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Who are the Canucks Young Stars prospect invitees?

Get to know the Canucks' four prospect camp invitees: Braeden Bowman, Jacob Maillet, Colby Saganiuk, and Dalyn Wakely.
Braeden Bowman of the Guelph Storm is one of four invitees on the Vancouver Canucks roster for the 2023 Young Stars prospect tournament in Penticton.

After a long summer of waiting, Vancouver Canucks hockey returns this Friday. Sort of.

The Canucks annual Young Stars prospect tournament kicks off on Friday, September 15 in Penticton with a game against the Calgary Flames prospects, with games against the prospects for the Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers on Sunday and Monday.

All of the games will be streamed on the Canucks’ YouTube channel and it’s a great opportunity to see the team’s prospects in action. For some of those prospects, this might be one of the only times they ever wear a Canucks jersey, while for others this could be the beginning of a legendary Canucks career.

The Canucks have announced their 27-man roster for the tournament, featuring some of their top prospects, like Aatu Räty, Danila Klimovich, and Akito Hirose, as well as recent draft picks like Vilmer Alriksson, Hunter Brzustewicz, and Sawyer Mynio. Other promising prospects include Josh Bloom, Arshdeep Bains, and Cole McWard.

The roster also features a number of players who are not in the Canucks system, such as the six players signed to AHL contracts with the Abbotsford Canucks. The most intriguing of the prospects not in the Canucks system, however, are the invitees.

There are four invitees at this year’s Young Stars tournament and all four are forwards: Braeden Bowman, Jacob Maillet, Colby Saganiuk, and Dalyn Wakely. In addition, all four of them come out of the OHL, with no invitees from B.C. this year, which is unusual.

These types of invitees are always interesting because they represent an opportunity to add a player to the Canucks’ prospect pool without spending an asset. There’s always a chance that a player might have gone unjustly undrafted and the Canucks have found some gems among their invitees in the past, such as defenceman Troy Stecher.

At the very least, these invitees might be able to earn an AHL contract and work their way up to the NHL from Abbotsford.

So, who are these invitees, and why might they earn a spot in the Canucks’ system? Let’s take a closer look.

Braeden Bowman - Right Wing

6’2” - 194 lbs - Jun 26, 2003 (20)
Kitchener, ON, Canada
Guelph Storm, OHL (54-33-39-72)

Braeden Bowman immediately stands out among the invitees purely because of his numbers. In his second season with the Guelph Storm, Bowman doubled his point totals from his rookie year, putting up 33 goals and 72 points in just 54 games.

Among under-20 players in the OHL, Bowman was 12th in points per game and is the only one in the top 16 who is undrafted. 

Bowman has good size and a knack for finishing in front of the net but prior to this past season, he was a bit of a one-trick pony. He had 27 goals in the 2021-22 season but just ten assists and didn’t do enough away from the puck. What makes him intriguing are the new dimensions he added to his game this past season.

“As an OHL rookie last year, Bowman was almost exclusively a net-front presence and complementary player,” said Brock Otten from OHL Prospects. “That changed a lot this year thanks to significant improvement made to his skating, small area skill, and confidence carrying the puck. 

“Bowman suddenly became dangerous with the puck on his stick in transition, showing an ability to drive the net and beat defenders one-on-one. His vision and playmaking ability, especially coming off the wall, also improved to a spot that I didn't conceive as attainable previously.”

Now Bowman is a more dynamic player, who attacks the net aggressively to create for himself and his teammates rather than waiting for others to do the playmaking. He also improved his shot to better beat goaltenders from distance instead of just around the net. 

The massive steps forward he took in his game led to him finishing second in the annual OHL coaches poll for the Western Conference’s most underrated player.  

Bowman missed his draft year in the OHL when the season was canceled due to COVID, which also disrupted his development. That turned him into a late bloomer and his rapid improvement this past season makes him a prospect worth watching closely because there’s a chance he could develop into an NHL player.

