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Four undrafted CHL forwards the Canucks should target for their depth chart

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Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Dave Hall
29 days ago
The Vancouver Canucks’ off-season has officially commenced, which means it’s time to start checking some off-season ‘to-do’ items.
 
While management begins to evaluate which players to pursue from within their current roster, this is the time for the pro and amateur scouting team to flex their muscles and push for players to be brought in from other walks of the hockey world: free agents, the NHL draft, and of course, undrafted prospects.
With the NCAA pool already explored, it’s time to turn our attention to the Canadian Hockey League (CHL), which is gearing up for its final event of the season, the Memorial Cup.
We’ve delved into the list of overaged skaters within the three regions — WHL, OHL, QMJHL — and formulated a list of players which we believe may be worth the cost-effective gamble with the hopes of adding some additional firepower to the organization’s depth chart.
For varying reasons, this list of players was left off of draft podiums in consecutive seasons. So, as is always the case with undrafted free agents, it’s important to keep an open, but realistic mind in terms of expectations.
Whether it’s skating, size, hands, hockey IQ or translatable skill sets, there is likely going to be something in need of hard-hitting development. That doesn’t mean that the risk shouldn’t be taken.
Yes, the hope is that each of them go on to pave fruitful NHL careers, but realistically, most can be expected to spend the next year or two developing down in Abbotsford before even considering the jump.
Here are some prospects we think deserve a solid look.

WHL

The WHL holds a special place for Vancouver Canucks fans, particularly with the recent pathway that local B.C. native, Arshdeep Bains, has carved out. Not to mention former Vancouver Giant, Tristen Nielsen, and Abby Canucks’ captain Chase Wouters, all of whom were undrafted signings from the West.
This year, the league’s undrafted players led the charge, with our top two candidates hailing from the region.
Gabe Klassen, Portland Winterhawks
Age: 20
Shoots: Left
Height/Weight: 5’10, 179 lb
Position: C/RW
Gabe Klassen has been a key fixture to the Portland Winterhawks’ leadership group for three years, serving as team captain for the last two.
In his fifth WHL season, he elevated his offensive game to new heights, breaking through previous career milestones and doubling his assist totals to surpass the century mark in points for the first time.
As a 20-year-old, he not only led his team in scoring but finished seventh leaguewide goals with 35 and fourth with 71 assists.
The Prince Albert native stands under 6 feet, a size often seen as the minimum threshold for professional-level centermen. Yet, despite this “smaller” stature, he possesses a compelling toolkit centered around work ethic and responsible two-way play. Known for his heavy forecheck and abrasive playing style, Klassen is no stranger to digging from the side of the net for his cookies.
His relentless playing style has earned him the nickname “Jaws” among his teammates.
In addition to his motor, he wields a tremendous and quick release and is adept at delivering quick and creative feeds to set up his teammates.
Klassen is also a formidable presence in the faceoff circle, boasting a 55.7% success rate this year while taking 1,193 draws—ranking him sixth among players with over 1,000 draws.
This might be your target if you are on the lookout for a hard-working energy player with a killer shot.
Think Tristen Nielsen, with a higher offensive ceiling.
Trevor Wong, Saskatoon Blades
Age: 21
Shoots: Left
Height/Weight: 5’9, 159 lb
Position: C/LW
Ultimately, a player of this stature is not your prototypical pro hockey player. Standing at 5-foot-9 and weighing 159 pounds, Trevor Wong’s physical attributes might not be imposing, but his playmaking abilities are undeniable.
Just how impressive are his assist numbers? Wong was one of only ten Western Hockey League (WHL) players to reach the 100-point mark this season, tallying 101 points, but did so with just 15 goals. You can do the math.
Throughout his six-year, 264-game WHL career, Wong has amassed 260 points, with 188 coming as assists.
He’s small, slippery and he’s probably the most skilled player among the crop.
Labelled as an elite playmaker, Wong constantly scans for his next opportunity to dish the puck, whether it’s a skillful backdoor tuck or a cross-ice feed. Unlike many players on this list, Wong boasts strong skating ability, manipulating plays with shifty edgework and a heads-up demeanour.
By all accounts, if this kid weren’t 5-foot-9, he wouldn’t be available today based on his high-pedigree offensive abilities.
Wong doesn’t necessarily play to his size. At the junior level, he isn’t afraid to put himself into tough areas and is fearless when driving the net. Of course, that’s among junior-level players, and whether he can maintain the same drive against men is a whole new challenge.
Wong served as captain for the Saskatoon Blades this season and was a driving force behind the team’s league-best 50-13-2-3 record.

OHL

In terms of overaged free agents, we weren’t as enticed by the crop out of Ontario this season. However, one player stood out all year, and thanks to being Hunter Brzustewicz’s teammate, we had plenty of opportunities to watch him play.
Matthew Sop, Kitchener Rangers
Age: 21
Shoots: Left
Height/Weight: 6’0, 183 lb
Position: LW
In his sophomore season with the Kitchener Rangers last year, Matthew Sop earned recognition as the team’s Most Improved Player, nearly doubling his point totals from his rookie season.
Now in his fifth season, he doubled them yet again and came just 10 points shy of hitting the century mark with 43 goals and 90 points – good for eighth highest in the league. His 43 goals finished fifth by season’s end.
Sop attended the Maple Leafs’ development camp last summer, and it seems he has incorporated the lessons learned into his game.
This season marked a big improvement in his overall skill set, and he brought added size and assertiveness to the ice.
What we like is his well-rounded ability to produce and his steady growth each season. He’s not flashy, nor particularly high-end in any specific area, but deceptive, and crafty with the puck on his stick. While he’s not the most dynamic skater, he protects the puck well and appears to be constantly scanning the ice for his teammates.
Connections close to the team have spoken about his coachability and willingness to work on his game.
He may not bring the most tantalizing offensive upside, but he brings a well-rounded game, which could serve well within the depth chart.
Other notable names:
Braeden Bowman, Guelph Storm
Age: 20
Shoots: Right
Height/Weight: 6’2, 194 lb
Position: RW

QMJHL

Much like the OHL, we were not as sold on players from Quebec. However, there was one particular power forward which could bring benefit to the depth chart.
Israel Mianscum, Sherbrooke Pheonix
Age: 21
Shoots: Left
Height/Weight: 6’1, 198 lb
Position: LW
Israel Mianscum’s journey in the hockey world has been marked by consistent improvement and determination. His point totals have steadily climbed each season, going from 10 to 41, then 61, and finally 87 as a 20-year-old.
Playing for the Sherbrooke Phoenix in the QMJHL, Mianscum finished fifth among all skaters with 35 goals and 52 assists and was awarded a spot on the Q’s second all-star team.
Unfortunately, a torn shoulder sidelined him for the entire playoff stretch, abruptly ending his junior career.
Contrary to all others on this list, Mianscum is known as a snarly power forward with a pro-ready shot. His ability to score in various ways, coupled with his knack for making goalies pay from a distance, sets him apart from the pack.
Additionally, he’s a smart playmaker and a solid two-way player, unafraid to put his body in front of shots, making him an intriguing and versatile producer.
Mianscum has attended NHL development camps with the Montreal Canadiens and the Detroit Red Wings and former Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme described him as a beast on the ice with an NHL-ready shot and a strong work ethic.
We will continue to scour for additional names to choose from. If there’s an undrafted player who has caught your eye, please make sure to leave a comment and we will check them out for future instalments.

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