Ladies and gentlemen, I’m proud to say as a resident of British Columbia that we saw blue sky this past week. So while I celebrate breathing fresh air, Canuck fans 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. We’ve touched on the goaltenders, gone over the wildcard defensemen, and looked at the bottom two pairs. Today, we dive into the top 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
Olli Juolevi – Nikita Tryamkin
Jack Rathbone – Jalen Chatfield
Toni Utunen – Matt Brassard
The Top Pair
#1 Right Defenseman
Last week we started on the left side, so we’re starting on the right side today. Jett Woo might have one of the best names in hockey, and he’s the top right side defense prospect in the Vancouver Canucks system at the time this article is being written. Woo was taken in the 2nd round in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft with pick 37. The 18-year-old right shot defenseman possesses size, speed, and physicality to go along with an underrated offensive toolkit which he put on display in the first half of last year. Woo was on pace to be a mid to late 1st round pick this year before a shoulder injury slightly derailed his campaign, but that might be a blessing in disguise for the Canucks as they are quite pleased (as they should be) with Jett falling as far as he did. Jett Woo cracks the top 10 of the Sporting News Canuck’s prospect rankings, coming in at number 10 on the list. Down below are Woo’s stats and a highlight video showcasing one of our newest defense prospects.
(Jett Woo’s Stats from his age 15 season courtesy of eliteprospects.com)
(Jett Woo 2017-2018 highlights courtesy of the Youtube channel “VinzyHighlights”)
Starting with a quick rundown through Woo’s statistical development, it was clear he was ready to make the jump to the WHL in his final year in the MMHL, scoring over a PPG as a D man, which in prior articles I’ve claimed is a fantastic accomplishment for any level. Woo would jump into his first full year in the WHL at the age of 16 with the Moose Jaw Warriors, having an excellent season for a 16-year-old, while playing in a couple of tournaments for Canada’s national junior teams (U17 & U18). This past year, of course, was his draft year, and Woo started the season red hot before his injury. Our new site editor Ryan Biech went into great detail leading up to this year’s draft and had this to say about Woo’s offense.
“…Those expectations were exasperated by Woo’s strong start to the season that saw him post close to a point per game pace. He suffered a shoulder injury that saw him miss a month of action and upon his return, he was asked to play a different role.”
Woo would lose some of his offensive opportunities as Josh Brook and Kale Clague were brought in throughout the season. This doesn’t diminish the ability Woo has in the O-zone. We can see his ability to move the puck across the ice, and good decision making to utilize his sneaky wrist shot. Now let’s not kid ourselves, Woo’s skating and defensive prowess are going to be his calling cards on this pair. However, top pair defensemen need to be able to excel at certain aspects, while doing a little bit of everything and Jett Woo is up to the task. Also, fans are going to love seeing Woo deck opponents like down below.
(Another Woo highlight package, this one of his performance against the USA at the Summer Showcase in Kamloops earlier this summer. Youtube channel “ihaveyuidonttouchme”. The big hit is at 4:52 of the video)
Now, as we move forward with Woo’s development, the most important thing for Woo next season in the WHL is to keep himself healthy. As stated earlier, he was on pace for a PPG as a D man before a shoulder injury limited himself for the remainder of his draft year. If Woo can keep himself healthy we might see him tap into that potential that many thought would make him a 1st round draft pick. Ideally, Woo will dominate this upcoming year with the Warriors as an 18-year-old and potentially try to force his way onto the roster by 2019-2020. If he can’t make the NHL by then, he’ll spend one last year in the WHL before moving to the AHL for 2020-2021, getting a year of pro hockey under his belt before cracking the Canucks at the end of that season. By 2022-2023, Woo will have 1 full year on the Canucks blue line, and will rightfully take his spot on the top pair with the best defense prospect the Canucks have ever had for the following years to come.
#1 Left Defenseman
Quinn Hughes might be the most electric defense prospect the Vancouver Canucks have ever had in their franchise history. One of the best skaters on the planet, Hughes fell to #7 for the Canucks in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, and Jim Benning sprinted to the podium to select him. This seems like fate, as Hughes is going to get his wish to play in a hockey-crazed market, while the Canucks get the power play quarterback that is becoming so essential in today’s NHL. Quinn Hughes is a transition machine, has excellent passing, can skate his way out of trouble, and is so dynamic in the offensive zone that he’ll bring fans to their seats by just creating space to make the plays that’ll lead to goals. Hughes is the number 2 ranked prospect on the Sporting News Canucks prospect list, behind only Elias Pettersson. Down below will be Quinn Hughes stats and a highlight video you’ve probably seen before, but I hope you watch it again because Hughes really is something special.
