It's only been 2 meaningless pre-season games so far, and most players have only appeared in one game so it's hard to put too much stock into anything. Especially with the coaching staff and team still trying to get on the same page and for all the players to understand the system. Other factors include not being familiar with teammates, linemates and also just plain old nerves which is understandable for the young guys. With that being said, I've done my best to follow the Canucks rookie camp, rookie camp scrimmages, training camp and have watched both pre-season games to date so I'm now going to make a few judgements(fair or not) based on what I've seen and been reading on a few of the young guys fighting for roster spots on the team.
It's hard to say anything negative about a guy who's scored in both pre-season games that he's played in. Gaunce seems to be the type of player that knows where to guy and can bang home rebounds and loose pucks. When I watch him, I believe that his offensive upside is limited by his lack of speed and puck skills. He's definitely not a sloth for a big guy, but lacks that extra gear that most scorers have. You definitely will not ever try to see him stick handle or dangle an opponent, that's just not his game. What does stand out is his already NHL-ready body, his calm demeanour on and off the ice, and his smart/safe play with and without the puck. From what I've seen and read up on him, he's actually more effective offensively as a left winger than a center, however his defensive presence and the fact that centers are a more valuable commodity in the NHL leads me to believe that he'll be a future center on this team.
I see him developing into a rock solid third line center in the future, perhaps a better version of Paul Gaustad? As for this year, I'd bet that he'll end up back in the OHL with the Belleville Bulldogs with fellow Canuck prospect Jordan Subban
(an early camp cut). The other posibililty is that he continues to impress and is given a few games during the regular season for a taste of NHL hockey and perhaps even legitimate chance to break into the bottom 6 full-time this year. If he shows that he's capable at the NHL level this year as a bottom 6 forward(likely 4th liner when looking at the roster), that brings up the question:
Would it be better for his development to make the team in a 4th line C/LW role or to be sent back to the OHL where he's coming off of 60GP-30G-27A-60P season?
Tort's seems to be impressed by him so far as well:
“I thought Gaunce was probably one of our better ones, not just because he scored a goal (on Wednesday),” Tortorella said. “After watching the tape, he did a lot of good things"
I expect Cory Schneider
to be the number one guy and a very good goalie for the Vancouver Canucks again this year....oh wait, scratch that. Bo will probably end up be the most scrutinized prospect of all the current young player's that are Canuck property simply because of "the trade." After a great showing at rookie camp there was some hope in Vancouver that Bo might just be good enough to make the team and even win the big 3rd line center hole that the team seems to have had since Cody Hodgson
was shipped off and pre-Manny Malhotra
eye injury. He's played in both pre-season games so far and has looked decent, but not someone who particularly stood out. I think most fans(myself included) got a little too excited once we heard the reports that he was dominating rookie camp and maybe these 2 games were a bit fo reality check and put things into perspective. To be fair, Bo himself admitted that it took about a period into his first game to shake off the nerves he had and unlike other prospects like Gaunce/Corrado/Jensen, he hasn't been to an NHL camp or played in an NHL game before.
How many 18 year olds actually crack NHL rosters this year that they were drafted, especially those drafted outside 9th or later and are battling for a roster spot on a playoff-caliber teams? Not many...
I'm definitely a huge Bo Horvat fan, but to me it looks like he could use another year in the OHL with the London Knights(67GP-33G-28A-61P last year) to further develop his offensive game(should be relied on more this year to provide offense on that team). However, there's still a few pre-season games left and some camp/practices remaining for Bo to get more comfortable and adjust. It wouldn't surprise me at all for him to look better in his next game and also potentially get a few games with the Canucks to show what he's got in the real games. The only problem is that the Canucks can only have 23 players on the roster during the season opener so it's going to be interesting to see how many junior-eligible players will get their tryouts extended into the regular season this year.
