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Photo Credit: © Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

Jack Rathbone on making the Canucks out of camp, being sent down, and what he’s learned this season

Jack Rathbone is working on his defensive game down in the AHL but likely won’t be down in Abbotsford for long.

The 20-year-old left-shot defenceman played his first two AHL games of the season this past weekend. Rathbone had one assist as he was paired up with Noah Juulsen.

Rathbone clearly has NHL skills when it comes to being an offensive defenceman but needs to work on his defensive game to consistently stick in the NHL. He came into this season with the goal of making the NHL and staying in the NHL. This early loan to Abbotsford may be a bump in the road but Rathbone is still proud of his 2021-22 season so far.

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“Being able to get through camp and make the roster was something that I was pretty proud of myself for doing,” said Rathbone. “Making the [NHL] team out of camp was a goal that I had set but obviously the goal is to stay there. I got to learn from a lot of the guys up there. The defence core there is a very close group. I was learning from the older guys about what it takes to stick in the NHL. I think that was pretty key for me and a lot of fun.”

Throughout his eight NHL games this season, Rathbone has shown flashes of offensive excellence but was unable to notch a point in over 100 minutes of ice time. It came from some horrible luck while Rathbone was on the ice. Though the Canucks had 53 scoring chances during Rathbone’s 108 minutes of ice time, they were only able to score one goal. That resulted in Rathbone having an on-ice shooting percentage of 1.59%.

With an expected goals number of 4.23, Rathbone was very unlucky when it came to his offensive game in those eight NHL games.

Sometimes the bounces come and sometimes they don’t,” said Rathbone. “I think back to the goal that was called back and other times where a bounce would have really helped. I think those offensive things will come and right now it’s about working on my 200-foot game. Obviously, that was a lot of the reason why I was sent down here so working on my defensive play is going to be key going forward. But like I said, sometimes you get the bounces and sometimes you don’t.”

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It’s obvious that Rathbone will be back in the NHL sooner rather than later. He said that he had a good conversation with Travis Green and Canucks’ management about him working on his details in the defensive zone and knows that the AHL time will only help him as he looks to become an NHL regular.

“Over the past year and a half, since I’ve turned pro, I think I’ve put my best foot forward in terms of trying to round out my game,” said Rathbone. “Every player has things that they have to work on. I think the added minutes down here are going to help in terms of seeing a heavier workload and getting into the rhythm of the game a little bit more. The time down here will help me.”

As per usual, Rathbone is looking for the positives. He thoroughly enjoyed the road trip to California with the guys and said that it was nice to catch some rays with his teammates.

Rathbone lost a bet to former Northeastern and current Abbotsford Canucks centre John Stevens. Rathbone’s alma mater Harvard lost to Northeastern on Monday night and that means that Rathbone has to wear Northeastern gear all week long.

For now, Rathbone will see a lot of minutes for as long as his AHL stint lasts. With a road trip coming, Rathbone may see a call-up as soon as Wednesday. His presence on the left side of the defence is a need for the Vancouver Canucks as they are currently throwing out Kyle Burroughs on his off-side on the third pairing, and will not have Travis Hamonic on this road trip due to him not yet being considered fully vaccinated under the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols.

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It won’t be long until we see Rathbone back in the NHL but for now, he will focus on his defensive game and is pleased with the extra ice time that he is receiving during his run with the Abbotsford Canucks.