The Abbotsford Canucks just had their best week of the season.
As the NHL team relied on strong goaltending and limiting the opposition, the AHL team ran up the score out at the Abbotsford Centre. The Abbotsford Canucks played four home games this week and scored a total of 26 goals in those four games. They put up eight goals twice over the past four games and we saw some stellar performances over the past seven days.
It was the right time to do it, as the general manager made a visit out to the farm to see what was going on.
I’d assume he’s impressed…
There are some stories brewing around the team and I thought it would be nice to spotlight a few for those who aren’t able to make their way out to Abbotsford.
Sheldon Dries is the AHL’s leading goal scorer
After falling down the rankings in the AHL’s leading scorers category, Sheldon Dries skyrocketed up the leaderboard with a massive week that saw him notch six goals in four games. Dries had a four-goal night on Friday as the Canucks hosted the Manitoba Moose.
Dries has been scoring goals at will for the Abbotsford Canucks this season and for those who don’t know, Dries is a centre who is trusted on both special teams units.
He isn’t my number one forward to talk about when you want to discuss which guy is most deserving of a call-up — though his goal total alone could warrant that chance.
Dries always finds himself in the right spot on the ice but we have seen this time and time again in the AHL. Jonah Gadjovich did this last year as he always found open ice and open nets but has not been able to translate his game to the NHL level this season.
At 5’9”, Dries is an undersized centre and will need to work extremely hard once he gets to the NHL if he wants to stay there. His goal totals do warrant a shot at some point this season but Phil Di Giuseppe, Will Lockwood, and Sheldon Rempal are all ahead on our list for forwards who we want to see get called up.
Rathbone is sending a message
He began the week with a five-point performance and has not looked back. Jack Rathbone has been excellent this week.
Monday was a huge game for Rathbone as he piled up up the points with a goal and four assists.
To say he had a good week wouldn’t be enough. Rathbone had 10 points in the Canucks’ four games this week. He was dynamite offensively in every outing and scored a goal in three of the four games.
Even after an offensive explosion, Rathbone spoke in the post game about how defence needs to be a focus of his while he is down in the AHL.
“It’s always nice when the points come but a lot of my game right now is being able to clean up the defensive side,” said Rathbone in Monday’s post game media availability.
I was on the broadcast on Wednesday and was very impressed by Rathbone’s commitment in the defensive zone. That commitment to the d-zone and offensive skill were on full display, as he was extremely effective with his stick while defending and broke up multiple rushes against. There were a pair of two-on-ones where Rathbone knocked the puck out of mid-air on each of the passing attempts and it just felt like he was locked in all night long. That game where he was locked-in defensively was the 5-0 shutout game for Spencer Martin
There’s still a lot of room for Rathbone to grow and being consistently excellent in his own zone should be the goal. He’s in a good place with the Abbotsford team right now. There are a ton of minutes being given to Rathbone and he is seeing a lot of time with the puck on his stick in breakouts at even-strength and while quarterbacking the first power play unit.
Things are looking good for Rathbone in the AHL.
This is what development looks like.
There is no need to rush Rathbone.
Will Lockwood is now a most trusted penalty killer
When asked at the beginning of the year what the organization wanted him to focus on, Will Lockwood lamented about penalty killing. He has all the skills to be an excellent penalty killer who is pesky against power play units and has the breakout speed to score some shorthanded goals if the situation presents itself.
Lockwood has worked very hard on the PK since he said this to me on October 15th. He has worked his way up to being the number one forward for the penalty kill. He starts almost every shorthanded situation and even finds himself getting multiple shifts during a single penalty kill.
As a penalty killer, Lockwood’s aggressiveness is the piece that should excite Canucks fans. He loves to go at puck carriers and looks like a pinball at times when he is just disrupting anyone with a puck on their stick.
This year’s Lockwood is also much more confident and with that confidence has come a swagger that has him not backing down from anyone. He is more engaged in after-whistle shenanigans where he does a good job of getting under the opposition’s skin while knowing the line that if he were to cross, would result in a penalty. He’s becoming a bit of a skilled pest in the AHL this season. Players don’t like to play against Lockwood and that is going to help him if he wants to have a long NHL career.
Lockwood is ready to have an NHL look and get some time with Vancouver soon. He has the speed and could likely learn a thing or two from a player like Tyler Motte or Juho Lammikko.
We could see the fastest fourth line in a decade if Motte and Lockwood are patrolling those wings in the near future.
That wraps up three stories to take away from this week in Abbotsford. I also spent some time talking with Trent Cull, a couple of players, and Chase Wouters himself about how he is fitting in as a rookie in the AHL. That story will be up in the coming days!