On Thursday, the Abbotsford Canucks announced their first signing for the team.
Chase Wouters is a WHL veteran who played parts of six seasons with the Saskatoon Blades. He was the first three-year captain of the Blades in franchise history and had his number 44 jersey retired just minutes after his final game with the Blades.
He’s a leader on and off the ice and will be a big part of setting the culture in Abbotsford. Wouters played for Canada at the U18s in 2018 and has totalled 181 points in 280 WHL games. He’s a high-energy centre who has taken massive steps in the faceoff circle over the past few seasons.
Wouters wants to come into Abbotsford and seize this opportunity as an undrafted CHL free agent. He is a natural centre who knows the importance of being positionally sound while also understanding that a high effort level makes plays happen on the ice.
“A coach told me in my younger years that faceoffs are the first battle on every shift,” said Wouters. “That’s really stuck with me. I’m a competitive player and person so I mean never want to lose and that’s the first battle so it’s kind of just stuck with me ever since a young age.”
As for what type of player Wouters is, he’s a high-energy centre who won’t take a shift off and will do anything for the team.
“My competitive level is what makes me the player I am,” said Wouters. “If I know I’m not playing my game, it’s because I’ve got to get more competitive and stronger on the puck, that’s something I’ll be taking into the AHL for sure.”
Chase spent time on the power play and the penalty kill and was often trusted to be the faceoff man for both special teams units. He became a captain early on in his WHL career and respected the honour of wearing the “C” for the WHL team that he grew up watching. Wouters’ father got him into watching Saskatoon Blades games and is the reason why he wears number 44.
I asked Wouters about what he learned from being a captain at a young age and growing into the role through his three seasons in which he wore the “C”.
“It was pretty awesome to be recognized as the captain, a lot of props goes to my teammates,” said Wouters. “They really made me feel comfortable as that as a 16-17 year old that year, and then my 18-year-old season, they gave me the captaincy and we had some amazing older guys and I know it’s pretty cliche but it’s a lot of people in the room that helped keep everyone going and keep everyone in check. It was a really big honour to be recognized as the first three-year captain and I thank everyone there for that.”
He went on to learn a lot about leadership in his time at the WHL level, Wouters says it was a different feeling overall from being a captain at 18 years old to what it was like as a 20-year-old.
“You learn a lot, especially when you’re a young captain,” said Wouters. “I put a lot of pressure on myself and as I got older, I realized that if you just show up and you do what’s made you get to where you are, that’s the best captain, you can ask for. You just have to be yourself. I’ve learned a lot from a great coaching staff and a lot of great players over the years too. I’ve been able to adapt and develop my leadership skills and my abilities on the ice.”
I highly recommend watching the final minute and a half of this video where Blades General Manager Colin Priestner lets Wouters know about his number being retired.
Wouters is excited to get to the next level and though COVID-19 shortened his WHL season and they were only able to get 21 games in, he never wanted to give up the dream of making it to the AHL. He said the thought never crossed his mind that he wasn’t going to get to the next level but is still very honoured to get the chance to prove himself.
“It’s every kid’s dream to get to the next level,” said Wouters. “I’m just really honoured to be able to be in Abbotsford and be able to get to the next level and play a full season. I’m really looking forward to it, it’s a really exciting time for me and for my family. I’m really excited to experience living in BC. I’m really looking forward to this opportunity in Abbotsford. I’m excited to get to know Ryan [Johnson] and the coaching staff there in Abbotsford.”
Not only has Wouters played against some current Canucks prospects like Jett Woo and Carson Focht, but he also played with Woo at a younger age.
“Jett Woo has always been a solid defenseman,” said Wouters. “I played with him a little bit. Just some spring hockey growing up a little bit so I know Woo a little bit and I know Carson Focht a little bit too. I played against those guys several times and we’ve had some good battles but it’s all good competition so I’m looking forward to getting to play alongside those guys for sure. They are really good players.”
As the first official signing of the Abbotsford Canucks, it’s a cool feeling for Wouters to know that he will be a big part of building this team up from a ground level. Wouters is excited about the opportunity and knows that Abbotsford is going to have some amazing fans.
“It’s pretty cool to be a part of a first-year organization and to be one of the first players officially,” said Wouters. “I know they have a lot of great players that were in Utica that will be coming over too and I’m just looking forward to meeting all of them so it’s a pretty cool feeling. The green jerseys look amazing too. I know my family will have to get a couple of jerseys once things get going. We are all looking forward to it. It’ll look great once everything gets going.”
Wouters will report to training camp in September and is ready to bring some centre depth to the AHL team that is seriously lacking in that department. Our conversation was excellent and the entirety of the talk can be heard on Saturday’s episode of the Canucks Conversation podcast.
Abbotsford Canucks General Manager Ryan Johnson has talked about wanting to build a culture in Abbotsford and so far, they are off to an excellent start with the Sedin twins looking to be heavily involved and now adding a true leader on and off the ice in Chase Wouters.
ps. It’s pronounced “Waters”