Photo Credit: NHL.com

WWYDW: Developing Youth

The way the Utica Comets have handled young players has been the subject of many online debates this season, which is why I was surprised that Jonathan Dahlen’s comments about his time in Utica mostly flew under the radar.

A lot was made of Dahlen’s denial that he asked for a trade, but what was more interesting to me were his comments regarding how he felt about his development during his time in Utica, in an interview he gave to Swedish Publication Sundsvalls Tidning:

My whole career I have loved hockey, I have always been happy and I have gained energy from it, I have walked around with a smile on my face. It has been tough when you haven’t really been given the chance to play your own game, and if you make a mistake you get to sit and you get an earful. I have been in a tough spot, it works for some, but not for me.

I have had a tough season and I have been feeling up and down. They have treated me in a way that hasn’t brought forward the best hockey player in me nor developed me in the right way. That’s what I have told the agent, that it is the wrong way to treat me if they want me to develop.

Dahlen’s statements could certainly just be sour grapes, but they’ll do nothing to dispell the notion that there has been trouble on the farm regarding how the team is developing their young players. What do you think? Are you satisfied with the way the Comets have handled their youth this season? If not, what would you change?

Last week I asked: Who would you like to see as Hughes’ defense partner? Should the team allow him to play more than 10 games?


Given that Hughes is still recovering from injury, I’d sit him out a couple of games, then get him into a few practices with the team and healthy scratch him, and get him in the final 9 games of the season. That gets him an NHL paycheque, eases him into the lineup, ensures he’s not playing on an injured food, and protects him from exposure to the expansion draft.

I honestly can’t see any reason for the team to rush him into the lineup or play him more than nine games to finish the season.

As for partners? I’d like to see the following pairs to end the season, in a few games’ time when everyone’s healthy:

Edler / Tanev
Hughes / Stetcher
Hutton / Biega


Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

I expect the answers to be almost unanimous.

1. If both are healthy enough to play, Tanev seems like the best available partner for Hughes the remainder of this season. Hughes biggest step is likely to be learning to play defence at the NHL level and Tanev is the most knowledgeable and consistent defensively among the right side d-men.

2. It would seem beyond comprehension to even consider playing Hughes to the extent the Canucks would have to protect him in the expansion draft. Hughes development is not going to depend in any way on whether he gets into 8, 9 or 11 games this season. He’s not going to get the Canucks into the playoffs playing an extra game or two or three.

It is possible that it won’t matter much for expansion purposes, but we can’t tell at this time how things look on the protected list two years from now. I don’t think it is good for the franchise in the long-term to try to build extra hope to maybe sell a few more tickets this summer when there is some possibility it could cost the team someone they want to keep later.


Advertisement - Continue Commenting Below

Sit him for a few, let him hang with the guys and see what the NHL is like. I’d play him a couple of times on the road before he plays at home and just ease him in with sheltered situations. He is a skinny kid trying to learn how to play in a mans league, don’t wet your pocket protectors thinking he needs to be a thrown in as a showcase talent in his first few games in the league.
Anyone that knows better and has actually played has been treated this way since they were a young teenager coming up through the ranks. College to Pro isnt much different than being 15 and playing against 17 year olds. There is a process and the worst thing to do (unless you are a Gretzky, McDavid, Crosby, Lemieux or Matthews) is to have any expectations bigger than “just go out there, keep your head up, have some fun and play the game”.


Definitely play him 9 or fewer games, but pair him up with Schenn for his first forays out there.

Reason: Schenn is a good stay at home Dman, shows good positioning, defensively responsible, has size and is willing to stick up for other players.

If Quinn goes for a walk and gets in trouble he has Schenn backing him up. It’s not ideal, but starting with a solid positional/pushback capable Dman for early games in his career is a good start.

Both can benefit from sheltered minutes.

If Hughes is doing fine, he can play with other D just to get used to how things can change with different partners.

