Canucks Prospect Rewind: A strong AHL season put Jett Woo back on the map as an NHL prospect
By Faber3 months ago
Be sure to check out the latest NHL lines with online sportsbook Betway
We are going to kick off a series where we look at the Vancouver Canucks’ top prospects’ 2022-23 seasons. An overview of the big storyline in their years as well as a prediction for their 2023-24 season. It’s a timely one today, as we kick things off with the recently re-signed, Jett Woo.
After trending downwards in our prospect rankings over the past two years, right-shot defenceman Jett Woo is back on the NHL prospect radar after an AHL season where he became a trusted defender and also led the Abbotsford Canucks in goals from a defenceman. Woo played physically, defended well on the penalty kill, and showed a higher level of self-confidence on the ice. Many major junior players seem to struggle in their first couple seasons of pro hockey and that seemed to be the case with Woo.
This year, he came in with a professional mindset and did the right kind of work in the offseason to prepare himself to have success in the AHL. Woo’s strong 2022-23 season was rewarded on Wednesday morning when the Canucks announced that Woo received a one-year contract extension as he is coming off of his entry-level contract.
Woo’s first two years in the AHL certainly had outside factors to make it difficult. He played the 2020-21 COVID season across the continent with the Utica Comets and looked pretty good at that level for a 20-year-old. It was also a weaker AHL that year as NHL teams had taxi squads due to COVID. That had to have helped with Woo’s transition from WHL to AHL. Last season was Abbotsford’s inaugural season as the Canucks’ minor league affiliate and Woo didn’t ever fully establish himself as one of Abbotsford’s top-six defencemen — he was ultimately used as a forward in the two playoff games and likely realized that he had a lot of work to do to have a successful 2022-23 season.
This year saw Woo’s physicality take a major step. It wasn’t just the big open ice hits, it was the strength that he showed in board battles as well as protecting the crease between and outside of the whistles. Woo had the confidence that he could hang and bang with the competition this year in a similar way to how he did in junior. Woo requires that self-confidence in his physical play to be successful in achieving the most from his style of playing the defence position.
We didn’t see Woo get off to the best start this season but something clicked around January, and you could make a serious argument that Woo was consistently the best Abbotsford defenceman through the final few months of the season. He went on a one-month scoring spree beginning in early March where he scored five goals in 11 games.
There’s a lot of confidence internally after Woo’s season. Abbotsford Canucks general manager Ryan Johnson believes that Woo is now in the mix to compete for an NHL spot next season.
“Jett’s put himself in a conversation to come and compete for a spot next year in Vancouver or worst case, I see him as a guy that’s going to play games next year because of the growth and how far he came along here as a player, a person and a professional,” said Johnson. “[Jett Woo] has been a great story for us. He’s taken a most massive step in forming out his identity as a pro. He’s played a very physical game, skates very well, and his reads have improved immensely in the neutral zone.”
We’re not ready to plant our flag on believing that Woo is going to be an everyday NHLer, and aren’t as bullish as Johnson is about next season. What we are confident in is that Woo is in a great position to build off of what he did this season. We expect him to begin the 2023-24 season as the top right-shot defenceman in Abbotsford. We also believe that there will be some NHL games coming to Woo next year and if you would have told me that 12 months ago, I would have found that hard to believe.
Woo’s hard work paid off this year and if he can take a similar jump next year, he will certainly get NHL games and from there we will have to see how he looks. If he can keep up with the pace in the NHL and be able to play his physical style of play, he will be successful and would really help the Canucks’ backend in terms of being a cheap contract.
This is still just a 22-year-old that we’re talking about here. It’s too early to write him off but his recent success makes it too early to consider him an NHL-ready defender. There’s a big difference between defending Michael Carcone and attempting to defend Connor McDavid.
We believe we will see Woo for some games in the NHL when injuries occur or if the team just needs a shake-up on the backend. Woo has at least put himself into the conversation for NHL games and the same could not be said 12 months ago. You have to applaud the kid for his work ethic but also have to let these kids develop without putting too much pressure on their early success in a pro league. If the Canucks can mine an NHL player out of their 2018 second-round pick, they will greatly benefit from it and can finally say that they developed a right-shot defenceman in-house.
If Woo can get even bigger and stronger for next season, we’d love to see him play that aggressive, physical style. He’s got a good floor right now and will need to continue to climb the levels before the NHL is his floor. For now, we’re pleased with Woo’s growth and as he hits his mid-20s, we may be looking at a right-shot defenceman who is playing games for the Vancouver Canucks.
Prediction for the 2023-24 season
46 games played, five goals, and 18 assists in AHL.
Six games played and one assist in NHL.
Six games played and one assist in NHL.
Recent articles from Faber