Photo Credit: uticacomets.com

Vancouver Canucks Development Camp Through The Utica Lens: Interview With Trent Cull

Trent Cull Interview

After spending the last handful of days in Vancouver shuttling back and forth to the Canucks development camp, I am finally able to sit down and fill you in on a few things from my three days of viewings, along with an interview or two that I was able to conduct.

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I wanted to start things off with my talk with Utica Comets GM, Ryan Johnson, but I am having some technical difficulties with my audio file. I will try to save it but haven’t been successful so far.

The Comets started last season with six rookie wingers to fit into eight open wing spots while also carrying Reid Boucher, Darren Archibald, Brendan Gaunce, Zack MacEwen, and Michael Carcone as wingers who were under contract to the parent club.

Much was made in this market about how the young Comets’ players were deployed by the coaching staff last year so I thought I would give head coach Trent Cull the opportunity to respond to how he managed the roster and the suggestion that he has been coaching to win rather than coaching to develop prospects for the Canucks.

“With setting the lineup, it is a team decision. Ryan Johnson is my boss and we are always trying to find the right avenue. It’s not just me, spur of the moment, writing down on a napkin who we think we are going with, so it’s something we talk about as a staff.”

“There are considerations. Is that young player ready for the challenge every night? There’s more when you’re reading deeper into it.”

“It would be great to put all of the young guys in, but we are wanting to make sure that we are putting them into situations where they can succeed. We want to make sure that we can put them with a player with experience who can help them.”

“There are quite a few balls to balance. At the start of the season in the AHL, you are always heavy. We were practising with, I think, 29 skaters before Michael Carcone ended up being moved out in a trade. We had a lot of bodies, guys want to play and you’re trying to be competitive.”

“It’s a delicate balance and we just try to sit down and navigate the best path for our prospects and our other guys who have been there and played in the past.”

“We see team success and the playoffs as another level of development for the young players. It’s valuable experience for them going forward.”

I mentioned to Trent that I had noticed Kole Lind’s game take off a bit after he came back from an injury and was lined up with Vincent Arseneau. I mentioned that I saw Lind pick up on Arseneau’s energy and how he seemed to be more engaged and looked more confident. I then said that I felt that would have been a good time to try giving Kole a few more minutes further up the lineup with that newfound confidence and engagement.

“I don’t have my numbers in front of me, but Kole played further up the lineup near the end of the season. He had multiple injuries and once he got going, he got injured again. That kind of hurts a young player. They get some momentum, which can be difficult to do, and then they get injured.”

“It’s part of the process, we want to get ice time for everybody, but we are still trying to make sure that we are fine-tuning the other layer of prospects. The Zack MacEwen’s, the Thatcher Demko’s, the Sautner’s, the Brisebois’ etc. We have to make sure that we’re putting those guys in good situations too.”

“It’s certainly a balance and I understand in my job that I’m only as good as who is and isn’t playing or whatever it is. It doesn’t matter how many guys are playing well or getting called up, or over achieving, it’s always going to be about what’s going on with the things that aren’t going the way we’d like them to.”

“We have to make sure that we’re thinking about the players’ success. Sometimes at the start of the year, guys aren’t ready for that every night. It’s a tough league and we say that all the time.”

“Sometimes we can play them too much. I had Lukas Jasek playing on the top line for the first two months of the year and he almost played too much. He’s a guy who got to the finish line and just barely made it over.”

It was at this point when I told Cull that I thought Jasek had a pretty solid season and that I liked his game, work ethic and especially his work in board battles and wondered if he would be up for another challenge this year.

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“We needed a dynamic of more team speed and Lukas has great speed. He brought that speed to the Kero/Boucher line, but when you’re given a lot, you have to be able to keep that up and it can be difficult to do at times for young players. You know what, it’s a learning process for all the kids and I thought that Lukas had a good year too.”

Another area where the Comets coaching staff has taken some heat was the handling of Petrus Palmu and Jonathan Dahlen. I mentioned to Trent that I had spoken with some players from his team who had gushed about what the coaching staff was doing with them and how there were no issues with communication between the player and staff. I asked how it was possible that Dahlen and Palmu’s comments after leaving the club could have been so opposite of what I had been hearing from other players.

“I can’t say why they feel like that. I wish I could tell you how much time I have spent with the young players. The players who are younger get the lion’s share of our time as a coaching staff to get them up to speed.”

“I felt that there was a lot of communication with both players, but I do understand that when things aren’t going the way they think is good enough for them…they’re young men and sometimes people don’t volunteer that maybe they could have done things better. They’re good young men and I enjoyed coaching them. It’s unfortunate that it didn’t work out, but that can happen in this game.”

“Vancouver does a great job of drafting/identifying players. We like our group, these are good young men, the quality and character of the guys they are. It’s a pleasure to coach them. Zack MacEwen, Thatcher Demko, Sautner, Brisebois…I have three sons of my own, but when you’re telling those guys that they’re getting called up, or that they’re doing a great job, it’s such a great feeling.”

