Top 10 Canucks Prospects Countdown (6-10)

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Image: Vancouver Canucks

With the Young Stars prospects tournament next weekend, all eyes will turn to the prospects fighting to make a name for themselves. Over the next two days I will breakdown the top 10 prospects within the Canucks organization.

Image: Vancouver Canucks

SEE ALSO: Top 10 Canucks Prospects Countdown (1-5)

The Canucks prospect system has improved so much over the last few years that choosing a top 10 prospect list will be cause for some debate. The list below includes players who are eligible for the Calder Trophy for top rookie (which means less then 25 NHL games before the season). Thus Sven Baertschi, Frank Corrado, Ronalds Kenins and Jacob Markstrom are all excluded, but would have likely cracked the top 10.

With that said, here are the top Canucks prospects for 2016 (#6-10):

 

#10 – Jordan Subban

Age: 20

Position: D

Team: Belleville Bulls (OHL)

Size: 5’9″, 185 lbs

2014-15 Stats: 63 GP – 25 G, 27 A, 52 Pts

Where will he be next year: Utica (AHL)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxVTau2Ymx0

I’ve always been high on Jordan Subban because of his offensive skillset and skating abilities. He finished the 2014-15 season tied for first in the entire CHL for goals scored by a defenceman, was a finalist for the OHL Defenceman of the Year award and was named to the OHL 3rd All-Star Team. Impressive feats for 5’9″ former 4th round pick who has always been regarded as too small.

Subban is almost certainly turning pro this year, as it’s doubtful that he returns to the OHL for his overage year. It will be interesting to see how he does against men in the AHL. His small stature may be an issue but if he can continue to use his skating, quick stick and hockey IQ, he shouldn’t take long to adapt.

 

#9 – Alexandre Grenier

Age: 23

Position: F

Team: Utica Comets (AHL)

Size: 6’5″, 200 lbs

2014-15 Stats: 67 GP – 17 G, 26 A, 43 Pts

Where will he be next year: Utica (AHL) or Vancouver (NHL)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8IFes4MaVQ

On the opposite side of the size spectrum from Subban, Alexandre Grenier will need to continue to use his massive frame to make it at the next level. Drafted as a 20-year-old in the 3rd round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Grenier has taken a long traveled route to now being on the cusp of the NHL. Drafted out of the QMJHL, he played a handful of games in 2012-13 in Austria before suffering a bad concussion. Once recovered, he went to the AHL, but finished the season in the ECHL. The Laval native was able to stick with the Utica Comets in the 2013-14 season and then worked on rounding out his game this past year.

Grenier skates well, has a great wrist shot and has some very impressive puck handling skills. That isn’t just with the ‘for-a-big-body’ disclaimer, he does all those things well, period.

Grenier has improved his game so much that GM Jim Benning has gone out of his way to offer praise for the big forward:

“He’s come a long way this year,” Benning said. “He’s a big kid and he’s got skill. Maybe his work ethic and consistency in his work wasn’t there.

“He’s coming. He’s put himself in a position to be a guy who can compete for a job.”

I don’t expect Grenier to make the Canucks out of camp, but fully expect him to be called up as soon as injuries hit. If he can continue to play like he did in the AHL playoffs, he should be able to carve out a bottom-6 spot in Vancouver like Ronalds Kenins did this past season.

 

#8 – Brendan Gaunce

Age: 21

Position: F

Team: Utica Comets (AHL)

Size: 6’2″, 205 lbs

2014-15 Stats: 74 GP – 11 G, 18 A, 29 Pts

Where will he be next year: Utica (AHL)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2iKgmDi2ssQ

I often refer to Brendan Gaunce as the forgotten first round pick because he has slipped down the prospect depth chart with the Canucks adding flashier prospects with more potential in recent years. But Gaunce still has the skill-set to be an effective NHL player and should be a bottom-6 player for the Canucks in a few years.

The Markham, Ontario native was drafted as a centre but was shifted to wing when he was traded to Erie in the OHL. Once he turned pro and joined Utica, he started the year as a centre and then was once again asked to move to the wing. Throughout last year he gradually turned himself into an effective 3rd line player for Utica. He was a healthy scratch for two games in the first round of the playoffs, but returned to score both goals in a 2-1 win against the Chicago Wolves in the deciding game to eliminate them.

Gaunce has played his way back into the conversation as a legitimate prospect. It is expected that his role with Utica will grow next season, so hopefully he can build on a good rookie season in the AHL and earn himself a cup of coffee in the NHL this year.

 

#7 – Ben Hutton

Age: 22

Position: D

Team: University of Maine (NCAA) & Utica Comets (AHL)

Size: 6’3″, 200 lbs

2014-15 Stats: 39 GP – 9 G, 12 A, 21 Pts (NCAA)/ 4 GP – 1 G, 0A, 1 Pts (AHL)

Where will he be next year: Utica (AHL)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GMMzINWE7s0

Ben Hutton checks in at #7 in the prospect rankings due to his potential. Hutton has the skillset to one day become a top 4 NHL defenceman. The question is if he will be able to reach that potential.

Common with young defenceman, Hutton needs to refine the defensive side of his game. Jeff Cox from SB Nation reiterates that in his assessment of Hutton’s game:

Hutton had a better season in his own zone last season compared to this recent one where he struggled at times. He finished with a team worst -15 plus/minus and was caught flat-footed and out of position on numerous occasions. It’s possible a change of scenery and a move to the AHL will allow for his defensive game to develop further.

On the positive side, Hutton is very good at making the first pass and pushing the play in the offensive direction. He averaged an astounding 2.82 shots per game, which given that he is a defenceman, is even more impressive. Another great sign was that Hutton did not look out of place in his four games with Utica to end last season.

Despite just turning pro, the Prescott, Ontario native will be one of the older defence prospects in Utica. If he can refine his game quickly this season, he may be donning a Canucks jersey as an injury call-up very soon.

 

#6 – Hunter Shinkaruk

Age: 20

Position: F

Team: Utica Comets (AHL)

Size: 5’11”, 179 lbs

2014-15 Stats: 74 GP – 16 G, 15 A, 31 Pts

Where will he be next year: Utica (AHL)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mA96sA_Svew

Like Gaunce, Hunter Shinkaruk entered last season looking to make a name for himself in professional hockey. Unfortunately for Shinkaruk, he was returning from major hip surgery, and had been limited to 18 games the year before. Given that, the former first round pick started the season slow and seemed to struggle to catch up.

When the Canucks called up Sven Baertschi late in the season, Shinkaruk was moved to the first line in Utica and caught fire. He scored 12 points in the last 13 games of the AHL season. When Baertschi returned for the AHL playoffs, Hunter was dropped back down the lineup and struggled to put up points. Still, the Calgary native was an effective depth player for the Comets during their run to the Calder Cup Finals.

Shinkaruk is a player with a high ceiling and a great offensive skill-set. If he can continue to work on his two-way game, then the offence and points should come easier for him. With a full pro season and a full summer of training under his belt this second season in the AHL will be huge for Shinkaruk. Canucks fans should be excited to see what he can do with the other prospects in Utica this upcoming year.

 

Honourable Mention

Noticeably absent from the above list is former first round pick Nicklas Jensen. He fell out of the top 10 due to a sub-par AHL season and being a healthy scratch multiple times in the AHL playoffs. It appears that it’s a do or die season for Jensen.

Check back tomorrow for the remainder of our top 10 Canucks prospects countdown.

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Ryan Biech Hockey writer for Vancity Buzz
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