Skip to content
Join our Newsletter
Join our Newsletter

Chad Nychuk and Brett Brochu among defence and goalie invitees at Canucks camp

Getting to know the undrafted, unsigned defencemen and goaltenders at Canucks camp.
Chad Nychuk - Keith Hershmiller - larger cp
Chad Nychuk takes a shot for the Brandon Wheat Kings.

The Vancouver Canucks kick off their summer prospect development on Monday, with 36 players reporting to UBC.

Among those 36 prospects are 13 players the Canucks neither drafted nor signed — there were only 12 on the initial roster, but they invited an additional defenceman. These invitees are some of the most intriguing players at camp, as they could be added to the Canucks’ prospect pool without costing them any draft picks or players in a trade. Each one represents a chance at finding an NHL player without spending any assets.

I ran down the six forward invitees on Sunday, including three players out of college hockey and 18-year-old centre Max Namestnikov, who went undrafted last week.

Canucks 2022 development camp invitees:

Forwards

  • Marc Gatcomb - 22 - Right Wing - University of Connecticut, NCAA
  • Jack Jensen - 21 - Left Wing - Arizona State, NCAA
  • Ian Murphy - 23 - Right Wing - Princeton, NCAA
  • Max Namestnikov - 18 - Centre - Sarnia Sting, OHL
  • Tristen Nielsen - 22 - Centre - Abbotsford Canucks, AHL
  • Chase Wouters - 22 - Centre - Abbotsford Canucks, AHL

Defence

  • Jacob Bauer - 20 - Right Defence - Western Michigan, NCAA
  • Alex Kannok Leipert - 21 - Right Defence - Abbotsford Canucks, AHL
  • Chad Nychuk - 21 - Left Defence - Brandon Wheat Kings, WHL
  • Quinn Schmiemann - 20 - Left Defence - Kamloops Blazers, WHL
  • Jackson van de Leest - 21 - Left Defence - Calgary Hitmen/Red Deer Rebels, WHL

Goaltenders

  • Brett Brochu - 19 - Goaltender - London Knights, OHL
  • Samuel Richard - 21 - Goaltender - Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, QMJHL

Today, it’s time for the defencemen and goaltenders, headed up by top WHL defenceman Chad Nychuk and the OHL goaltender of the year, Brett Brochu.

Jacob Bauer - Right Defence

6’3” - 203 lbs - Feb 25, 2002 (20)
Detroit, MI, USA
Western Michigan, NCAA (33-1-4-5)

The Canucks didn’t draft any right-handed defencemen this year but they did invite a couple to camp. The first is Jacob Bauer, who combines size with strong skating and a detailed defensive game.

While he lacks an offensive side to his game — he had just 5 points in 33 games with Western Michigan University — Bauer can play good in-zone defence and is solid on the penalty kill with a quick stick to take away passing lanes. With his strong skating, Bauer can also keep a strong gap and eliminate plays in the neutral zone.

The trouble for Bauer is with the puck on his stick.

“Sloppy with the puck, throws it to wherever he feels,” reads a scouting report from Hockey Prospect in his draft year. “Passes weren’t tape-to-tape.”

Still, there’s something to work with given his size and skating and he’s worked on his puck skills since his draft year. There might be a depth defenceman there, which shouldn’t be dismissed given the Canucks’ needs on the right side. 

He’s also, by all accounts, a gem of a human being.

“He's an unbelievable person," said Chris Michael, his USHL head coach. "One of those kids that when he walked in and you saw him, you immediately smiled. I can’t say enough about who he is as a human being and it was a privilege to have him drive our culture in the right direction.”

Alex Kannok Leipert - Right Defence

6’0” - 194 lbs - Jul 20, 2000
Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand
Abbotsford Canucks, AHL (41-1-4-5)

After a standout junior career with the Vancouver Giants, Alex Kannok Leipert signed with the Abbotsford Canucks ahead of last season and played a regular role on the team’s bottom pairing, though he occasionally lined up at forward as well with the team’s plethora of defencemen.

“He was good. Legitimately, very good as a forward,” said CanucksArmy’s Cody Severtson. “Through ten games as a forward, Kannok Leipert drove possession heavily with a heavy forechecking presence.” 

He wasn’t bad at defence either but it’s interesting to have someone on the farm with the versatility to play as a bottom-six forward. But really, the Canucks need right-handed defencemen more than they need hard-forechecking fourth-line forwards.

“Leipert’s low-key impressive defensive numbers while on the penalty kill are encouraging as we look forward to next year,” said Severtson.

Chad Nychuk - Left Defence

6’1” - 194 lbs - Mar 6, 2001
Rossburn, MB, Canada
Brandon Wheat Kings, WHL (64-21-50-71)

The Canucks have one of the WHL’s top-scoring defencemen at camp and, at the age of 21, he’s looking for his first professional contract. 

Chad Nychuk led all WHL defencemen in goals with 21 and his 71 points in 64 games was good for third among WHL defencemen. That’s pretty impressive, even if it was his over-age year.

One of the knocks on Nychuk early in his WHL career — and likely one of the reasons why he was never a consideration to get drafted — was his skating but it’s something that he has massively improved.

“I still have a lot of work to do with my skating but coming in at 16, that was definitely one of the things I heard a lot about,” said Nychuk. “I was just working on it and getting bigger and stronger. I definitely improved on that a little bit.”

With just 12 goals in his WHL career heading into the season, Nychuk’s goalscoring suddenly exploded this season, earning him the nickname of the “Rossburn Rifle” for his hometown of Rossburn, MB. He even had two shorthanded goals.

Nychuk played a ton of minutes for the Wheat Kings this past season and has some clear offensive skill. He’s one of the players to watch at camp to see if he can earn a contract with the Canucks this summer.

