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Canucks begin new era in prospect development with Manny Malhotra at the helm

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Photo credit:@canucks via X
Dave Hall
9 days ago
The Abbotsford Canucks are ushering in a new chapter for the 2024-25 season, signalling a fresh direction from both coaching and player standpoints.
 
After two years of service, Jeremy Colliton has left the Abbotsford Canucks to pursue new opportunities as an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils. In his place, former Canucks’ centreman and former Toronto Maple Leafs assistant coach Manny Malhotra has been brought in.
Malhotra, beloved by many, is now navigating his first Development Camp with the organization and getting acclimated with the kids that he will one day be tasked with developing.
As his first piece of business with the organization, Malhotra spoke about the importance of this week.
“Number one, just to have the familiarity with the guys and make those first introductions and contacts and then getting a comfort level in them in terms of them being able to communicate with me talk to me,” Malhotra said. “Learning faces and names. There are a lot of new faces and names coming out, so it’s been important to get re-acclimated.”
Only three members of the camp’s roster are expected to push for an Abbotsford spot this fall: Josh Bloom, Ty Mueller, and recently signed college free agent Christian Felton. However, several players are expected to push for spots very soon, as early as next spring.
While his Abbotsford Canuck roster will not be made up of 17-19-year-olds like Development Camp, it’s a good way for the new coach to get comfortable with teaching and guiding younger players, both on and off the ice.
Already this off-season, Abbotsford has lost two, and potentially three, pivotal veteran presences from the typical Abbotsford makeup. Sheldon Dries, 30, has joined the Detroit Red Wings organization, Marc Gatcomb recently signed a one-year deal with Long Island, while Victoria’s own Matt Irwin remains unsigned.
As a result, it’s shaping up to be a very young, raw roster, barring any major veteran off-season additions – even more so than last year. According to EliteProspects, the Abbotsford Canucks held the second-youngest average age within the American League (24.33 years) in 2023-24 and brought just 3,784 games of experience – the fourth lowest. By all accounts, that number is expected to drop even further next year.
Of course, that’s not the worst thing. While winning is expected, the AHL is considered a developmental league, and building up prospects is the name of the game.
Next season, two high-profile names, Jonathan Lekkerimäki and Elias Pettersson (the defenceman) are expected to begin their first official seasons as AHL pros and all eyes will be geared toward their progress and development under their new bench boss’ wing.
Malhotra’s approach is one of understanding that developing these young talents is paramount. “My main mindset going in is better every day,” Malhotra says. “When you talk about it being a developmental league, it’s obviously developing the skills and one of those is the pro mindset of having to do it every day and improving your game every day. So for those young guys, and the whole team, really, the mindset on a day-to-day basis is going to be we got to get better. Every practice has got to be sharp. We’re going to be better than we were yesterday, better than we were last week. With that mindset and those baby steps, we’ll see greater growth.”
As proof of concept, the new coaching staff has already established a newly tailored and more hands-on approach to their first Development Camp. Unlike most years, they have brought in just 28 skaters and have placed more focus on off-ice coaching and guest speakers, all for the benefit of better development for these young and soon-to-be NHL hopefuls.
“It’s called a development camp for a reason. There are certain things that guys need to work on within their individual game. The fact that we have such a large staff here this week will give them the opportunity to get more one-on-one time or small group sessions in which they can focus on those particular things that they need to work on. So I think it’s really important that it’s not just a one-size-fits-all type of mentality here. The staff know the players and they know what they need to work on. Giving them that opportunity this week is important.”
Of course, becoming a pro is not all on the ice. Various elements come into play when moulding a professional hockey player. Malhotra emphasizes the importance of a strong foundation and understanding that it’s more than just being good on the ice.
“That’s what it’s all about this week, especially because, it’s not just the on-ice stuff but mentality and mindset training, preparation, and nutrition. Those are key and foundational to developing an NHL career. And it’s not only just the on-ice stuff this week; there are chalk talks and speakers giving them the opportunity to get the information they need to develop skills.”
As the new coaching staff and young roster get their feet wet in Abbotsford, the focus will be on daily improvement and what feels like a more holistic approach to development.
With a fresh approach and a roster made up of potential, the Abbotsford Canucks are poised to cultivate the next generation of NHL talent.

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