I’d love to be able to tell you guys differently, but BC is still on fire… So, as Canuck fans patiently wait for the smoke to subside, we continue to eagerly await the arrival of Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, and other notable prospects in the Vancouver system. With this current group of future prospects and current young players, I wondered if the Canucks could build a contender from within. Going through the system, I came to the realization it’s entirely possible. I’ve come up with a roster of young players that the Canucks could see in their lineup by 2022-2023 (When the Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel contracts expire).
For this exercise, we will only be using players already in the Canucks system, and we won’t be contemplating any new young players the Canucks could potentially draft (Sorry Jack Hughes). Finally, we’re going to use the Sporting News prospect ranking the most.
We’ve touched on the goaltenders, and in the last piece talked about two defensemen who I like, but don’t crack my optimistic roster outlook. Today, I’m going to touch on the 3rd pair for the Canucks in 2022-2023.
2022-2023 ROSTER (PROGRESS)
Left Wing 1 – Center 1 – Right Wing 1
Left Wing 2 – Center 2 – Right Wing 2
Left Wing 3 – Center 3 – Right Wing 3
Left Wing 4 – Center 4 – Right Wing 4
Wildcard F 1
Left Defense 1 – Right Defense 1
Left Defense 2 – Right Defense 2
Left Defense 3 – Right Defense 3
Toni Utunen – Matt Brassard
3RD PAIR D MEN
Right Defense #3
Starting on the right side of the 3rd pair, Jalen Chatfield slides in as one of the bottom pairing defensemen on the Canucks roster. An undrafted junior free agent; Chatfield signed a three-year entry level contract with the Canucks in March of 2017 and has not disappointed. Chatfield has been a strong addition to a weak right-handed defense pool and adds a stable, quietly effective two-way game. Chatfield is not on the top 10 of Canucks prospects as per the Sporting News prospect rankings. Chatfield’s career is similar to that of Chris Tanev, as they both signed their entry-level deals after being undrafted (Tanev from the NCAA, Chatfield from Windsor of the OHL) at the age of 20 years old. As it stands, my optimistic outlook for Chatfield is that of a Chris Tanev build, with a little more nastiness and durability. Down below are some base stats and a highlight video for the Michigan native.
(Chatfield’s stats starting from his age 16 season courtesy of Eliteprospects.com)
Beginning with the T1EHL U18 league; his age 16 and 17 seasons spent in the Belle Tire U18 team were quite solid. Good offensive progression from year to year while not taking too many penalties. As he gets into the OHL at 18, he goes through some growing pains. The highlights shown above are from Chatfield’s memorial cup winning season as a 20-year-old with the Windsor Spitfires in 2016-2017. Although his numbers drop slightly, Jalen shows off good wheels, a strong slap shot, excellent defensive awareness, and that nasty streak I want to see from a bottom pairing defender. Chatfield was also a leader on the memorial cup winning team, serving as an alternate captain. This past season in Utica, Chatfield’s game was praised numerous times. Speaking of praise, Canucks Army’s own Cory Hergott spoke about Chatfield on an episode of Nation Network Radio and had this to say.
“I see a lot of Chris Tanev in his game, he’s very good along the boards; he’s super calm and cool… [Marlies forward] Marchment had a good head start on him to get to a puck in the Comets zone and Chatfield tracked him down, got the puck, and turned it over the other way to get the Comets going in the other direction. That’s something we see from him game in and game out: he’s fast. He’s also got some pretty decent stick work… I’d like to see him shoot the puck more. He’s gaining a little confidence with his shot. He finally picked up a pair of goals in the last couple of games of the season… I like him. I think there’s a good chance he’s a player down the road.”
Of course, why would Chatfield be effective on this Canucks roster in 2022-2023? Chatfield hitting as a top 6 D man gives the Canucks a hard working, smooth skating bottom pair D man with the ability to play on the penalty kill. A new age defensive defenseman able to get the puck to his other defence partner or create an outlet to the forwards is critical to succeed in today’s NHL. Chatfield would provide stability, nastiness, leadership qualities, a strong work ethic he’ll demonstrate to his younger teammates, all the while doing his job. His lack of offensive upside limits his projection, but that’s ok. Chatfield’s progression in the build-up should include him getting some NHL games THIS SEASON to see how he acclimates. By 2019-2020 I would like to see Chatfield up in the NHL on a full-time basis, and during 2020-2022 (2 seasons) he could play up and down the defence core while some of the other prospects fill in to form. With how well Chatfield played last year in Utica, he’ll earn his cup of coffee sooner rather then later, especially if the injuries pile up on the Canucks blue line for a 3rd straight year.
