What should be expected of the Canucks’ top prospects this season?

Posted: August 21, 2013 by ji123canucks in Vancouver Canucks

boho

So, this is my first article here on HFLoungers. I’d like to thank Eternal Sunshine for allowing me to become a part of this HF collaboration, and I look forward to being able to write about my favourite team, the Vancouver Canucks. Let’s get started.

So, after the Schneider trade (let’s not get into that), the lack of action in FA from Mike Gillis (no cap space + bloated team-hurting contract market = bad) and the generally successful 2013 draft, the Canucks’ prospect pool looks better now than it has in a long time. With top prospects such as Niklas Jensen, Brendan Gaunce, Frank Corrado, and now Hunter Shinkaruk, Bo Horvat, along with recent FA signing Joacim Ericsson, the Canucks have a bright future if all their prospects pan out. Of course, not every prospect will pan out. And after the top group, it gets less glossy, with a lot of projects and frankly questionable players.

In this article, I will look at how this season should pan out for the more highly regarded Canucks prospects. I will also look to see how our young NHL players are coming along. Let’s start with one of those NHL players…

D Chris Tanev

I started with Tanev for two reasons. One, he is well known by most Canucks fans, having played with the team for large parts of the past couple seasons, and two, because most Canucks fans are uncertain of whether he will start this season with the team. I won’t go too much in to contract talk (I won’t pretend to know what I am talking about on that subject), but I believe he will sign sometime in August or September, probably in time for the pre-season. We saw some improvement last year from Tanev, in terms of his offensive game, with his OT winner against Edmonton and nice wrist shot against Phoenix.  I think we will see him play on the bottom pairing for the Canucks this season, and not be used heavily by John Tortorella.

LW Niklas Jensen

So, a player that impressed for one half of the season in Europe last year, and then disappointed in his 20 or so game AHL stint. But his play in the SEL was incredibly promising, maybe arising some hopes that he could make the Canucks this season. I expect that he will play first line AHL minutes, and on the PP. The great thing about the Canucks owning the AHL team (as opposed to Chicago) is that they can put prospects like Jensen on the first line. He may get called up to the NHL when injuries occur, but unless he has a dominating camp, don’t expect him to make the NHL this year.

RW Zack Kassian

He will always be under the spotlight thanks to the Cody Hodgson trade, but while CoHo has troubles negotiating with Buffalo, Kassian is working harder than ever to prepare for this upcoming year. Many expect him to play with the Sedins this year, but I’d expect him to play on the second line the majority of the year with Kesler and Booth (yes, Booth). If Kassian is to break out, it will probably be this year or the next. Power-forwards take a notoriously long time to develop, but we have all seen what Kassian can do. He has decent speed, great hands, is strong on the puck, and can play the game well (unlike a certain Steve Bernier). Expect him to not have an eye-popping offensive year, but you can bet he will progress his game.

C Jordan Schroeder

Schroeder impressed at times for the Canucks this year. Unfortunately, he struggled at the point on the PP and played on the 4th line for more games than he should have. Schroeder impressed with his hard work and tenacity, which he has developed to overcome his size shortcomings. I expect him to be the third line centre for the Canucks this season, and put in a position to succeed under John Tortorella. His vision and speed could be very useful this season and seasons in the future.

C Bo Horvat

Bo Horvat is a very good player. Let’s not get into “we should’ve picked Nichushkin”. They are two very different players, and their potential abilities are both very valuable. Horvat is expected to develop into a 2C, much like Kesler. A quality defensive player, hard to play against, and still has the ability to put the puck into the net. BoHo is an exciting prospect who could form a hard to play against center core with the next on our list in the future. Expect BoHo to play in the OHL this year, a year in which his London Knights will host the Memorial Cup.

C Brendan Gaunce

Brendan Gaunce is another player in the mold of Ryan Kesler. Skating has always been a question mark, as his first few steps are choppy, but he has worked hard to improve that facet of his game. Gaunce does not have too much offensive upside, and unless he takes major steps this year offensively, his upside may be an elite 3rd line center, which is great for a late first round pick. Expect Gaunce to be sent back to junior this year to try and develop that offensive game. Many expect him to be traded to a contender is Belleville struggles, and there is much speculation that it could be London that takes him in. Who knows? Gaunce and Horvat playing together in junior could mean great things for the Canucks’ future.

LW Hunter Shinkaruk

When the Canucks selected Bo Horvat 9th overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, they surely had smallish skilled winger Hunter Shinkaruk on their radar. So when they went up to the podium next with the 24th overall selection, they must have been delighted that he was still available. I doubt that he would’ve been selected had the Canucks not acquired an earlier pick, as Shinkaruk is seen as a high-risk/high-reward pick. Not to take away from his high-skill and speed, but Shinkaruk is small, and there are many questions why he fell in the draft. Shinkaruk is tenacious, and holds a grudge against those teams that passed him over. Expect him to have a monster offensive year when he returns to the young Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL.

D Frank Corrado

Frank Corrado could end up being the great draft steal of the Mike Gillis era, as he showed when he played a competent NHL-level game late last season and in the playoffs. Corrado is expected by many to challenge for a roster spot this season on the bottom pairing, including myself. It seems like you can pencil him in on the bottom pairing next to Tanev, but I personally hope that he is sent to the AHL to play top-pairing minutes with an experienced player. The Comets will be young, and I think that Corrado will be able to play in all situations for them, which could only help his quick development. (Thanks to huntison for pointing out I had forgotten Corrado)

I hope to hear your thoughts! I didn’t include Eddie Lack or Joacim Ericsson, but I think their roles are pretty obvious. Thank-you!

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