“There are always ups and downs, it’s a process. They all have different timelines and we try to make sure that we’re getting better every day. If people have a different timeline for themselves, that isn’t in our control. We are trying to better the group and better the individual every day.”

Moving on, I wanted to touch on what will be a fairly different looking blueline in Utica for the upcoming season. The Comets had a tough time getting points from the backend last year without Olli Juolevi and Evan McEneny after both were lost to season-ending injuries. I asked if Cull saw the trio of Brogan Rafferty, Josh Teves, and Mitch Eliot as players who could potentially provide some offence for the club.

“I would be so remiss if I gave an opinion on that right now. I mean, I hope so, I know they are highly touted and it’s great that we’ve got these guys coming in.”

“It was crazy last year in that aspect. I thought that Olli had a really good start to the year and unfortunately, Evan was coming off an injury from the year before and was putting up career numbers and all of a sudden we lose him.”

“We were so happy for Sautner and Brisebois when they were called up, but suddenly you’re looking around the room and saying, these aren’t the six guys that I started the year with.”

“We know what these young guys are coming in and I’m looking forward to coaching them. It’s going to be great to get Olli back. I’d imagine it will take some time for him to get back into the routine, the poor guy hasn’t even played 20 games in the American League.”

I had a couple more questions for Cull, but unfortunately, as I said, I had some technical difficulties with my audio files from day one and lost the last three or so minutes of this interview.

My takeaway from my discussion with the Comets head coach was more or less what I was expecting to hear from him. His answers were in line with what I saw while watching the Comets play over the past two seasons.

This team is trying to build a culture where players can succeed when they put in the work and earn their minutes. Trent Cull is trying to prepare players so that they can play a regular shift under Canucks bench boss Travis Green. We might not always like/agree with his methods, but the coach does have the best interest of the players in mind when he is handing out minutes and when he adds more responsibility to the mix.

After speaking with Trent, I feel that we will see players like Kole Lind and Jonah Gadjovich take on more minutes in the 2019/20 season. It will be up to the players to take advantage of those minutes when they get them.

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Stay tuned over the coming days as I will be breaking down my chats with Brogan Rafferty, Josh Teves, Mitch Eliot and Canucks General Manager, Jim Benning.


  • Hockey Bunker

    Great insight thanks Cory. Clearly they have a system, Cull seems tuned into the development role.
    Sounds like the expectation is for OJ to start in Utica, like last year.
    The insight into Jasek is interesting because sounds like Cull put him into a position which was a reach but a good one. I expect Lind and others to get that this year. Again part of the process.
    Practicing with 29 players is a big problem, hope they are a little leaner next year by putting more players in Kalamazoo. The Leafs use that league like baseball uses double A, smart.

    • Yes, I think it would be smart, though expensive, to find another ECHL franchsie and make it a Canuck only property. Maybe that solves the problem of prospects who are too good for junior but are too young for the AHL.

  • Killer Marmot

    Trying to manage a team where success is rewarded with losing your best players to the NHL must be tough. Nor is having to deal with men in their late teens and early twenties, who love hockey but also love beer, girls, and gaming, the easiest of jobs. You have to teach them how to be professionals, and often you won’t succeed.

  • canuckfan

    The Comets will have more depth from the goalie out. Not all the forwards are going to make the Canucks and those that don’t will be sent to Utica. One or two may get picked up off waivers and others maybe insulted but its going to happen. Benning is building an NHL team which also means a strong farm team for when the injuries hit the players can have someone take their place until they return sometimes they will return to find they have lost their spot to someone who took advantage of the situation and stepped it up to stay in the NHL.

  • CamBurke

    Cull needs to be culled. He has developed ZERO core players for the Canucks and has done nothing to stem the tide of a losing culture in Utica since the previous regime took them to the Calder final. Just the facts.

    • Each It

      At least take your dentures out like you do for Freud if you’re gonna try and have more rough mouth sex with Cory and Trent.

      Cam the douche nozzle… just a fact lol

      • Beer Can Boyd

        Nice insults. Unfortunately for you, me, and all Canucks fans, Cam is 100% correct. Cull has developed zero core players for the Canucks. In fact, as of this moment, he’s developed zero players period for the Canucks. 10 game injury call ups don’t count. He better up his game this year, or he’ll be working at Tims next summer.

          • Beer Can Boyd

            “I’d be more careful with who you are aligning yourself with Boyder.” What exactly does that mean? Is it meant to be advice, or a threat? I agreed 100% with what he/she posted, and I said so. And the post below it was repulsive
            Isn’t that what internet forums are all about? As for Demko, I’m not convinced that those 62 games he played for Cull over the last 2 years are what shaped his future….

