With the Canucks season long over with, fans are looking for some hockey to watch. Having to choose between cheering for the Blackhawks, Ryan Kesler or Alain Vigneault, it’s no wonder that Canucks fans are choosing to check out the Canucks prospects instead. The Utica Comets are playing Game 7 tonight and Cole Cassels will be playing in the Memorial Cup this weekend but let’s take a look at the season that was for the Canucks prospects.
Regular Season: 56 GP – 34G, 47A, 81 Pts
Playoffs: 14 GP – 6G, 10A, 16 Pts (Sault Ste. Marie – OHL)
The 2014 draft class for the Canucks is showing early signs of being a very successful draft for GM Jim Benning. The 24th overall pick, Jared McCann, improved on his point total from his draft year by 19 points (2013-14: 62 pts; 2014-15: 81 pts) and has vaulted himself into a top prospect that many had hoped for.
McCann seems to be a player that has the all the tools to make the NHL. Former Sault St. Marie general manager and current Toronto Maple Leafs assistant GM Kyle Dubas continues to rave about McCann:
Dubas: Jared (McCann) has one of the best wrist shots of anyone not in pro hockey.
— TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) May 5, 2015
Regular Season: 50 GP – 21G, 31A, 52Pts
Playoffs: 14 GP – 5G, 8A, 13 Pts (Calgary – WHL)
Although 6th overall pick Jake Virtanen didn’t improve on his points-per-game over last year, he still had a successful season. He Captured gold for Canada at the 2015 World Juniors and got his first taste of pro hockey in the second round of the AHL Calder Cup playoffs with Utica. Virtanen was suspended for 3 games during the WHL playoffs for a hit to the head, but hopefully he can continue to channel his physicality like he did in February:
19-13-3, 2.19 GAA, 0.925 S% and 1 shutout (Boston College – NCAA)
Second round pick Thatcher Demko had a fantastic season for Boston College, finishing the year with a 19-13-3 record, 2.19 GAA, 0.925 SV% and 1 shutout. He improved over last season in wins, goals against average and save percentage. Unfortunately for Demko, he was unable to carry the United States and failed to capture a medal at the 2015 World Juniors (video courtesy @BCHockeyNews).
Demko was sensational in the NCAA playoffs, but wasn’t able to score goals for his offensively challenged Boston College teammates.
Regular Season: 74 GP – 16G, 15A, 31Pts
Playoffs: 11GP – 3G, 1A, 4 Pts (Utica – AHL)
Hunter Shinkaruk had a slow start to his pro career after putting up only 15 points in his first 48 games with Utica. But Shinkaruk found his form, exploding for 12 points in his last 13 games of the season, after being put on the first line. Shinkaruk is a player that excels when he plays with creative offensive players. He has that knack to be in the right spot but needs that player who can get him the puck. This goal from late April illustrates it perfectly, plus you have to love the exuberant celebration (video courtesy @WinThaGame):
Regular Season: 15GP – 7G, 8A, 15Pts
Playoffs: 9 GP – 3G, 5A, 8 Pts (Utica- AHL)
The Canucks made one significant deal at the trade deadline, trading a 2015 2nd round pick for former first rounder Sven Baertschi. Baertschi has been nothing but fantastic for the Utica Comets since being acquired. Regular season and playoffs combined he has put up 23 points (9-14-23) in 24 games. But he was acquired to make the Canucks better, and since he is waiver eligible next season, he will be given every chance to succeed. He didn’t look out of place in the 5 games he played (3 regular season and 2 playoffs) for the Canucks. It’s easy to see that he has great offensive instincts, a wicked shot and excellent skating abilities. He used all of those tools to score his first goal as a Canuck:
Regular Season: 54 GP – 30G, 51A, 81Pts
Playoffs: 21 GP – 10G, 21A, 31 Pts (Oshawa – OHL)
As mentioned earlier, Canucks prospect Cole Cassels will be competing for the Memorial Cup this weekend. He earned the opportunity by besting phenom Connor McDavid in the OHL playoffs. Cassels improved on his points-per-game from 1.2 PPG in 2013-14 to 1.5 PPG in 2014-15 during the regular season and then continued that pace throughout the OHL playoffs. Cassels will turn pro this summer and if he continues to play the way he has this year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in Canucks jersey soon. He seems to think he is close too:
Cole Cassels also made it clear: he's headed to camp with #Canucks in September dead-set on making the roster. Might just do it, too.
— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) May 16, 2015
In terms of prospects, this season should be considered a great success. Many top prospects took major steps forward and the Canucks added to the prospect pool by acquiring players like Adam Clendening, Sven Baertschi and Andrey Pedan. For the first time in quite a few years, there are a handful of young players who could force themselves onto the Canucks roster. Veteran players should be looking over their shoulder as the youth movement is coming.