Jacob Maillet - Centre

6’1” - 190 lbs - Mar 13, 2003 (20)
Dundas, ON, Canada
Windsor Spitfires (67-24-52-76)

Braeden Bowman finished second in the OHL coaches poll as the most underrated player in the OHL; Jacob Maillet finished first.

Like Bowman, Maillet missed his draft year in the OHL due to COVID, then had an underwhelming post-draft year, then broke out this past season. Maillet jumped from 31 points in 69 games split between the Guelph Storm and Windsor Spitfires in the 2021-22 season to 76 points in 67 games last season.

Maillet is a playmaking centre with a knack for finding his teammates with the puck but it’s his play away from the puck that will likely give him his best shot of making it in professional hockey. He’s strong on his skates, with good explosive speed, and he has excellent awareness defensively.

In the OHL coaches poll, Maillet was voted the best defensive forward in the OHL’s Western Conference. 

“He's a good two-way centre who has improved his skating a lot since entering the OHL with Guelph,” said Otten. “The offensive upside at the NHL level wouldn't be high, but I could see him developing into a useful NHL player under the right circumstances.”

The Canucks could definitely use another strong-skating, two-way centre in their system. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a right-hand shot.

Colby Saganiuk - Centre

5’7” - 154 lbs - Feb 5, 2003 (20)
Chicago, IL, USA
Erie Otters, OHL (55-7-25-32)

Colby Saganiuk’s flashes of skill stood out at the Canucks’ development camp. Unfortunately, so did his diminutive size.

It’s not entirely clear why the Canucks invited a 5’7” centre who had just 32 points in 55 games in his over-age year in the OHL to their development camp but he’s back for Young Stars and perhaps he’ll prove he belongs in that environment.

Saganiuk is the grandson of former NHLer Rocky Saganiuk, who played 259 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Pittsburgh Penguins. Rocky was also undersized, though not to the same degree as his grandson and he played in a different era. 

While Saganiuk has a strong motor and puts in a diligent effort at both ends of the ice, his skating needs work, with a lack of explosiveness and breakaway speed that will make it tough for him to survive at the next level at his size. 

Like Bowman and Maillet, Saganiuk missed his draft year in the OHL due to COVID, so perhaps there’s some hope that he could be a late bloomer. If so, this Young Stars tournament represents an opportunity to show his potential.

Dalyn Wakely - Centre

6’0” - 190 lbs - Mar 5, 2004 (19)
Port Hope, ON, Canada
North Bay Battalion, OHL (66-30-19-49)

The youngest of the four invitees, Dalyn Wakely is likely the only one returning to the OHL next season. He had 30 goals in 66 games last season for the North Bay Battalion and will look to build on those totals — and hopefully add more assists — next season.

There’s some potential in Wakely’s game because he plays a professional-style game. Instead of trying to beat opponents one-on-one, he’s more inclined to work a give-and-go with a teammate. He’s quick to pursue the puck in every situation and takes intelligent routes to force turnovers on the forecheck or squeeze players into the boards when defending the rush.

“Most of his value comes from his anticipation on the forecheck, non-stop pursuit, and overwhelming pressure on the forecheck,” said Elite Prospects’ Mitch Brown in a scouting report from Wakely’s draft year.

Wakely has the ability to dazzle with occasional flashes of skill or playmaking prowess but he needs to improve his consistency offensively. If he can develop his hands and puck skills, there’s enough of a two-way game there to see a potential NHL future for Wakely. 

Wakely also has strong character. He won the CHL’s Humanitarian of the Year award after he started an initiative in North Bay called Wake’s Sake, which held donation drives to help support The Gathering Place, which serves North Bay’s homeless and low-income population. The initiative brought in donations of winter coats, gloves, hats, and hygiene products.

Wakely and his teammates also helped prepare and serve meals at The Gathering Place. He hopes to grow the initiative in the coming years, first looking towards his hometown of Port Hope.

“I think it’s something I’m hoping to expand, whether it’s in Port Hope or wherever I’m going to be living,” said Wakely. “It was a great first year for Wake’s Sake in North Bay and just hope to continue to grow that.”

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