If you’ve been reading the work published on this site for a while now, you likely have heard we are big fans of Jack Rathbone.
He’s without a shadow of a doubt the organization’s second-best prospect, and fans have waited a long time to see the smooth-skating former Harvard defenceman in action at the NHL level.
He ripped up the AHL with nine points in eight games and finally played his first game as a Vancouver Canuck last night after being recalled by the club a few weeks back.
Similar to what was written for Olli Juolevi’s debut
last summer, CanucksArmy is proud to present to you another exhaustive analysis (with video) of every shift a Canucks rookie made in his debut — apologies to Kole Lind for not doing this exercise after his debut.
Shift 1: Rathbone was extremely focused on not losing his defensive assignment last night. As a result, he was draped like a blanket on every Edmonton forward who hovered around the Canucks’ crease. His man tracking ability, along with the confidence he possesses with the puck on his stick, are on full display:
Shift 2: Rathbone showed more defensive prowess in his second shift of the game. He keeps his feet moving to stay with his man and although not shown in the clip below, had an incredibly active defensive stick, which made it very hard for the Oilers to generate much of anything offensively.
Shift 3 (First O-Zone shift of his career): Go figure, the offensive defenceman spent the first two shifts of his career away from the area of the ice where everybody and their mother knows he’s most dangerous.
He let go of the first shot attempt of his NHL career, and made a good pass to Kole Lind. He was then the only defenceman back on a 3 on 2 after a Tyler Myers turnover, but Thatcher Demko was up to the task, stopping Dominik Kahun in tight.
Shift 4: Rathbone’s skating ability really carries him at both ends of the ice. His edgework and ability to quickly pivot on a dime allow him to stay involved in the play at all times. On this shift, he shows that off:
Shift 5: On this shift, Rathbone’s quick feet and sharp decision-making skills allowed him to step up quickly to stick check Alex Chiasson and get his stick on the puck before the play had a chance to develop. He then snapped a quick breakout pass to Bo Horvat.
Shift 6: Similar to his last shift, Rathbone uses his skating and stick checking ability to break up the play before calmly navigating a pass with a couple of Oilers pressuring him:
Shift 7: In his last shift of the period, Rathbone let go of a long wrister that goes wide. He then disrupted Edmonton’s breakout attempt by tying up a man at the Oilers’ blue line.
Shift 8 (Welcome to the NHL moment): There was a lot on this shift. If you’ve read our site and coverage of Rathbone for a while now, you’ll know his trademark move is the fake slap shot into a quick shift to his left to open up space.
On this shift, he does that and lets go of a shot that hits the side of the net after creating some room for himself. He then had to face Connor McDavid and Leon Draisatl on a 2-on-1 at the other end of the ice, which Rathbone played as well as he could have, laying down to disrupt the pass from McDavid to Draisatl.
Shift 9: Rathbone makes a crisp first pass out of his own end, but Matthew Highmore fails to move it and the Oilers regain possession. Rathbone quickly reads the play and intercepts and clears the puck, only for Myers and Hawryluk to get their signals crossed a bit and lose the puck at center ice.
Shift 10: On this shift, Rathbone made two quick passes to Jimmy Vesey, neither of which the Canuck forward was able to corral.
Shift 11: Rathbone once again shows off his active defensive stick and gap control here. From a defensive perspective, this was hands down one of Rathbone’s best shifts of the game.
Shift 12: Rathbone didn’t even come within ten feet of the puck on this shift, and it ended with Myers going offside before cutting to a TV timeout:
Shift 13: All I have written in my notes for this shift is “held puck at line well,” so that’s the extent of the analysis you’re getting there.
Shift 14: In Rathbone’s 14th and final shift of his NHL debut, the young blueliner generated his best offensive chance of the night, showing off his skill set even further. After passing the puck to Nils Höglander, he audibly yelled “Hoggy!” for the return pass, and made a mad dash along the wall before pulling off a nifty little toe drag before letting go of the first official shot of his NHL career.
One of the greatest moments from Rathbone’s debut, however, was when he revealed in his post game media availability the video he got from his little brother Teddy, who has autism.
As has been well documented, Rathbone informed teams he planned on delaying his jump to the NCAA in order to be with Teddy during crucial development years ahead of his draft year.
“He’s a big piece of my life, and I’m going to be honest, it would be tough to leave him for seven months out of the year at this stage. He’s probably my best friend,” said Rathbone back in 2017.
This turned some teams off of Rathbone, and likely hurt his draft stock, but the Canucks were always patient with him and understanding of his situation.
That loyalty and understanding of his unique circumstances played a big factor in Rathbone’s choosing to sign with the Canucks this past offseason rather than explore the college free agency route.
It was a successful NHL debut for Rathbone, and as he put it, “a dream come true.”
When one considers the lack of legitimate defence prospects the Canucks have had over the years, it’s safe to say Rathbone’s debut last night was a bit of a dream come true for many fans, as well.