          • CamBurke

            Talk about an obsessive stalker lol… get a life Gino and mind yur fc(u)king manners or you lose your account… and don’t think adding a lil pic makes a difference. Off you go and stalk someone else eh and leave the grown ups like me and Boyd to talk hockey.

          • Bud Poile

            Cull has been there overseeing the players the NHL club sends his way.There are many players he has coached that have played with the big club. Gaudette,Juolevi,MacEwen,Sautner,Brisebois,Rafferty and Teves should all see AHL/NHL time next season.

          • CamBurke

            Oh look, dumb little troll Dud back in the local library for his free internet time.

            Cull has done nothing pal… nada. NONE of those scrubs have stuck with the nucks dud, and NONE of them will make it beyond the pressbox or be the difference makers required under Greener, especially with his and Benning’s jobs hanging by a thread, OK?

            Off you go now, those flea-bitten mutts aren’t going to fumigate themselves.

  • Kanuckhotep

    One of the worst jobs in all of hockey must be a minor league pro coach. The big club will always have priority and farm be given the scraps and/or inexperienced guys coming out of junior, college and Europe. Any AHL coach is in tough and maybe there are better guys than Trent Cull but don’t know what he could have done differently. After all how much autonomy would someone in his position have to make his line up better?

  • TheRealPB

    Great to see another excellent report from you Cory. Loved the interview, gave great insight into Cull (and presumably the team’s) side of things re: Palmu and Dahlen. I’ve wondered before if it wouldn’t be good for the Canucks to have an assistant coach who has familiarity with the transition that European players in particular might have to the North American pro game (even for guys like Palmu who played in the minors here), just to help avoid certain kinds of miscommunication. Though it doesn’t seem to have affected Jasek or Juolevi so maybe it is just about particular personalities?

    • TheRealRusty

      As I recall, one (or both) of Palmu and/or Dahlen mentioned that there was zero communication from Cull. Someone is either lying or covering their ass in this interview. That accusations of lack of communication is cause for worry as far as I am concern…

      • CamBurke

        Excellent insight rusty and bang on. Cull’s job is to nurture prospects for the big club, and as you say two have already bailed under a cloud… epic fail. But hey, it’s Gillis’ fault dude, a$$licker dud says so lol.

      • Marvin101

        i heard johnson being interviewed about communication and he basically said the players were clearly told what was expected of them and that was all that is needed. it was clearly a one way communication, management gives the orders and the players follow orders if they want to succeed. i’d blame johnson more than cull for any communication deficiencies.

        • Beer Can Boyd

          The results speak for themselves. And what they are saying right now is disaster. Cull has graduated 1 backup goalie, and a 3rd line centre who was only called up due to injury. Apologists can spin it anyway they want, but our farm system is not producing bonafide NHLers, and thats on Johnson and Cull.

          • CamBurke

            Remember the days of the Manitoba Moose guys… the likes of Kesler, Bieksa, Edler, Raymond, Burrows, Schieds, Hansen, all expertly nurtured and graduated into the powerhouse CANUCKS – the rest is glorious history – see the diff windowlickers… SEE THE DIFF!!!! #firebenning #firegreener #cullCULL

          • Bud Poile

            Gaudette:14 AHL games/Kesler: 33 AHL games
            Brisebois:117 AHL games/Edler: 49 AHL games-Just over half a season.2 AHL games the following season
            Goldobin:148 AHL games/Hansen: 122 AHL games
            MacEwen: 140 AHL games /Burrows: 105 AHL games
            Demko: 107 AHL games/ Schneider 136 AHL games
            Jasek: 69 AHL games/Raymond:31 AHL games over two seasons

            Boyd and PQW window licking together as one.

          • Beer Can Boyd

            Wow Bud. Thanks for proving my point. The guys on the left have played more AHL games, mostly under Cull, and still aren’t capable of making an impact. Guys on the right did their time in the A, progressed mostly under AV, and then went on to excellent NHL careers when they were called up. A mystifying post. And the suggestion that there is some sort of alignment here? Thats just weird and creepy.

          • Bud Poile

            The ones on the right are all retired.
            The ones on the left are young,very young in their careers.
            Hand in hand with the ultimate nutbar poster on CA is also creepy,especially when you make zero sense.

          • Bud Poile

            Retired or very late in their careers.
            The ones coming out of Utica are just beginning their careers.
            Stating “disaster”,”Apologists”,”spin” and “results speak for themselves” is meaningless. Welcome to the PQW hysteria club.

          • CamBurke

            Hahaha – What is this senile old FOOL even trying to say…

            Dud, after FIVE YEARS the Utica prospect pool is still as shallow as your leaking rusted out water bucket. Meanwhile the Canucks alumnus from the Moose is a veritable who’s who’s of legit club legends, plus coach AV. Got it troll? Hello, HELLOOOOOOOOOO!!!