(Quinn Hughes stats starting with his first year with the USNTDP Junior Team of the USHL, courtesy of eliteprospects.com)
(Quinn Hughes highlights from the WJSS from Kamloops this summer, courtesy of the YouTube channel “Hockey Prospects Center”)
I don’t feel you as fans need to hear me repeat the same dialect over and over, but I can’t help it. Quinn Hughes is incredible. We’ll start with the statistics, and from his age 16 season to his age 17 season, we see such a huge jump in USHL production. Going from a .32 PPG to a full point per game pace the following year. Quinn Hughes is a true student of the game, but he’s also incredibly self-aware. A quote from Hughes I’m going to highlight is down below.
“Being more comfortable and doing what you are good at which is sticking with your strengths,” he explained. “That really helps you to become more comfortable and let the game slow down.” (Courtesy of this article: https://www.usahockeyntdp.com/news_article/show/748836)
There are so many other quotes that Quinn has said that proves he knows what to do in order to become a true number one defenseman. It’s also an incredible show of confidence in himself. Then when you watch the highlights, you can visually see how confident he is. His drives to the net, and his ability to turn on a dime to open up a new lane to break the puck out. Someone who has watched Hughes grow first hand is his former coach John Wroblewski, and he’s got high praise for the Michigan native.
“He’s going to be that type of player that young kids try to emulate — that they want to be, that they strive to be — but it’s going to be very difficult to duplicate what he does,” Wroblewski said. “With this guy, he’s another generational-type talent, and he’ll be an influence on defensemen for years to come. I truly believe that.” (Quote courtesy of this article: http://www.sportingnews.com/us/nhl/news/nhl-draft-2018-quinn-hughes-highlights-projected-position-world-championship-performance-usa-ntdp/z75dnus48r4g1gfsgqzv3rpl5)
Yes, Hughes does have that kind of potential, not much else to it.
Now, moving forward to Hughes’ development, it’s pretty simple. Quinn will go back to the University of Michigan for this season, dominate the NCAA and potentially win the Hobey Baker. After his season with Michigan, depending on how far the school goes will determine when he jumps into the Canuck lineup. If Michigan is eliminated in March, Hughes will play at the end of this year, if Michigan’s season goes longer than the Canucks, then he’ll be in the lineup come the beginning of October 2019. Once Hughes gets in the lineup, he’ll be quarterbacking a power play and logging huge minutes on the Canucks blue line. Hughes will instantly become one of, if not the Canucks best defenseman for years to come, and by 2022-2023 will be on the top power-play unit and will be the first Norris trophy candidate in Canucks history.
As for the top pair, it truly is something to be excited about. Quinn Hughes has the potential to be a true #1 D man, leading the breakout, and quarterbacking a power play. Jett Woo’s defensive strengths, his size, and his ability to move for a bigger player will help cover up the few weaknesses of Hughes’ game (lack of size, which may hinder him winning net-front battles or the battles in the corners). I know Hughes stick game and hockey IQ will, in turn, contribute to a strong defensive presence, but with Woo taking a lot of the more physical battles, it’ll allow Hughes to truly recognize his defensive roamer playstyle in his own end. It’s a truly complete pairing and one that Canuck fans should happily anticipate seeing in the near future.
So, we’ve gone through my defense core for the 2022-2023 season, but before we move onto the forwards I’m going to touch on which power play/penalty kill unit each defenseman in my top six will play. However, I don’t want to just tell you guys what I think; let me know what you guys are thinking. I want to see your 2022-2023 defense cores. It could be the same, it could feature some guys on the current roster or some of the other defense prospects I haven’t featured in this series. Again, the only rules are that you can’t bring in someone from another organization or future drafts (looking at the current prospect pool). In addition, just remember that in 4 years time, certain players may be better or worse than where they are now. Thanks to everyone who has read the series up until this point! It’s been a blast.