Quinn Schmiemann - Left Defence

6’2” - 201 lbs - Jul 27, 2001 (20)
Wilcox, SK, Canada
Kamloops Blazers, WHL (58-14-40-54)

The Canucks got a good look at Quinn Schmiemann while they were keeping an eye on seventh-round pick Viktor Persson with the Kamloops Blazers. Schmiemann was the Blazers’ captain this past season and he thrived, scoring 54 points in 58 games, good for ninth among WHL defencemen.

Schmiemann then excelled in the playoffs, putting up 18 points in 17 games, second among defencemen behind first-round pick Kevin Korchinski, who played 8 more games.

The Canucks saw enough to sign Schmiemann to an AHL contract and he’ll play with the Abbotsford Canucks next season. 

Schmiemann was originally a sixth-round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2019, but the Lightning didn’t sign him. When he was drafted, Schmiemann was praised for his “quietly effective” game according to his Hockey Prospects scouting report.

“Does not immediately jump off the page for any standout tools but the combination of hockey IQ, mobility, and skill allows him to play greater than the sum of his parts,” said Hockey Prospects. “Very reliable and consistent in his passing.”

Schmiemann’s game got louder and more noticeable in subsequent years, becoming a reliable shutdown defenceman, using his mobility and intelligence to keep a tight gap and force plays to the outside.

“Offensive upside is still the lone question mark for Schmiemann at the professional level,” said Lightning writer Lauren Kelly. “However, the defensive growth he’s since he was drafted is very encouraging.”

The past couple of seasons, he’s added that offensive element, with crisp passing, surprisingly great hands, and a bomb of a shot from the point. 

Getting Schmiemann signed to an AHL deal was a smart move by the Canucks, giving them the opportunity to see how he handles the next step to professional hockey. He could potentially work his way up to an NHL contract in the future.

Jackson van de Leest - Left Defence

6’7” - 238 lbs - Jun 15, 2001 (21)
Kelowna, BC, Canada
Calgary Hitmen/Red Deer Rebels, WHL (60-3-18-21)

A late addition to the camp roster, Jackson van de Leest is absolutely massive, towering over most of the other players at camp at 6’7”. He also has an impressive moustache, so he’s got that going for him.

Van de Leest was the captain of the Calgary Hitmen this past season before a midseason trade to the Red Deer Rebels. He’s known for his physical shutdown game.

“I think that’s my biggest strength, just being able to be that guy that no one really wants to go in the corner with, go one-on-one with,” said van de Leest after the trade.

He also prides himself on having good mobility and puck skills for his size. 

“It’s something that as a big guy I have to work on. It doesn’t come super natural all the time,” he said. “It’s a vital piece of being an effective defenceman in this league in this era — being able to move and skate really well and make a good first pass.”

Does van de Leest have a future in professional hockey? That remains to be seen. For now, van de Leest has committed to Dalhousie University, where he’ll play hockey in Canadian USports. That’s not typically a path to the NHL, so we’ll see if this camp causes a fork in his journey in any way.

Brett Brochu - Goaltender

5’11” - 176 lbs - Sep 9, 2002 (19)
Windsor, ON, Canada
London Knights, OHL (43-29-2.75-.911)

Brett Brochu is not, incidentally, related to former Canucks goaltender Martin Brochu.

Brochu was named the OHL goaltender of the year this past season after putting up a 29-11-2 record with a .911 save percentage. The award is the Jim Rutherford Trophy, named for none other than the Canucks’ president of hockey operations.

The award didn’t help Brochu get drafted this year, his third year of eligibility. With his September 9 birthday, Brochu was just a few days away from this being his second year of eligibility, so it’s somewhat surprising no one took a chance on him in a later round.

That said, Brochu is only 5’11”, which is a tough height for a goaltender looking to make the NHL. Brochu makes up for that lack of size with his agile movement around his crease, excellent technique, and great rebound control. 

“Brochu has great lateral quickness in net and can make highlight-reel saves look routine,” said Mathieu Sheridan of The Hockey Writers. “He is great at tracking pucks through traffic and has good rebound control. He plays his angles well and handles the puck with confidence when under pressure.”

Brochu has also had to deal with some bumps in his development due to COVID-19. He barely played during the 2020-21 season, getting just one game in the AHL with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. He appeared in one game for Team Canada at the World Juniors before they were cancelled too. 

It really seems like there might be something there with Brochu. He’s put in a ton of work to go from Junior C to the OHL to Team Canada at the World Juniors. He’s one to watch. 

Samuel Richard - Goaltender

6’0” - 170 lbs - Mar 12, 2001 (21)
Ste-Catherine, QC, Canada
Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, QMJHL (47-24-2.69-.918)

Samuel Richard played most of his draft year in Junior A in the QCHL, so it’s understandable why he never got picked. Last year, in a COVID-shortened season, he was a starter for the Huskies and was fine.

But his past season, his over-age year in the QMJHL, Richard was one of the best goalies in the league, with a league-leading .918 save percentage and five shutouts.

Even with that performance, Richard hasn’t earned much professional attention, and he’s committed to playing for the University of New Brunswick in Canadian USports.

Richard isn’t the biggest goaltender at 6’0” but he plays a calm, poised game, which pairs nicely with his outstanding athleticism. He was outstanding for the Huskies, carrying one of the league’s lowest-scoring teams night after night, while facing the second-most shots of any QMJHL goaltender.

Richard was named a First-Team All-Star following the QMJHL season, though he did not win the QMJHL goaltender of the year award, which is given to the goaltender with the best goals against average.

If you consider the First-Team All-Star nod as Richard actually being the best goaltender in the QMJHL, that means the Canucks have the best goaltenders from both the QMJHL and OHL at camp. We'll see if either of them get a longer look in the Canucks organization. 


 

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks