Among the most frustrating components of the Vancouver Canucks‘ 2016-17 campaign was their lack of organizational depth. Due to a handful of injuries, the likes of Jayson Megna, and Michael Chaput were forced into everyday roles. Similarly, when forced to make call-ups from the AHL’s Utica Comets, the likes of Alex Grenier and Joe Labate were among those brought up. Vancouver struggled.
It is this context that makes this year’s happenings so refreshing. Vancouver have top prospects making waves, while other young players are making an impact. This makes potential and inevitable injuries far less catastrophic for the Canucks. Should a regular roster player go down, the team can be confident they have a competent replacement waiting in the wings.
Vancouver Canucks Rely on Utica Comets Talent
The two primary standouts up front in Utica have been Nikolay Goldobin and Reid Boucher. Goldobin, 22, was the centerpiece of the Jannik Hansen trade near last year’s trade deadline. He scored three goals in 12 games in the NHL after being acquired from the San Jose Sharks but didn’t make the team to start this season. Through ten AHL games, however, he has shone for the Comets with 12 points. He has certainly made himself a prime candidate for a shot with the Canucks at some point.
Boucher, 24, was claimed off waivers from the New Jersey Devils this past January. He scored five goals and seven points in 27 games with the Canucks but also failed to crack the opening night roster. Thus far, he has scored three goals and ten points in ten games with Utica. Between his production and a terrific shot, the Canucks may call on him in hopes of supplemental scoring at some point during the season.
It extends beyond Goldobin and Boucher up front, however. Anton Rodin, a former SHL MVP, has failed to play much due to the AHL’s veteran rule. There is speculation he is also struggling with injuries but has scored two points in his five contests. Rodin, 26, was recently called up but failed to see the ice during that time period. His raw skill makes him a possibility to put on a Canucks jersey in 2017-18.
Options on the Blue Line and In Goal
On the blue line, the club boasts a similar plethora. Philip Holm, signed out of Sweden, has thrived offensively. Despite a shaky pre-season defensively, the 25-year-old has put up an impressive eight points in ten games. Prospect Evan McEneny has similar numbers. The 23-year-old has produced six points in nine contests. Patrick Wiercioch has also signed this past off-season as an NHL-caliber call-up. He is currently on the Canucks’ roster due to injuries to Troy Stecher and Alexander Edler.
In goal, top prospect Thatcher Demko has shone. Demko is a former second-round pick. He put up a stellar 1.85 GAA and a .939 save percentage in his second AHL season. Should one of Jacob Markstrom or Anders Nilsson go down to injury, fans will be witness to a star prospect, as opposed to veteran Richard Bachman.
The organization’s collective depth was a major weakness last year. This year there are some notable improvements, and being hammered with injuries for the last couple of seasons. It is crucial that the Canucks have NHL-level talent in the minors. Between the rise of prospects and some savvy signings, it seems they have accomplished this goal. No longer will fans have to endure AHL journeymen as call-ups. Instead, they will get a look at Vancouver’s future which involves higher-end skill players and some legitimate hockey talent. This will not only improve the optics of the team. It also bodes well for their future outlook and their present-day results.