They say Benning has addressed this issue but I’m saying, “Please Mr. Benning, do not let QH go beyond the nine games under any circumstances.” Just because it geographic/ territorial Seattle will definitely take a Canuck regardless. If the Canucks do the right thing with/by Quinn Hughes they’ll get to protect a good player by this process. That draft will creep on you faster than you think.

  • Killer Marmot

    The Dahlen incident alone doesn’t mean much. There were hints before this that Dahlen was high maintenance, so who knows what really went on?

    But when combined with Palmu returning to Finland, it doesn’t look good. Vancouver and Utica should definitely talk over the summer about how to improve player development.

    • bushdog

      neither one was doing much. palmu going back if he can’t handle it is one thing but dahlen spouting off is another. good that he’ll (sort of) speak his mind but wanting top minutes because he’s a scorer but won’t play 200′ is quite interesting. he might be the next wonder-kid…but he looks like a privileged whiner. if he doesn’t grab an attitude adjustment he’ll be gone in a couple of years.
      as usual there are hiccups for kids. if they decide they don’t want to play a team game, they sit. some catch on and some don’t. you can bet benning etal are on top of things there and if they thought for a moment that something was wrong it would be fixed. nothing has happened except a couple of zero-impact guys have left. good news for those dedicated to improve their game

    • canuckfan

      Agree that Canucks and Comets need to talk this summer which is likely what will happen anyways and player development would be the number one topic of who is ready and have any of the prospects moved forward.
      On Dahlen I think his dad is the one who has been pushing his son and pressuring both the agent and management. Hope the kid figures it out but if he doesn’t then that is on him. I think the Canucks want a work ethic throughout the system and are trying get the prospects in Utica to buy into that as well. It has been a tough year with the injuries on Canucks hurting the Comets and then the injuries in Utica compounding the effect.
      Look for things to improve next year throughout the system.

    • North Van Halen

      Just curious, aren’t Cull, the coach, and Johansson, the GM, both employees pf the Canucks. Wouldn’t they be in contact almost daily? My guess is the conversations went kinda like this:
      Benning: Um Palmu wants to go back to Finalnd, he thinks he’s not getting enough ice time.
      Johansson: He’s not good enough to play here yet. The pace is too fast, he’s the 15th best forward on this team right now.
      JB: So he’s better off n Finland at least this year?
      RJ: Yes
      JB: Just go a call from Dahlen’s agent, he said he thinks Cull is being too hard on him and not giving him top line minutes, wants to move unless things change
      RJ: We tried, he’s too slow. He gets PP 1 time because he has nice hands but 5 on 5 he keeps getting buried.
      JB: Do you think he can play on the big club anytime soon?
      RJ: Not based on his present talent & work ethic, he has a lot of work do and doesn’t seem interested in doing it.
      JB: So is he a major building block moving forward or not?
      RJ: No.

      What would they talk about in the summer they couldn’t discuss today?

      • Killer Marmot

        I was a manager for over 12 years. I heard that all the time: “I don’t know why we have to have a full review on this. It should only take 5 minutes.” Two hours later we have pages of ideas to potentially improve the product.

        • PotKettleBlack

          There is a massive difference between managing the line cooks at Arby’s and running an NHL franchise Kevin… but i guess your blatant narcissism just won’t accept that eh…

          • Killer Marmot

            I am now trying to imagine YOU managing the line cooks at Arby’s. Probably result in news reports describing fast-food employers lowering a manager genitals-first into the deep fryer.

            That’s a little too graphic. I might never eat at Arby’s again.

  • Rusty bucket

    Its hard to comment on how satisfied I am with how the Comets training staff has developed its youth when all we see is what media shows us, the rare time a player speaks his mind (Dahlen – and the loss of words from translation), and the insight that Comet Cory has provided us. Even harder when we the AHL doesnt post ice-times.
    Coming from a hockey fan, not a coach, its easy for us to question why for example Arseneau was getting shifts over Gadjovich, but it seems like Cull likes to insulate his rookies with solid vets. As Cory has commented, he puts the young players in big time situations. Early in the season there were just simply too many young players for Cull to fit all in. All in all, from the information I have, I feel they are doing an adequate job. If I was in the room, I might have a different story, but we just do not know.

