A big, strong, and mean NCAA free agent defenceman is out there for the Vancouver Canucks to sign

Photo credit:@brandonscanlin55 on Instagram
By Faber
1 year ago
Big, strong, has an active stick, a mean streak and a strong slap shot.
Seems pretty good, doesn’t it?
What if I told you that the Canucks could get their hands on this player for nothing but a contract. They don’t have to give up any draft picks or trade any of their own players. All they have to do is make a case to Brandon Scanlin that Vancouver is where he should sign at the end of his NCAA season.
He’s got a lot of skills that translate into pro hockey but also has some skating deficiencies that could be fixed if set up with the right developmental coaches. Adding Scanlin to the Abbotsford Canucks and getting him working with skating coach Mackenzie Braid could have him as one of the top defencemen in the Canucks’ pipeline by this time next year.
So, let’s get into the player and what we see.

Brandon Scanlin, (left-shot) LD, 6’4”, 214 lbs, 22 years old

For reference in clips, Scanlin is number four in black, grey or white.
Scanlin comes in at 6’4” and plays the game exactly how you hope he would. He’s a strong defenceman who acts like a schoolyard bully to anyone who comes near the crease. On top of his physical traits, he has a quick and active stick to break up passing attempts in his vicinity.
I’ll say it again, he is a big strong man, and we cannot overstate how much he dislikes players being around his crease.
Scanlin’s best work comes from his in-zone defending. His ability to rotate from defending against a puck carrier to finding the correct positioning around the crease to limit the next scoring chance is at a very high level in the NCAA. For these reasons and more, he finds a lot of success on the penalty kill and is typically on the first defence pairing when his team is shorthanded.
We saw a lot of raw talent in his game and he shows the potential to work away from his weaknesses with professional development coaches being involved in the next step of his hockey career.
We’re not saying that he is at a bad school, the University of Nebraska-Omaha is a very respectable hockey school. Scanlin is just not a part of one of the hockey hotbeds in the NCAA and his team has struggled to crack the top-20 rankings.
As for Scanlin’s skating, it’s not currently at a high level. He seems to have some mechanical issues when it comes to having a good hip-bend and consistent, powerful push-offs. He seems to be a bit too tall with his stance but those could be worked on with the right skating coach. The part that we do like about his skating is his ability to gain speed while skating backwards and defending. He is rarely beat on the outside and has great spatial awareness when an opposing player is coming down on him with speed.
Here’s an example of him defending against an opposing forward with a head full of steam. He manages to force the player to the outside, then bounces back into a strong defending point before getting his stick on a passing attempt.
Offensively, there’s some upside to his game as well.
Scanlin has worked his way up to become the quarterback on his team’s first power play unit. His passes are strong, crisp and pop off his stick like you see from professional players. He consistently puts passes right in the wheelhouse of either side’s half-wall shooter on the power play.
His decision-making on when to activate in the offensive zone is done correctly more often than not. Scanlin also works hard at the point, he doesn’t take lazy shots but instead walks the line to draw new passing and shooting lanes.
He consistently strives to shoot the puck from the centre of the ice, and when enough space is given, he can unload a powerful slap shot.
Here’s an example of the prior mentioned slap shot. He breaks the stick of an opponent and still has the puck find the back of the net.
With the body, skillset and attitude that Scanlin has, NHL teams will absolutely want to get their development coaches working with the big defenceman. He likely needs an extended amount of time in the AHL but should be a player who can immediately jump into a pro lineup and make a contribution on a nightly basis.
This is why the fit with Vancouver is so great. Scanlin can slide into an Abbotsford Canucks roster that is low on talent when it comes to left-shot defencemen. Scanlin could take a massive leap in the offseason if he were to sign with Vancouver and get to work with a high-end AHL skating coach like Abbotsford has in Mackenzie Braid.
Braid is an up-and-coming skating coach in pro hockey who comes from a family with an exuberant amount of experience in the skating coach realm. Braid’s mom Dawn has worked with some of the NHL’s top players such as John Tavares, Taylor Hall, and the Tkachuk brothers as well as youngsters like Akil Thomas.
Scanlin already has connections with NHL teams. He spent this past fall with the Boston Bruins development camp, so taking him away from them is another added bonus. When you are taking swings on these NCAA free agents, you are hoping that you can hit on a player who gets to the Chris Tanev level but he is the outlier and not as much the norm. With Scanlin, he could develop into a bottom-pairing NHL defenceman if he is able to clean up some parts of his defensive games and continue to improve his puck-carrying skill.
I read the comments in the last article about college free agents, and how many of you wanted to see bigger bodies on the backend.
Well, this is your guy. I was going to include him in a follow-up article with five other potential NCAA free agents but after watching the tape, there were too many things that I liked in his game and wanted to give him an article of his own.
His game is raw but there’s a really good base to work with.
The Canucks currently have 47 of the 50 contract spots taken and using one of their final slots on this kid man would make a lot of sense. You’d hope that Aidan McDonough fills another one of those spots. There are also 23 contracts that are UFA or RFA status for next season, so there’s plenty of room to add an NCAA prospect like Scanlin.
We all want to see more players develop with the Canucks’ AHL team and this is a good NCAA free agent to take a swing on and see if you can prepare him for the NHL with AHL development. We’re confident that he already has a good enough skill set to play in the AHL and this would be a nice piece to add to Abbotsford for late this season and get an offseason of work with the organization to hit next season running (or skating).
Read my article on six college free agents the Vancouver Canucks could sign by clicking here.
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