The Vancouver Canucks Young Stars Head to Main Camp
The old style pro rookie camp that was not unlike what I had seen in Minor Hockey Association teams to Adult Leagues, has been replaced by a more meaningful way of evaluating the raw talent.
These games between other NHL young stars produced a few up and comers and with it also disappointments.
The disappointments would be the Canucks rookies that got released, as in Kevin Clark - RW, Brad Smith – Centre, Michael Houser – goaltender, David Fischer – Defense, James Henry – LW, Kris Fredheim – Defense and Taylor Jordan – Wing.
Right Winger’s Dan Gendur was assigned to Manitoba while Kelly Tochkin was returned to his WHL Everett team.
There will be 16 rookies heading to main camp and a few of them that shone caught my eye.
Although I only was able to watch eight and a bit of the 12 periods that were played in the four games, like cream rising to the top, the following players stood out.
Pierre-Olivier Morin, an undrafted left winger led all the Canuck rookies with two goals, one assist and was a +/- plus two. This skinny kid listed at 6’ and 170 lbs. but looks more like 160, reminds me of a tall sunflower in full bloom.
Not afraid to go to the net, plays as hard as his weight will allow him, displayed some skill and made good reads.
He has played three season with the Lewiston Maineiacs of the QMJHL, with last season his most productive. In 67 games, scored 20 goals, 45 assists,75 PIM.
He will be in tough at the main camp with the much larger and faster players and at 19 years of age be returned to his junior team. Morin needs to fill out some more and maybe playing a full year in junior he will become a late bloomer.
Chris Tanev, another undrafted player plays at 6’2”, 185 lbs, was in the NCAA last season with R.I.T. Displayed decent offensive skill with 10G, 18A, 2PIM in 41 games.
Like this player and he showed a glimpse of his skating skill going end to end in a game against San Jose, finishing it off with a saucer pass on to Aaron Volpatti’s stick for an easy marker.
At 21 years of age, he will have to decide whether he wants to remain in college or take a look a professional hockey.
With the Manitoba Moose already having four D-men under contract and they most likely will add Evan Oberg, Yann Sauve and Kevin Connaughton, if Tanev plays, it would be most likely in the ECHL with the Victoria Salmon Kings.
Aaron Volpatti was recognizable from the very first game that was played against the Edmonton Oilers group. After registering three hits in the second period it was an immediate scramble to see who this number 54 was.
The Oilers sure took notice for the rest of the game.
Volpatti is an older player at 26 having come out of the BCHL Vernon Vipers organization, then went to Brown University of the NCAA for four years.
Last season he played in eight regular season games with the Manitoba Moose, chalking up 1G, 1A and 17 PIM.
In the Young Stars Tournament he scored a couple of goals against San Jose and with his physical play was definitely noticeable in all games he participated in.
His gritty type of play would be a welcome at most league levels but with the depth of the Canucks camp this year, I don’t think he can crack the line-up. I do see him playing with the Moose and who knows, down the line with injuries what may develop.
If can play a full season in Manitoba and continue with his style of play, score 10-15 goals, he may get a longer look next year.
Kevin Connauton was my pick for the best Canuck D-prospect in this tournament since the late Luc Bourdon. This third round pick (#83 overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, is 6’1, 196 lbs., is mobile and possessed one of the hardest shots in the WHL last season.
Two years ago he played one season in the NCAA for Western Michigan University and decided with the Canucks prompting, to play in the WHL with the Vancouver Giants in 2009-10.
What a season he had with the Giants! In 69 games he rang up 24G, 48A and 107 PIM and in 16 playoff games – 3G, 10A and 21 PIM. Connauton’s decision to play in the WHL provided a huge step in his maturation as a young prospect.
In the Young Stars Tournament he played with Chris Tanev and formed the best D-pairing for the ‘Nucks. He scored the only Canuck goal in the Edmonton game, cleared the front of his net, his outlet passes from his own zone were crisp and his wicked shot from the point kept everyone’s heads up.
Way too much depth on the Canucks defense to push someone aside but a season in Manitoba, where he will play in all game situations, will groom this prospect for a longer look next season.
Connauton, Oberg and Sauve may finally start to re-stock the depth on the back end.
Bill Sweatt was an unknown to most Canucks observers probably because he was a second round pick (38th overall) of the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. He appears to be smaller than his listed 6’, 180 lbs. but man can this guy fly.
Sweatt’s rights came to the Toronto Maple Leafs via the Kris Versteeg trade with the Blackhawks. After failing to reach an agreement with the Leafs, Sweatt then became a UFA and the Canucks signed him on August 19, of this year.
Toronto’s loss was Canucks gain.
University hockey background seems to run through a number of the Canucks Young Stars and Sweatt’s background was no different.
He played on the U.S. Under-18 team for two years and then attended Colorado College, where he played in the NCAA for four years.
You have to remember that the NCAA’s seasons are only about 40 games long so with that in mind this is how he performed over those four seasons.
In 143 games he accounted for 46G, 63A and 102PIM.
In this Young Stars Tournament he played with various line-mates such as Jordan Schroeder, and Pierre-Olivier Morin in the San Jose game, where that line was the most dangerous.
Was this Tournament enough of a showcase to earn a spot with the Canucks? No, once again too deep at the LW position.
The good news is that there would be room in Manitoba where he could play and develop some chemistry with some other Young Stars team-mates.
Eddie Lack, all 6’5” played in the Swedish Elite League with the Brynas If Gavle last season along with another Canucks prospect, Anton Rodin.
In the Young Stars Tournament Lack played in three games or 151 minutes and did so at a high level.
He played the most minutes of any goaltender at the Tournament and thus his 3.17GAA but with that also came a very impressive .920 save percentage
Being as tall as he is, the down low openings were not available. Just ask Sharks James Marcou and Philip Varone who he robbed and Varone again on a breakaway.
Most shooters found out that his lateral movement mobility is very good for a big man. He challenges the shooters, and looks to be in control rather than flopping about.
Like a lot of young goaltenders he possesses a good glove hand and was able to stay with the point shots through a maze of bodies in front of the net.
He will not beat out Canucks backup Cory Schneider but should have a go at the number one spot in Manitoba. If he plays as well I as think he will, would be the call up for any goal-tending injury and we know there has been a number to Roberto Luongo over the last two seasons.
In conclusion, I was disappointed in the showing of Jordan Schroeder. I thought this highly touted prospect would be more prominent that he was, especially in light of his finish in Manitoba at the end of last season.
Yes he as great speed and seemed to bring out the best in Prab Rai but with the depth at the Canuck camp at the centre position, recent annoucement that Brendan Morrison is an invitee, as I previously wrote, I see him playing in Manitoba this season.
He will develop more rapidly with the other Moose prospects and will be given the opportunity to play in all game situations.
I look for him to be in the top three scoring positions with the Moose.
PS. You can watch all the pre-season games on Shaw - HD Channel 225
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