  • North Van Halen

    It sounds to me like Dahlen is used to be the best player on his team and allowed to ‘cheat the details’ Now that he’s not and being told to play a responsible 200 foot game first and worry about offence second he’s not used to it. Cull came from the Tampa system which seems to have a pretty good handle on the way to develop players on the farm, so you’d think he’d know a successful process for developing youth.
    Maybe Cull has an abrasive manner that’s rubbing some kids the wrong way, maybe the Canucks are just dumb and don’t want their prospects to develop, maybe Dahlen is a entitled whiner. We really don’t know. Since this is really the first time since Edler, Bieksa, Hanson, Burrows & Kesler were in the minors we’ve had any prospects of note playing or on their way to our minor league affiliate, it’s really too early to tell what is going on.
    If more prospects speak out or ask out, we’ll know there’s a problem. If things settle down and prospects start rising though the ranks then it’s business as usual, nothing to see here.

    • Freud

      Once again, explain how Tampa’s farm team has 8 of it’s top 13 scorers aged 21 yrs or younger and Utica has one.

      Either Tampa has a completely different approach to their development on the farm or Benning is just an unlucky guy who always gets stuck with the entitled kids?

      You would think a Tampa prospect would ask to be traded before a Vancouver prospect. How are any kids going to get a shot in the bigs anytime soon on a loaded Tampa team with no room. But, somehow it’s the opposite.

      Let’s assume the best team in the league by a country mile knows what they’re doing, the worst team over the last 4 years does not and stop with the mindless justifying.

        • Bud Poile

          In addition to those three all these players were 21 and younger playing on the Comets roster this season:
          Chatfield,Carcone and MacEwen are 22.
          Seven Vancouver Canucks on the NHL roster are aged 21 or less.
          There are three Lightening on the roster aged 21 or less.

          So,yes,please do stop the mindless diatribe,Freud.
          Re:”How are any kids going to get a shot in the bigs anytime soon on a loaded Tampa team with no room. But, somehow it’s the OPPOSITE.” Freud

          • PotKettleBlack

            Speaking of LIARS… Demko is 23 and in fact 24 THIS YEAR

            Gardiner – 23
            Gaudette – 23
            LaBlanc – 23
            MacMaster – 23
            McEwan – 23

            So,yes,please do stop the mindless diatribe,Dud.

      • Defenceman Factory

        More lies from Freud. You have lied about Syracuse before so I checked. They have 5 of their top 13 scorers aged 21 or younger. Their 12th highest scorer has 20 points according to the AHL website.

        According to Killer the Comets have 3. Add Hughes and any one of the other prospects playing in another league and the comparison is pretty close.

      • North Van Halen

        Cool story bro. Not true as it’s only 6 of 13 and misleading as 4 or the top 5 are AHL vets but I’m not sure how it’s relevant to this discussion. Are you saying because Tampa has a lot of young guys doing well it means they were all just gifted ice time and soared to new heights? Are you saying we should keep guys like Petey and now Hughes down in the minors a couple of years just so we can have lots of young guys playing down there?
        What I said was Cull coached in the Tampa farm system. Their system is very successful. I’m guessing Cull is following the steps he learned as A/C in Syracuse. The number of youngsters playing and contributing on each farm club has dozens of factors, you can’t cherry pick one. Your post though adequately condescending given who you are is equally irrelevant and misleading but thanks for trying.

  • TheRealPB

    Perhaps what the Canucks need is an assistant coach who is familiar with developing players coming out of European systems? Because the main issue seems to have been with Dahlen and Palmu (although Palmu played in the OHL). It’s not as simple as saying that there’s a problem with Utica, any more than looking at the players who’ve graduated to the NHL or had a cup of coffee and saying that everything’s fine. It is the case that we’ve had a substantial number of players who seem to have developed well — Gaudette didn’t have much time in Utica but he seems to have been fine, same with Demko and Juolevi. MacEwan and Sautner also clearly improved.

