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The Prospector: Utica Comets name opening night roster

Also in this edition: Junior defencemen tally assists, Brock Boeser's laser wrister, and the return of Anton Rodin
The Prospector
The Prospector

Canucks fans are understandably hyped up about three prospects right now: Jake Virtanen, Jared McCann, and Ben Hutton. When it comes to prospects, sometimes it’s out-of-sight, out-of-mind. Virtanen, McCann, and Hutton are in Canucks jerseys (or in a fetching suit in the press box in Virtanen’s case), so they’re automatically success stories.

But what about the prospects that didn’t make the team out of training camp? Just a week or so ago, fans were excited about the idea of Brendan Gaunce or Alexandre Grenier making the Canucks. Meanwhile, two of their top prospects couldn’t even be at training camp because they are playing college hockey.

So, what’s going on with the Canucks other prospects as they start their respective seasons?

AHL: Utica Comets youth group

With two teenagers making the team, the Canucks got a lot younger this season, but they’re not the only ones. The Comets, who just declared their opening night roster, are going to be very young this year. The Canucks’ farm team doesn’t have a single player in his thirties: the oldest is Blair Jones at 29. Alex Biega and Taylor Fedun provide the veteran presence on defence; both are 27.

It’s not just that Their AHL veterans aren’t particularly old, they’re not point producers, either, apart from Jones. Well, unless you’re feeling uncharitable and want to call Linden Vey an AHL veteran.

In any case, offensive responsibility will fall on prospects like Brendan Gaunce, Hunter Shinkaruk, Alexandre Grenier, and Nicklas Jensen, who had 2 goals in 3 pre-season games. It will also be interesting to see how Ronalds Kenins performs in the AHL after his solid performance as a rookie in the NHL last season.

Also worth keeping an eye on: Dane Fox. The 22-year-old didn’t make the Comets roster last year after a stunning 64-goal, 107-point season as an over-ager in the OHL. He acquitted himself reasonably well with the Wings, scoring 30 goals and 45 points in 70 games. He got better as the season progressed, putting up 35 of his points in his final 45 games. He’s still a massive long shot to make the NHL, but it’s encouraging that he’ll start the season with the Comets.

Meanwhile, Joe Cannata is the newly minted number one goaltender in Utica with Jacob Markstrom injured and Richard Bachman recalled to Vancouver. Cannata was outstanding in the ECHL last season and put up a .932 save percentage in 5 games with the Comets.

This is a massive opportunity for the 25-year-old, whose contract ends this season, to prove himself and catch the attention of an NHL team. Maybe even the Canucks. Anyone want another goaltending controversy?

ECHL: Poor Ludwig

With Fox and Cannata staying in the AHL, it looks like Ludwig Blomstrand will be the only Canucks’ prospect with the Kalamazoo Wings in the ECHL (Darren Archibald and Alex Mallet are still with the K-Wings but are no longer under contract with the Canucks). He had 33 goals and 45 points in 53 games in Kalamazoo last season, finishing first on the team in goals and third in points.

That was good enough for 12th in the ECHL in goals and everyone ahead of him played more games than he did. It’s probably not a good sign that the Comets decided to keep 9 defencemen on the roster rather than keep him up.

CHL: Newest defencemen doing work

Cole Cassels and Jared McCann piled up points last season, making it fun for Canucks fans to keep an eye on the CHL. This season will be hard-pressed to match that one, but two of the Canucks’ newest defencemen are creating some early excitement.

Carl Neill and Tate Olson were both selected in the 2015 entry draft and combine decent size with some upside. They’re also both off to a solid start to their CHL seasons. Neill, who it should be noted is already 19, has 6 assists through 7 games, while Olson has 4 assists through 4 games.

As for the forwards, Dmitry Zhukenov has 2 goals and an assist in his first 5 games in North America. he took advantage of some soft defending on his first QMJHL goal:

Kyle Pettit, also has 2 goals and an assist, also in 5 games. He scored those points in his first two games, then went silent for a few. He’ll have fewer offensive responsibilities with Dylan Strome returning to the Erie Otter (Strome had a 5-assist game in his return).

Pettit’s first goal of the season illustrates his size and strength while going to the net, which is a positive, though I doubt he has much offensive upside at the pro level.



NCAA: Shockingly, Canucks prospects look good in exhibition against Canadian universities

The NCAA season hasn’t started for all schools, but three Canucks prospects got into exhibition games against Canadian universities. Adam Gaudette tallied a goal and an assist when his Northeastern University played against SFU.

Brock Boeser scored a goal for North Dakota in an exhibition against the University of Manitoba on a wicked wrist shot.

And Thatcher Demko played in one period against the University of New Brunswick, stopping all 16 shots he faced. His backup gave up 5 goals in the other two periods. I don’t think Demko’s job is in jeopardy. He then made 22 saves on 23 shots in Boston College’s season opener against West Point.

Europe: Rodin is ridiculous

The Canucks have just a couple guys over in Europe and the KHL. Lukas Jasek is getting limited minutes in the Czech league and has just 1 assist in 8 games. Nikita Tryamkin is averaging a little over 17 minutes per game in the KHL, which is a nice bump up from last season. He has a goal and an assist in 18 games.

The really interesting guy is Anton Rodin, who is still in the Canucks’ system because they gave him a qualifying offer. Rodin is off to a great start in the SHL with 5 goals and 11 points in 7 games, enough to lead the league in scoring. If he keeps this up, he just might be worth bringing back to Vancouver for another shot next season.