Last year our prospect pool has seen massive change. We have had many graduations of top prospects such as Baertschi, McCann, Virtanen, Markstrom, and Hutton joining alongside sophomore Bo Horvat. Benning, despite the beliefs of many at the time, actually drafted some quality players. Our youth movement is in full affect and our prospect pool is ever changing.
I have decided to make a top 10 list to start this year, to notice the prospects that are developing well. Below are my rankings, feel free to comment and leave your own.
10. Andrey Pedan (LD): Pedan has everything you need to be a bottom pairing pro defenseman. Great speed, great strength, great grit, and some offensive know-how to pitch in every once in a while. He's got a good shot, decent passing ability, but his big plus is his defense. He's a big guy that will fight anyone as well as play committed defense. The Canucks need speed and physicality, especially from the blue-line. Sbisa is our biggest hitter. Pedan helps that problem. The thing about Pedan is even though he is number 10 on the list, he is 1 of the closest to being NHL ready along with Gaunce and Shinkaruk. I expect him to be in a bottom paring, penalty killing, hitting and fighting, 6-7 d-man role, by next season.
9. Dmitry Zhukenov (C): The kid as been very good this season. He started out a little slow, but then exploded onto the scene. Almost pushing a point per game pace in the CHL is impressive. Especially since this is his first year in North American hockey. Great speed, relentless hustle, and strong overall offensive skills. The kid just manages to somehow make the play even if he's got defenders on him. Very creative player. The questions about his game were focused around if he could adapt the North American game and gain muscle. He seems to be getting the first part. If he can get stronger to compete with grown men on the North American level. Watch out. I estimate 3-4 years before we see him in the NHL, but he has real potential to be dynamite.
8. Guilliame Brisebois (LD/RD): The kid doesn't show much on the statline, and never has. He does however, garner massive praise from every coach and scout that sees him play. Great character and leadership kid, he became the captain of his AHL team at 16. He took it upon himself to play a two-way defensive role, on a terrible team. Brisebois is one of the few strings holding that team together. His attention to his defensive duties are superb, as well as his smooth stride skating. He actually has some offensive prowess; however, he doesn't get to use it often as he is usually playing defense in his own zone. Subban played for a poor team, and took on the role of sole star defenseman. His numbers dipped and didn't look that impressive, but it made him an impressive player. I think a similar thing is happening to Brisebois, and he has the mental ability to take those lessons, adjust his game and work to being an NHLer. I think he is also 3-4 years away.
7. Cole Cassels (C): Nobody can deny it, Cole Cassels has had a dismal season. Not only has he not been effective offensively, and by that he barely even generated shots on net, but he hasn't been that great defensively either. He was however, dealing and recovering from injury issues, adjusting to the pro game, and trying to work on his strength and conditioning at the same time. Not everyone can do all of that easily. Still, he seems to be playing with more confidence and turning things around. Even if the numbers aren't there, he needs to focus on the little parts of the game, which was his specialty in Junior, and bounce back. I give him a solid 2 more years in the AHL, maybe 3. Still, I remain confident that when he does turn it around, we could see a solid two-way versatile bottom 6 forward at the NHL level. Cole may be having a rough season, but he is still Cole Cassels. He lead a team to a memorial cup victory, and was able to hold Connor McDavid and the Erie Otters at bay. He didn't lose all that talent. He just needs to get his head on his shoulders. He's still closer to being an NHL player than to being a bust at this point.
6. Carl Neill (RD): Benning showing he has real scouting acumen. I think Carl Neill is going to be a real sleeper, and surprise a lot of people. I mean the kid shows real ability. he has NHL size already, and a good skillset. He has a strong hard shot that finds the net, as well as the ability to make good passes. He's no Jordan Subban with the electric offensive upside, but he has enough to contribute. Strong on the PP as well. The problems with Neills game were similar to the problems in Virtanen’s game when he would be known for to be overconfident and do too much. He needs to refine his game and hockey IQ to utilize his potential NHL abilities. I think give him 3 years give or take and he could be in the NHL. For him it's a matter of flipping a switch, and it seems like he's trending in the right direction. Neill is actually a year older than his draft class as he was passed over his first year making him turn 20 this season, and likely to start pro next season. Not being selected in his first draft year devastated him and kicked him into a gear where he cut lots of weight, worked on his mobility and elevated his game, He has been recently been named captain this year for the work he has put in. I think not being drafted may have been the thing that flipped the proverbial switch, because he is night and day, a better hockey player.
5. Jordan Subban (RD): Very small, but man can he play. Subban is our top defensive prospect. He has come along way in working on his all around game, and it has paid off. Subban has always had incredible offensive instincts, and could act as a offensive PMD. His puck protection skills for a guy that size are incredible, and he knows how to make passes and gets accurate shots on net. What's really impressive though is his commitment to the 200-foot game. Playing for a not so great team in juniors, forced Subban to learn to drop back and pay attention to detail in his own zone. His ability to play defense helps open up the offense and gives him more confidence. There is little doubt in my mind that Jordan Subban will be a Vancouver Canuck. I would guess he has another year or 2 before we see that happen. But when he shows up to the scene, fans will love him. Jordan is proving to be further along in his development than expected. The positional and role need for a player like Subban is also this teams greatest possible need. The opportunity is staring him in the face and so far he looks like he's stepping up.
