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Canucks should just sign everyone from the University of North Dakota

Brock Boeser finished off his freshman season in the best possible way, leading the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks through the Frozen Four into the National Championship game, then putting on a dominant performance to win the title.
Canucks should try to sign Drake Caggiula
Canucks should try to sign Drake Caggiula

Brock Boeser finished off his freshman season in the best possible way, leading the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks through the Frozen Four into the National Championship game, then putting on a dominant performance to win the title.

Boeser had a goal and three assists in the final game, capping off an outstanding tournament. He finished with two goals and nine points in the four games of the tournament, giving him a total of 27 goals and 60 points in 42 games for the season.

It’s entirely possible that Boeser is NHL-ready, but it’s understandable that he would want to spend one more year at college refining his game and getting another year of schooling under his belt before going pro. While he won’t be on the Canucks roster next season, it’s possible that a couple of his teammates will be.

The Canucks are supposedly among the frontrunners for Boeser’s linemate (and poorly-disguised Dracula) Drake Caggiula, who was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Frozen Four. Caggiula had 25 goals and 51 points in 39 games this past season and boasts a dynamic skillset.

Other teams in the mix include the Blackhawks, Oilers, Flyers, Senators, and maybe the Sabres. While the Canucks have one of his linemates, the Blackhawks have the other in Nick Schmaltz. Meanwhile, the Flyers have head coach Dave Hakstol, who coached Caggiula for three years at North Dakota.

Those are some significant connections, so how can the Canucks sweeten the deal?

How about by signing more of the Fighting Hawks? Heck, Benning wants to acquire players who can win hockey games, right? The Fighting Hawks just proved they can win hockey games.

Let’s start with Troy Stecher, who is another free agent in high demand. The Canucks have the inside lane on acquiring him for obvious reasons: Stecher is a defencemen from Richmond, BC, who grew up as a fan of the Canucks.

Stecher was a standout for the Penticton Vees before playing three solid years for North Dakota, leading all North Dakotan defencemen with 29 points in 43 games this past season. At 5’11”, he’s not particularly big, but he has a lot of skill and is a dynamic skater.

After Stecher, it gets a bit tougher. Defenceman Tucker Poolman, who has the best name on the Fighting Hawks, is a Jets prospect. Forward Austin Poganski is a Blues prospect. Luke Johnson? Blackhawks. Paul LaDue? Kings. Beyond trading for a couple of them, the pickings start to get a bit slimmer.

There’s senior forward Bryn Chyzyk, who had 12 goals and 22 points in 42 games. Or 20-year-old freshman Rhett Gardner, who had just 11 goals and 18 points but boasts good size and speed. They’re not overly compelling, but on the off-chance they’ll help convince Caggiula to sign? Sure. The Comets need some guys.

Goaltender Cam Johnson is intriguing. He had an outstanding season, posting a .935 save percentage and 1.66 goals against average, but he was just a sophomore and likely wants to return for his junior year. Besides, let’s not do anything to discourage Thatcher Demko from signing.

So, who else can the Canucks sign? Here’s an idea: the head coach.

Brad Berry took over as the head coach of the University of North Dakota after 9 years as an assistant under Dave Hakstol. He immediately took his team to the NCAA Championship. He coached a dynamic, puck possession game that was fun to watch and extremely effective.

Rob “The Hockey Guy” Williams spoke to Berry about his system for The Coaches Site:

“When we have the puck, we want to be attacking the offensive zone with not only our three forwards, but we want our d-men joining the rush to be in attack mentality and making plays” Berry said, speaking to his aggressive mindset as a coach. “We also want that attack mentality away from the puck, that if we don’t have it, we want to get it back. In every zone in the rink, whether it’s d-zone, neutral zone or the offensive zone.”

He also had positive things to say about Brock Boeser’s play away from the puck, praising his 200-foot game. If the Canucks want a coach who can teach a smart, well-rounded game without sacrificing entertainment value, Berry seems to be the guy.

Okay, sure, it may be too early to hire the guy for an NHL head coaching gig after just one year as a college head coach. And yes, the Canucks have given Willie Desjardins a vote of confidence and insisted he’ll be back next season. So no, the Canucks won’t be hiring Berry, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some NHL teams are keeping an eye on him.

I loved the movement on North Dakota’s power play, so whoever their special teams coach is, hire him instead. That would be Matt Shaw, who has previously had assistant coaching gigs with the Wild, Sharks, and Devils. He particularly had success with the Sharks’ power play.

Anyone opposed to doing pretty much anything to make the Canucks’ power play better next season? Anyone? Okay, Matt Shaw it is.

Hire Shaw as an assistant, sign as many of the North Dakota Fighting Hawks as you can, trade for the rest, and ta-da! The Canucks have a championship team. Sure, it’s the wrong championship, but beggars can’t be choosers.