Left Defense #3
Our left side bottom pairing defenseman on the Canucks 2022-2023 roster is one of my favourite prospects in the Vancouver system, 19-year-old Jack Rathbone. Rathbone was a 4th round draft pick in 2017, which looks to be Benning’s best draft class to date. Rathbone is a dynamic, smooth skating offensive defenseman, and when I say smooth skating… I mean silky smooth. The offensive potential on Rathbone is astounding, and he is going to be one of the dark-horse prospects to watch in the coming seasons as he moves into Harvard in the NCAA. Jack Rathbone is not one of the Canucks top 10 prospects according to Sporting News, however, I would have him in my personal top 10. An incredible character with high-end offensive instincts and wheels to burn. Down below are his stats and a highlight video from one of his games at Dexter earlier this year.
(Rathbone’s regular season stats, starting in his age 15 season courtesy of Eliteprospects.com)
(Rathbone highlight video courtesy of the YouTube channel “Canucks Prospects” (This dude is legit a godsend))
Other than his size, there is SO much to like about Rathbone’s game. Looking at his regular season counting numbers, Rathbone’s offensive production spiked from 2014-15 to 2015-16 and he just hasn’t looked back. Now, pumping the breaks a little bit we do see he wasn’t in the USHL for a long period of time, it’s still impressive to see a defenseman score over a PPG at any level. In the game shown above, Rathbone is a one man wrecking crew. Flying all over the ice to set up chances and find open looks. Also, Rathbone has a howitzer of a shot and isn’t afraid to use it, blasting bomb after bomb on the numerous power-play opportunities Dexter received. Rathbone was a commanding force this year with Dexter and knew when to properly use his speed to create controlled zone entries for his squad and when to pass it down or flip it for the dump. Spending as much time talking about Rathbone, why isn’t he higher on the depth chart? Well that’s partly due to the fact the Canucks have two other legit left side defenseman in the prospect pipeline awaiting an opportunity, and one of those is also a dynamic yet undersized defenseman (you know who).
As we move towards the 2022-2023 roster, Rathbone isn’t someone fans are likely to see in a Canucks jersey until late 2021-2022 or the beginning of 2022-2023. Rathbone is still just 19 years old and has 4 years to decide whether or not he signs with the Canucks or rides out his time at Harvard and becomes a UFA. I don’t see Rathbone not signing with Vancouver due to his close ties with Director of Amateur Scouting Judd Bracket, so let’s move to his course of development. For me, this one is pretty easy. There is no shame in having Rathbone stew in the NCAA, honing his craft against older players. Let Rathbone get used to using his speed and offensive instincts in a tougher setting, and by year 3 the hope is that he’ll be a truly dynamic offensive defenseman capable of running a power-play unit. Rathbone will finish up his 4th season with Harvard, sign with the Canucks and play some games to end 2021-2022, then be up full time with the Canucks for the 2022-2023 season. Having Rathbone on the 3rd pair would be an excellent way to help him get acclimated to the NHL in his 1st full year.
What separates this pair from the wildcard pair? Well, we’ll start with me stating I think it’s more likely that BOTH Chatfield and Rathbone hit the ceilings I envision by the start of 2022-2023. I also believe that Rathbone and Chatfield are better at their respective roles than Brassard and Utunen. Chatfield will provide a little more bite than Utunen will, and Rathbone has a better offensive skill set than Brassard. This 3rd pair wouldn’t be a 12 minute pair either, as I expect both Chatfield and Rathbone to be employed with the power-play (Rathbone) and the penalty kill (Chatfield). With Chatfield’s strong defensive instincts, and Rathbone’s wheels and passing. This pair could be a hidden gem of a Canucks team looking to contend.