4. Brendan Gaunce (LD): He's a High IQ, big bodied, versatile player. Gaunce can be plugged in on the wing or in center and still be effective. His high hockey IQ allows him to read and understand the game very well. He uses his speed and strength to complement his positioning in order to be effective. He understands his defensive responsibilities and is opening up to using his strength in games. Good vision, and passing ability, as well as a quick release on his wrist shot, is what gives him his offensive punch. Brendan Gaunce can do a a good bit of everything, and has significantly addressed the holes in his game during his development. He shows strong commitment to making it as an NHLer and it shows. Overall, he's a smart 2-way player, with real NHL size and no real holes in his game. He could be in the league as early as next year contributing in a bottom 6 grinder role. (I can't wait, as two-way players tend to be my favorite) The thing about Gaunce is his hockey sense and cerebral thinking allow him to be used in any situation and play alongside many different players. It's a skill that doesn't get talked about as much, but being able to hop onto different lines with different types of players and be put in different situations, and still being able to be productive offensively and defensively is a quality skill, and it's one of Gaunce's best qualities.
3. Brock Boeser (RD): Brock Boeser was drafted this year, however, he is immediately showing a lot of promise. I think he is going to show to be a steal one day as he is simply a natural goal scorer. He has the great IQ to know where the puck is going to go, and the ability to get into the open soft areas where he can score. He is very strong on his skates, and shows great north south ability. Not exactly a hitter, but is very strong and can win board battles. Big strong kid, with great lateral movement, he can be a real scorer in this league while providing offensive ability. He shows a lot of ability to I also like how he is taking leadership roles wherever he goes. He possesses a rocket shot that seems to be accurate as well. A natural goal scorer, he helping lead North Dakota to be a top team in the NCAA. Boeser has a strong sound game all around and seems to be ahead of his years, both physically and mentally. He is able to give a consistent, hard nosed, high motor effort every time he steps on the ice and is a constant threat to score. He probably won't make the team next season, but the season after that maybe. If not I expect him to be ready by the start of 2018.
2. Hunter Shinkaruk (LW): Electrifying offensive talent. He has the ability to create offense from anywhere. He has the high IQ, vision, puck skills, and passing ability to be a dynamic player, accompanied by silky smooth hands, great puckskills, and a wicked shot forehand and backhand. He is also a dynamic skater with great speed and balance, which just helps his offensive output. He has legitimate top 6 scorer potential for this team and seems to be a sparkplug wherever he plays. He has shown that he can be a dominant force on the AHL level, despite it only being his second year. He has taken on the role of leading scorer, and excelled under the pressure. When Shinkaruk plays, his teammates get excited and involved. He still needs to add strength, but he could be in the NHL as soon as next year. That's what we need, secondary depth scoring. Between Baertschi and Shinkaruk, depth scoring seems to be coming. Shinkaruk has all the tools to be a electric offensive scoring winger. He was named an AHL all star in his second year and looks poised to make a push for the team next season. This season he has taken on the role of leading star scorer for the comets and has excelled. He's had no clear number 1 center, or linemates, but finds ways to produce offense with whoever he plays with. Shinkaruk has real potential to be a highlight reel player.
1. Thatcher Demko (G): May come as a surprise to most, but Demko is my only untradeable asset. Everyone has a price, but he has legitimate potential not only to be a starter, but an all star in this league. Expectations were pretty high coming out the draft being known as the best goaltending talent. (Thanks Calgary) Yet, Demko has still managed to surpass all expectations and is leading an impressive Boston College team from the backend. Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to the future number 1 goaltender for the Vancouver Canucks. Demko is very athletic and shows sound fundamentals from good coaching at Boston College. He shows the same poise and calmness that Cory Schneider did when he played there as well. Both similar styles, receiving similar coaching from the same top program, I think they are very fair comparisons. We still don't know timeline, as goalies are weird, but I'm confident he will be. And don't be surprised if he's an all star during his prime either. It's good that Demko is so good, because aside from him, we have no real goaltending prospects. Good thing it's a position where only 1 guy plays. If we were to lose Demko, we would be in serious trouble. He's as important to this teams future as anyone. Bo Horvat is going to be our leader up front, but Thatcher Demko is going to be the athletic all-star goalie that any team who wants to win a cup needs.
- Ronalds Kenins: I don't know whether to really consider him a prospect anymore. he's more of a depth NHL depth player who gets AHL minutes do to roster sizes.
- Linden Vey: Again, is he a prospect? Seems more like a 5th center who again, plays AHL minutes due to roster space. It's a tough league and every team has and needs guys who can step up when injuries inevitably happen.
- Alex Grenier: Big 6'4, 200 pound all around player. But just hasn't shown the last umph needed to make it to the NHL. Again, maybe he can be used if injuries occur.
- Anton Rodin: The forgotten prospect. Playing over in Sweden, he has become captain of the Brynas IF Gavle, and is currently lighting up the league. He is 25 years old, so not really much of a prospect, but more of a developed European vet. Still, it's possible that he could make the jump to North America, although unlikely.
- Tate Olson: Jim Benning shows his scouting prowess with this move. Drafted very late, but is proving to be not a bad pick up. I would probably put him at 11 on this list, but still, the top 10 is the top 10. 11 isn't bad for a 7th rounder though. I expect him to be in the top 10 soon once players graduate to the NHL.
- Nikitia Tryamkin: I will be honest. Haven't really seen much of his play due to him being in russia and such. However, still, looking at his numbers, and scouting reports, he doesn't seem to have progressed all that much. Small strides, but he needs big strides to make it in the NHL.
- Thatcher Demko - G
- Hunter Shinkaruk - LW
- Brock Boeser - RW
- Brendan Gaunce LW/C
- Jordan Subban - RD
- Carl Neill - RD
- Cole Cassels - C
- Guillimae Brisebois - LD/RD
- Dmitry Zhukenov - C
- Andrey Pedan - LD