Normally this post is about one — key word: one — youngster who’s either looking to make the leap from inconsistent NHLer to reliable contributor, or from the minors/junior/college to the big club.
For the Vancouver Canucks, we thought we’d mix it up a bit, what with all the names that could be candidates, as well as management’s admission that the lack of “support from the bottom” has been a major contributor to the team’s recent problems.
“Every organization has struggled (at times) with the draft. It’s an inexact science,” said president of hockey ops Trevor Linden. “It’s impacted this club for a couple reasons. They’ve traded a lot of those picks away in an effort to get to where they want to go, which is understandable for teams in that position. And we’ve also missed on a few (draft picks).
“We do have some good young kids who will be turning pro next year. That’s encouraging. But they’re not ready to take prominent roles yet.”
Bo Horvat is one of those “good young kids” that Linden is encouraged by. The 19-year-old center was drafted ninth overall in 2013, with the pick the Canucks got from the Devils in the Cory Schneider trade. Horvat isn’t eligible to play in the AHL next season, so it’s either make the cut in Vancouver or spend another year in junior with the London Knights of the OHL.
“He’s going to have to earn a spot and then we’ll have to make some tough decisions” said general manager Jim Benning, per The Province. “He’s good on faceoffs and a good penalty killer. He’ll block shots, is good defensively and wins battles. If he goes back, he’ll be one of the better players in the league. If that’s what ends up happening, that’s not the end of the world either. He’s going to be a very important guy for us and we want to make sure we’re developing him properly.”
Zack Kassian, meanwhile, will definitely make the Canucks next season. But the player Vancouver acquired in another high-profile trade — that one with the Buffalo Sabres, who got Cody Hodgson in return — will still be looking to make a leap of sorts.
Kassian had 14 goals and 15 assists last season. The 23-year-old winger has size and skill; however, he still needs to show it on a more consistent basis. (According to Linden, Kassian needs to focus on being a more “complete player,” something since-fired coach John Tortorella alluded to during the season.)
Other Canucks looking to make the leap?
Linden Vey: Traded from Los Angeles, where he couldn’t make the leap like Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson did.
Nicklas Jensen: Vancouver’s first-round pick in 2011. Fun fact: Before Jensen, the last Canuck first-rounder still with the team is Henrik Sedin.
Frank Corrado: The 21-year-old defenseman may be in tough to make the team out of training camp, but at the very least should be among the first injury call-ups from AHL Utica.
Brendan Gaunce and Hunter Shinkaruk are a couple of other first-rounders to keep an eye on, though both will likely start the season in the AHL.