The Vancouver Canucks are hosting a one-day rookie camp with only 11 skaters and goaltender Arturs Silovs. The camp will be taking place on Friday beginning at 1:30 PM with player interviews and media availability taking place before the skate.
Though this camp features a low number of prospects, a couple of names will be NHL players one day and one is all but a lock to be on the Canucks’ NHL roster for opening night. Vasily Podkolzin is the big name on the roster as he is the only legitimate top-tier prospect attending the camp.
Six to seven of the prospects on this list will play in AHL games this season while Danila Klimovich likely goes to the QMJHL; Connor Lockhart will go back to the OHL, and Viktor Persson heads to the WHL.
Though this is a minuscule camp with only one day of on-ice training, there are a few prospects who have a chance to make an impression on the organization with their attitude and work ethic. This first impression can do wonders for their future endeavours. Others are back at another Canucks camp with something to prove about the growth in their game.
Let’s dive into three prospects who have something to prove in this short rookie camp.
Jett Woo, RD, 21
After closing out his WHL career on a low note, Jett Woo went to the AHL last season and showed that he was ready for professional hockey. The AHL was a lower-level league than it has been in the past with taxi squads taking the top players away from the AHL, but this worked to Woo’s advantage. After earning the trust of Utica Comets head coach Trent Cull within a few games, Woo played heavy minutes at five-on-five, shined while alongside Jack Rathbone, and was one of the most relied upon penalty killers on the Comets.
This season, the situation is completely different. As much as Rathbone is fighting for a job in the NHL, Woo is fighting for a job in the AHL. I’m not saying he won’t be on the team, but if the Abbotsford Canucks are looking to ice the best team possible, Woo is no lock to be on the opening night roster. Right now, I’ve got him tabbed as the third pairing right-side defenceman but that is mainly because of his age. The AHL is a developmental league — everyone around the AHL will tell you that at least once a day — but the Canucks went wild in free agency when it came to adding defencemen who will likely play in the AHL.
The Abbotsford Canucks will have right-shot defencemen like Brady Keeper and Kyle Burroughs who are likely better players than Woo at the moment. The guy we have all forgotten about is Madison Bowey, who will likely be on the AHL roster and could be the most talented defenceman on Abbotsford. If Cull wants to ice the best team possible, Woo will have had to improve a lot during the offseason.
We noted that Woo looked the most out-of-place at last season’s training camp but once he got into AHL action, I was impressed by the 20-year-old. He recently turned 21 and needs to show well at this rookie camp. Woo was physical in his rookie AHL season and didn’t shy away from anyone. His weakness was his decision-making and just being a half-second behind with his stick reactions. I’m looking forward to Woo and Podkolzin battling at this rookie camp as I feel that it will be a good challenge for both to see how they stack up physically.
In the end, it would be a poor decision by the organization to not have Woo playing as many games as possible during the AHL season. If Woo were to develop into the type of player many hope he can become, an NHL third defence pairing of Rathbone and Woo is exciting for Canucks fans. Rathbone is going to get there, and now, this rookie camp will show us a bit about how Woo improved during his offseason and if his NHL potential can rise throughout the 2021-22 season.
Viktor Persson, RD, 19
I have been pumping this kid’s tires for a while now and the Swedish stallion has finally made his move over to North America. Viktor Persson will join the Kamloops Blazers in the WHL for the 2021-22 season but before that, he will partake in his first organized skate with the Vancouver Canucks today.
It’s been a tough time for Persson since being drafted by the Canucks in the seventh round of the 2019 draft. He has only played in 54 games since that day and this move to Kamloops and the WHL will feel like the first shower after a camping trip. It is going to be a cleanse for his hockey development and get him another step closer to playing in the AHL.
At this rookie camp, Persson will be the greenest defenceman of the three as Alex Kannok-Leipert and Jett Woo had long WHL careers and would be two players who Persson should try and get some advice out of. When it comes to skill, Persson’s offensive abilities should shine compared to Kannok-Leipert and Woo. His skating is the real question as he showed well in Swedish J20 leagues and the third Swedish division HockeyEttan as well. Now we will get to see how his speed looks compared to other Canucks prospects and honestly, it’s too bad that this camp is only one day.
I’m going out on a limb here and saying that maybe one or two people in the Canucks organization have even seen this kid play in person. He has shown well throughout his time in Sweden and this year is a massive one for him as he jumps into the WHL for one season. The goal for Persson is to play professional hockey in North America and he can make that happen with a strong WHL campaign. If he plays well enough, there can be a spot made for him to join the Abbotsford Canucks after his WHL season completes.
Persson can make an impression at this rookie camp with his offensive upside and strong skating ability. The parts of his game where I’d love to see improve are his defending and physicality, and he will do that in this coming season with the Blazers. As for today, I and many Canucks brass are just curious to see how he moves around on the ice. He’s a big right-shot defenceman at 6’2″, 192 lbs and if he can move around the ice as well as he looks on video, he will leave a lasting impression on the decision-makers of the Canucks.
Danila Klimovich, LW/RW, 18
This rookie camp is made for Danila Klimovich to showcase his offensive skill. He will be matching up against good graduation CHL skill as well as a few players who had AHL time last season. We are all curious to see how this kid looks on the ice and if his offence can surprise our eyes in a similar way to how it surprised Jim Benning down at the U18s in Texas earlier this summer.
Many are expecting him to land in the QMJHL but if the kid impresses enough, there’s still an extremely small chance he could go straight to the AHL. His agent has told CanucksArmy that he is coming to Vancouver to make the team. We will see about that, but nonetheless, the QMJHL would be a great spot for him to develop as a prospect.
Klimovich can show a lot in this little camp and if he pops off the ice in a similar way to Podkolzin, the hype will surely build as he will also be partaking in Canucks training camp and potentially preseason as well. This camp is the first time that a lot of people will see Klimovich play and a good first impression can leave a lasting memory of a kid who will look to make it into professional North American hockey over the next few years.
We will finally get to see why the Canucks decided to draft him with their top pick in the 2021 draft and sure hope that Benning & Co. knew what they were doing as many saw Klimovich as a reach when the Canucks selected him with the 41st pick in the draft.
Connor Lockhart, C/W, 18
After his OHL season was cancelled, there should be nobody as excited as Connor Lockhart for this rookie camp. The Canucks had to go off of word of mouth and his draft -1 season film to determine that he was worth a sixth-round selection in the 2021 draft.
Lockhart is an undersized forward who is the type who looks good in these camp formats. There will be a lot of open ice for him to work with and though he will likely play two more seasons in the OHL, it’s good for the Canucks’ management group to see him in person.
There’s going to be a lot of open-ice for him to take advantage of and some in the scouting community have told me that he was one of these OHL players who was very deserving of being drafted and this coming year will be a good one for him to raise his value as a prospect. Before he heads back to Erie, he will get a chance to leave an impression on the management group and work hard for the coaching staff.
In his rookie OHL season, he scored nine goals and added 18 assists in 57 games. His numbers are expected to skyrocket this season and if they do, he will be an interesting prospect to follow. Lockhart has something to prove at this camp because of the fact that he didn’t have a season last year. He’s a drafted OHL player now and expectations will be high for what he can during the 2021-22 season. A good start to his return to hockey will be this rookie camp and we will see what he looks like and how much he has improved since his 2019-20 year.
Rookie camp is set to take place at 1:30 pm today. David Quadrelli and I will both be in the arena and will have a ton of content coming from the day. Quads will have a live notebook where he jots down notes of what we’re seeing from each player on the ice that will be updated in real time. Check for that this afternoon, and be sure to follow along on Twitter for video updates!