If you’ve been reading this site for more than a week, you’ll know that we are serious about our prospect coverage.
Our not-so-wee resident prospect guru Chris Faber stays up through the wee hours of the morning to watch every prospect in the Canucks’ system — and yes, we truly mean every single one.
As a result, you can understand our excitement when the Vancouver Canucks announced their roster for rookie camp a few days back.
With on-ice sessions kicking off on Friday — and yes, Faber and I will both be there (cause who else is going to give you an update you can trust on Arturs Silovs’ progression?) — we have narrowed it down to six players who we are going to be watching very closely.
This is an easy one. For the past two years, Canucks fans and management alike have had to sit back and watch Vasily Podkolzin receive deployment in the KHL which can only be described as questionable under SKA head coach Valeri Bragin.
Podkolzin wanted to get to Vancouver as soon as possible, and after three long months of waiting for paperwork, vaccinations, and work visas, Podkolzin and his wife arrived in Vancouver from Russia earlier this month.
Podkolzin has been exploring the city and snapped a picture of him hanging out with his new teammates, Nils Höglander and Danila Klimovich:
It’s happening… pic.twitter.com/BihHKtDIdQ
— 𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 Faber 🔥🎙 (@ChrisFaber39) September 14, 2021
It’s no secret what Podkolzin can bring to an NHL lineup, and in case you haven’t been paying attention, he’s good.
Podkolzin’s high-octane motor, commitment to the defensive side of the game, and never-say-die attitude is going to quickly make both fans and the Canucks’ coaching staff fall in love with him in a hurry.
He skated at UBC last week with a few of his teammates including Bo Horvat, Thatcher Demko, and J.T. Miller, but Friday will be the first time he hits the ice at Rogers Arena with spectators in the building.
The reason he’s on this list is because Podkolzin should stick out like a sore thumb among the rest of these prospects. Anyone who has watched him play knows he’s a step above the rest of the prospects who will be at rookie camp, but it remains to be seen just how much better he looks than the rest of the competition.
We’ll have you covered.
Like Podkolzin, this is an easy one. Danila Klimovich is another player who fans are eager to see hit the ice.
Drafted in the second round of the 2021 NHL Draft, the Canucks wasted little time getting Klimovich signed to an entry-level contract.
Although it’s considered a longshot, Klimovich’s agent has stayed firm in his stance that his client’s goal is to show up to Canucks training camp and win a spot on the team.
That being said, Jim Benning went on the record saying that Klimovich would “probably” spend next year in the QMJHL.
Which is fine.
In fact, multiple scouts I’ve talked to have said that’s the best thing for his development, and it seems Benning and the Canucks would agree with them.
Klimovich needs to go to the QMJHL and light the league on fire. As an NHL second round pick, he needs to be a top scorer in the league who opposing teams have to gameplan around night in and night out.
It will be interesting to see where Klimovich is really at in his development when he hits the ice this Friday and at training camp next week.
It’s no secret that I — much like Ian Clark and other members of the Canucks’ organization — am very high on goaltending prospect Arturs Silovs.
Here’s an excerpt from my prospect profile on Silovs from a few weeks back, which you can read in its entirety here:
Silovs’ biggest area for improvement is his wide stance. This greatly limits his mobility when trying to move laterally, and makes him look smaller in the net, despite his 6’4 frame.
That being said, Silovs excels at sealing off the bottom of the net and in pure athleticism. These were two things that he’s had in his game from a young age, and it’s those natural intangible abilities that made Ian Clark and the Canucks attracted to him.
The term Clark likes to use when evaluating goaltenders is length. This doesn’t just mean a goaltender is tall, either.
“You can have a very tall goalie that is very uncompetitive and therefore, they’re not long,” Clark told CanucksArmy back in June. “You can have a shorter goalie, that is extremely competitive, that has more length. You can have a goaltender that’s very tall but has poor flexibility for example, and they lack length because the length must also be flush to the ice. When a goalie is extending their leg if they don’t have the flexibility to keep their knee flush to the ice and really seal everything down, really that length has no value.”
Silovs has that flexibility and is an athletic freak, similar to Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Silovs played in just one game with the Manitoba Moose last season, so it will be interesting to speak with him about how he dealt with that adversity and evaluate where he’s at in his game.
As the only goaltender listed on the Canucks’ rookie camp roster, all eyes will be on Silovs.
After a less-than-ideal D+1 year where he tallied just 46 points in 64 games with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL, Jett Woo got himself back on the right track last season.
Woo played his first season of professional hockey last year, and settled in as a top-four defenceman for the Utica Comets.
Woo was a second pair defenceman with a revolving door of partners. Through it all, one thing remained constant — Woo was a steady and reliable defenceman who was always willing to stick up for his teammates:
Jett Woo sticks up for Lukas Jasek after Jasek took a dirty hit.
I'm liking Woo, this is a 20-year-old kid sticking up for a teammate in a professional league. 👊👊 pic.twitter.com/1GAY7D5JkY
— 𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 Faber 🔥🎙 (@ChrisFaber39) February 13, 2021
Woo has good reads when defending on the rush, actively engages in challenging attackers, and of course, is unafraid to throw his weight around or get into wars of attrition around the crease. He has great straightaway speed and loved to join the rush last season.
This is going to be a big year for Woo, and seeing if he’s a step above the other defenceman at rookie camp and whether or not he looks out of place among NHL defencemen at training camp is going to serve as the starting point.
The 2020 crop of Canucks draft picks isn’t looking very good.
Joni Jurmo had a bit of a disappointing season, and there’s a strong possibility that the Canucks won’t have any NHL players to show for their work at the 2020 Draft.
Granted, it’s much harder to mine NHL-caliber players when you don’t have a first or second round pick, but the point remains — that draft class is looking bleak for the Canucks.
That is, of course, with the exception of Viktor Persson, who the Canucks selected in the seventh round.
The 6’1 Swedish right-shot defenceman has great mobility and possesses an eye-catching skill set. An offensive defenceman, Persson loves to jump in the rush and is a good enough skater to not get caught out of position as his recovery speed looked very quick against players in the J20 league and HockeyEttan.
This season, Persson will be playing with the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL, and he’s expected to be a big part of the club’s blue line.
Canucks fans will be watching closely to see if he can be a difference-maker in that league, because if he is, it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see him sign an entry-level contract and make the transition to the AHL in the coming years.
He’s one of the few prospects from the 2020 draft class with a clear road to professional North American hockey laid out in front of him, and now it’s up to him to go seize the opportunity.
Connor Lockhart is an undersized forward who the Canucks selected in the sixth round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft.
The reason he’s on this list is because he’s an enigma of sorts due to the fact that he didn’t play hockey last season.
His last season of competitive hockey was in 2019-20 with the Erie Otters of the OHL, where he tallied nine goals and 18 assists as a 16-year-old (he turned 17 in January of that season, however).
At 5’9, 165 pounds, Lockhart’s size — along with his lack of games in his draft year — certainly turned some teams away from him, but not the Canucks.
“I guarantee he would have gone earlier if he had a full season,” said Director of Amateur Scouting Todd Harvey of Lockhart. “He’s a determined kid, I think he’s going to grow and fill out a little bit. He’s tenacious on the puck, he has some real good high-end skill and I think it was worth the pick to get him.”
It will be incredibly interesting to see how Lockhart and the rest of these prospects have progressed in the time since we last saw them play. CanucksArmy is your home for up-to-the-minute coverage of both rookie camp and regular training camp, and it should be a fun ride all season long.
Keep letting that excitement build, Canucks fans.