbone games in late March, and I didn’t see that softness on his feet. Looking at yesterday, he was more square (if that is the right term) and strong(er) on his feet.

      No matter what – he is a long-term prospect in terms of physical development, but those offensive instincts you mention are really noteworthy.

    • What I liked from today’s practice is Jack’s competitiveness. They were doing defensemen-only skating drills (quick transitions, pivots etc), and Jack was showing frustration when he messed it up and was showing the extra effort in trying to get it right. I think this is a good thing, especially if he knows he’s going to college in the fall, but still is giving his all.

      One or two of the attendees (sorry, forgot who) doing the same drills showed more of a lackadaisical view of it and just went through the motions just to get through the drill without much effort – including just skating to the end of the ice instead of doing another transition/pivot which everyone else was instructed to do so. I’m quite sure they were the ones that were merely invited and wasn’t drafted. Perhaps they’ve already mailed it in thinking they don’t have a chance to make main camp or thats their attitude.

      I think it has been understated that a bulk of development time for prospects are spent at the practices which we aren’t privy to, showing whether or not a prospect has that desire to improve their game, hence a key trait they seem to target is character – whether or not they will fight to make it to the show or treat it like they are entitled by showing minimal effort

  • Nice write-up. Any thoughts on Gunnerson or Utunen. For me, I was pleasantly supprised with his mobility, and to a lesser extent, his shooting ability. Possible addition to the Comets left side?

    • I assume you mean Gunnarsson with your second point – his defensive positioning and agility is always a noteworthy skill, it’s just a black void in offence.

      I like the Utunen pick – decent bet at that point in the draft

  • Hey way to actually write something about development camp. The moron running CA didn’t think it was worth discussing last year – yeah, the first look at our young guns after the draft. That B. Burke is special…

  • Jett Woo was clearly battling an injury in the second half of this past season, you could tell all year that he was labouring in pain whenever he was on the ice, considering as much he has fantastic upside. I’ve watched him for years and he has always been one of the best defenseman in his age group in all of Canada. He had 17 Point in 17 GP before getting injured last year.

  • Thanks Ryan.
    I had Woo as a late 1st, so I was thrilled he was available with our pick at 37, although the kid I really wanted went at 36.
    Still happy to have Woo, though.
    In my 38 years of following the draft, Rathbone is the only player I have guess right on, so he holds a little extra live from this fan.

  • Attended last night’s scrimmage. Compared to last year, Hughes did not stand out in the same way that Pettersson stood out. I wondered if he was still suffering from the flu. Long shifts, didn’t look particularly fast. He did show some nice hands and vision on a couple of plays putting the puck in to open space and dangerous areas in the offensive zone. I think it is harder for a defenseman in these kinds of games to stand out because there is not a lot of structure and much of the job of the defense is just to move the puck up to forwards.

    The 2017 draft class continues to look good. Palmu was making plays. Lind has size, speed, and good hockey sense. DiPietro had one highlight save. Gunnarson was noticeable in that he won some battles and was also in a good position in the offensive zone. Rathbone looks like he might be a mid-round steal. He skates very well (as good or better than Hughes?) and showed good instincts for joining the rush.

    2018 Class. Hughes had his moments, but I was a bit disappointed after Pettersson set the bar so high last year. Woo can skate and even in the scrimmage showed a physical edge. I wonder if he could be in the mould of a Kevin Bieksa? Madden has not filled out yet and looked like the youngest player on the ice (not sure if he is or not). He did show the knack to get to open spaces and scored a nice goal in the 5 on 5 scrimmage. Utunen looks to have decent mobility but is small.
    At first glance, the 2017 class looks superior to 2018.