    It’s hard to know what exactly went wrong with Palmu and Dahlen. I do wonder sometimes about the broader games management strategy of the Canucks. I think both of them played 60-ish games in the Swedish and Finnish leagues before coming over — I don’t know if the strategy is to limit games. Until we get a better read on how they’re developing (or not) it’s not clear where the blame lies.

    • Rodeobill

      When I was that age, I went through the biggest change and adaptation in my life (as did many). Moving out of the house, and university life.
      These kids have the added paradigm-shifting changes of having to move to a completely different country, linguistic setting, professional sports expectations and lifestyle, and becoming a media personality. Having an assistant coach from over there who understands those elements of what they deal with sounds like it might go far in helping ease them in.

      • Bud Poile

        I agree with your overall thesis and reasoning but employing an Asst. Coach from “over there” is interesting.
        Palmu is a Finn and Dahlen is a Swede.Jasek and Mazanek are Czecks.Kulbakov is from Belarus.
        Every kid leaving home has challenges.Europeans are further challenged with culture and language.
        This is now the information age where communication is instant.Most European children learn english.
        Palmu was a 6th round/181st pick.
        Dahlen was completely inconsistent with reality in the interviews following his departure.
        Utica has seen 55 players on their roster this season,alone.
        Creating dissension and controversy is what some reporters/journalists polish to push their narratives.

      • PotKettleBlack

        I love the way Lo-wlife is now trying to talk hockey since getting called out and owned on his proven FOUR YEAR WHINE fest. Too funny.

        Isn’t it also hllarious how he called for a boycott of certain astute posters he calls ‘trolls’ that has totally backfired – the forum is on fire with great commentary and lots of upvoting while Lo-wlife is desperately trying to garner any form of attention for himself. Epic fail ahahahahaha

    • Braindead Benning

      Good Point, PB having a coach who could be a buffer (not at fluffer) within the players who come overseas and having a more challenging adjustment to the AHL might be more beneficial to the players and their AHL team going forward. This regime needs to develop a stronger organised system.

  • PotKettleBlack

    The farm club mirrors the parent club, it’s an absolute non-playoff trainwreck and there is one common thread beween the two – Benning.

    This outdated ‘hockey guy’ is the absolute master of disaster. The facts don’t lie – Let’s see

    Demko concussion mishandled.
    Petey two concussions mishandled.

    Dahlen demands a trade and is now loving life and hockey again playing for a better franchise.

    Palmu back in Finland and happy again.
    Tryamkin quits the team and is happy back in Russia

    In fact, practically every player who has been lucky enough to get away from this Canucks disaster has moved on to happier times and better things… ask Guddy, McCann, Gagner, Bonino, Forsling, Kesler and Yannick Weber for starters.

    Y’all need to take the blinkers off and get a grasp on reality.

    • bushdog

      say what?
      tryamkin can’t even get into the lineup. how do you know palmu is happy ‘again’? give me a quote that proves dahlen is happy and playing better.
      you cite 7 guys that are gone and call them ‘happier’ and loving life away from van…geez. if you mean pay cheques…maybe. LOL
      you’re slinging nonsense pal, try to put a little reality into your posts

  • Me

    I remember a time when Virtanen got upset with the Canucks org because he felt hard done by. If he hadn’t been a local boy, who knows? Maybe he’d have asked for a trade too. If being tough on players is what turns Virtanen from an on-again off-again player to someone who shows up every night ready to work, then isn’t scaring a few players away worth that price? Especially if said players aren’t ready and willing to dig deep and give the effort coaches expect.
    Maybe Dahlen will figure it out at his next stop. Maybe it’ll take a few trades before he realizes how much effort coaches expect from players in the pros. I hope he makes it, but there’s still a pretty good chance he won’t, and coddling him because he has “potential” doesn’t do any favours to anyone.

