Wednesday morning I laid out a plan for the Canucks to become a championship team. Here’s the gist: methodically acquire the entire roster and coaching staff of the 2016 NCAA Champion North Dakota Fighting Hawks. Please note that I didn’t specify which championship.
The Canucks took a step towards fulfilling that plan Wednesday afternoon (clearly they read the blog), signing defenceman Troy Stecher.
They’ve had their eye on Stecher for a while, inviting him to their development camp two years ago. I wrote about him and the rest of the invitees at that time:
The Vees’ head coach, Fred Harbinson, noted after the 2011-12 season that Stecher makes up for his lack of size by being “very strong positionally” and having a “will to win puck battles” adding that “there are few times when the puck ends up in the corner that Troy doesn’t come out with it.” Harbinson even went as far as to compare him to Brian Rafalski as a skilled, undersized defenceman. After the 2012-13 season, he called him “a great leader, teammate and role model” and he was named the best defenceman in the BCHL interior conference.
The undersized defenceman made in impact with UND in his freshman season, scoring 11 points in 42 games and establishing himself as a vocal leader, while backing up his comments with his play. His coach, Dave Hakstol, said partway through the season, “He says what’s on his mind. Yet, he’s thoughtful about it. Energy wise, he’s become a leader for our team as a freshman, because he always goes out and competes.”
His UND teammate, goaltender Zane Gothberg, noted his versatility: “he can make plays on the blue line, he gets the puck up first pass all of the time, [and] he’s really gritty in front of the net.”
Stecher was understandably excited to attend the Canucks’ development camp as he was born in Richmond, BC and grew up a Canucks fan. His dad was even a season ticket holder.
Since 2014, Stecher has improved each season, putting up 13 points in 34 games in 2014-15, then leading all Hawks defencemen with 8 goals and 29 points in 43 games this past season. As an added bonus, he’s a right-handed shot.
Scouts describe him as a dynamic skater able to jump up in the rush, but also get back defensively, while Stecher himself points out that he likes to contribute offensively without being risky. To go with his skating, he has elite vision and can make exceptional passes.
This is a fantastic signing for multiple reasons.
The first is that Stecher is a legitimately good defensive prospect, who only went undrafted because of concerns about his size. After proving himself in the physical world of college hockey, many teams were looking to sign him. Fortunately, Stecher strongly desired to play for his hometown team and/or saw the opportunity to outplay some other defencemen in the Canucks system for a job.
The second is that adding Stecher boosts what is still a fairly shallow prospect pool on the defensive end. Ben Hutton has graduated, Nikita Tryamkin seems legit, and I’m still intrigued by Andrey Pedan, but after that it’s basically Jordan Subban, Carl Neill, and Tate Olson. There’s potential there, to be sure, but it would be nice to fill out those ranks a bit more to increase the odds of getting a quality NHL player. Acquiring a great prospect without spending a draft pick? Yes please.
The third is that it shows that the Canucks management team isn’t strictly enamoured with size on the blue line. Skill and the ability to join the rush are important ingredients to have in your defensive corps and Stecher certainly adds those components.
It might actually be a good sign for Jordan Subban that the Canucks are interested in someone like the 5’10” Stecher, indicating that Subban’s size won’t necessarily rule him out next season. Unless Jim Benning uses Stecher’s acquisition as an excuse to trade Subban.
And now I’ve made myself sad. Dang it.