  • Kootenaydude

    I don’t think most of us can give a credible opinion on Utica. We don’t live in Utica. We don’t get to watch many games, practice or go to games. We don’t see the hustle of these players. We don’t know how many minutes they play or line combinations. Most of us know only know what Cory tells us. What I do know is most of our high end talent has come via Europe or the college route. If Juolevi, Lind and Gadjovich don’t show improvement next year. We could have a problem. All were injured though and Juolevi would have been on the big club if he wasn’t. Right now the only opinion I trust on what the Utica Comets should or shouldn’t been doing is Comet Cory. I would love to hear Cory’s thoughts on this question.

  • Kanuckhotep

    Part of the problem with Euros playing pro in North America initially may be that in places like Sweden or Czech Republic et al they’re bigger fish in small ponds. Over here it may be culture shock and hockey culture shock where they’re more just another number more so than in Europe. Can’t say for certain if that has any barring on what happened with Dahlen or Palmu but is worth considering.

  • Puck Viking

    There is serious problems in Utica.

    Multiple player exits with players on the team under performing.

    This team cant waste prospects due to mismanagement.

    Fire the coach and tell the GM he is gone next if he cant right the ship.

  • Rodeobill

    A little off topic, but I have noticed that Boeser has really improved his 200 foot game, in the last while. I was critical and kind of disappointed actually to see through the beginning of the season that he was looking quite one dimensional, strictly a shooter. But more recently he has put those worries to rest with good puck possession, back checks, board battles, passes, etc. Maybe some of Petey is wearing off on him, or maybe he is getting fully healthy, but he had me worried there for a while.

    • Bud Poile

      Brock is tight with Elias. Petey works a 200′ game as his trademark.
      I think Petey has definitely rubbed off on him in the best way possible.
      Those two have been playing great together lately.

        • Bucket

          Do you often think of rapey, molestation insults? Is that where your brain likes to go when you want to put someone down? You must think of scenarios like that often for your brain to want to go there first and that really is ‘yuk’, to say the absolute least. Seek help before you hurt someone.

  • Hockey Bunker

    The Utica team is currently too old. It is a symptom of years of nearly zero effective drafting, predating JB and during his first two years during the win for the Sedins misguided attempt. Utica is primarily populated by other teams castoffs. Over next three years it should trend younger and real development will begin. Utica has two roles, develop for the future and have NHL ready players now to step in when there are injuries.
    Those NHL ready players in the future will increasingly be Canucks picks.

  • Defenceman Factory

    There is one change that should definitely be made in Utica. The organization needs to do a better job evaluating if young players are ready to play there. If not leave them in Europe or Junior or the ECHL. The roster had too many wingers all season. If they are close (Dahlen) make sure he is pushed and can be given the ice time to develop. I really wonder if Dahlen isn’t destined to be a Ried Boucher or Linden Vey who develops into a good AHL scorer but can’t turn the corner.

    I am not surprised about how the year has gone for Gadjovich or Lind. Gads skating just is not good. I watched Lind all through his junior. He was along way from pro ready at the end of his draft +1 year. He weighed a skinny 170 and had no clue how to use a physical check to gain puck possession. He way too often went out of his way to avoid any contact. He was always chippy, slashing and punching after the whistle, running his mouth. His skating was above average for the dub which equates to just adequate in the pros. Don’t forget Linden Vey and Emerson Etem had very similar PPG rates in junior. Lind was always a decent 200 ft player so if he puts in the work he’ll make it. If not he won’t.

  • Bucket

    In order for me to believe that there is a problem in Utica that needs fixing, I would also have to believe that Dahlen and Palmu know more about how to successfully develop prospects than the coaches, management and the organisation in general. The comments of 2 disgruntled young long shots don’t suggest anything is wrong other than their own humility.