For me this guy has been the most disappointing young Canuck player through 2 games so far. It's stupid to write him off base don 2 pre-season games, but there's been large stretches during both games where he's been invisible and that's not a great sign coming from a player who's fighting to make this team. But is he a bust at the age of 20 years old? Of course not. Jensen has always been a streaky player who runs hot and cold, it could just be a confidence thing or him or perhaps as a high volume shooter throughout his young career so far it's simply just a game of percentages. Keep in mind that he has looked pretty good during the past at training camps and pre-season games during the Alain Vigneault
era. From watching him a bit over the years, he's definitely not afraid to shoot the puck which is always a good thing. He definitely has some good puck skills, a nice wrist shot, and is a good skater for his size, lacks a quick first step but his acceleration is solid. However his weaknesses seem to be that he does rely on his teammates a bit to do the dirty work and feed him the puck in the offensive zone, this could be part of the reason why he's looked good in the past(Vigneault played him on the PP with the big boys and also played him with some good offensive veterans at even strength).
The talent is all there and so is the upside at the NHL level, but he has some consistency issues that clearly need to be worked on. As of now, I'd say he's a long shot to open up the season with the big club, but if he has a strong start to the season with the Utica Comets in the American Hockey League then he'll likely earn a call-up. Again, to put things in perspective, despite playing in the SEL and AHL last year, he was a junior eligible player. And he was also one of the more impressive young players in the SEL during his stint there, despite playing on a bad team and also not being given top 6 minutes some nights.
Definitely the most impressive young player through training camp and 2 pre-season games so far. Even outside of his great goal against the Sharks(Youtube it if you haven't already) he's been impressive. What I like is that he's comfortable handling the puck on his stick and combined with his very good skating ability and good worst shot, he's a very dangerous offensive player. The coaching staff seems really like his personality, Tortorella and Sullivan both have made comments about him being a enthusiastic and fun guy to be around. And the fact that he has been the young guy skating along side Kesler and Burrows during camp and pre-season over the likes of Jensen/Hansen/Higgins has to say something.
If he keeps up this type of play, I don't see how he doesn't get his 9 games during the regular season this year to prove he belongs. He brings the puck skills and dynamic scoring ability that the Canucks second line has been lacking lately(Burrows and Kesler can put up points, but I wouldn't call either of them dynamic offensively). It's very rare for a mid/late 1st round pick to make this kind of an impact, but Hunter was projected to be a top 10 pick by many so he's definitely not your typical 24th overall draft pick.
Olympics anyone? All kidding aside, this guy is looking like a total steal by Mike Gillis and co. in the 5th round of the 2011 NHL entry draft. After an impressive showing during last year's world junior camp for Team Canada, he went on to have a very good OHL season with the Sudbury Wolves and Kitchener Rangers(traded) where he put up 7 goals, 38 assists for a total of 45 points in 69 combines games with both squads while playing against other team's top lines. Once his OHL season was up he got a chance to appear in 3 regular season games and all 4 playoff games(yes, the Canucks were in the playoffs for a few seconds last year) with the Canucks when the defense was a bit banged up and definitely looked calm and poised. Similar to Chris Tanev
when he first came up. What makes him exciting as a prospect is that he's got the calm poise of a Chris Tanev, but unlike Tanev he's more physical and has a better shot which gives him legitimate upside as a future top 4 d-man in this league.
He and Alex Edler
looked like they had the makings of a good pairing last year during their brief time together, and the Canucks have bene looking for a defensive partner for Edler since Christian Ehrhoff
and Sami Salo
left the team as UFA's. I'd definitely be a bit surprised if he doesn't make the team, especially since Tortorella gave quite a few young d-men in New York some good minutes and playing time during his stint as head coach with the Rangers.
He had a tough season last year, which was essentially a lost year for him due to hip problems which ended up requiring season-ending surgery for him. I was curious to see how he would look this year with a new hip and maybe being a little rusty after all that time off, combined with his first realistic shot to make the NHL(in competition for backup job with fellow Swede and ex-Flyers draft pick Joacim Eriksson
). Lack looked rock solid this past Monday against the sharks stopping 25 of 27 shots. At 6-foot-5 he covers a lot of the net and doesn't give much to shooters. The Sharks lineup didn't have much offensive firepower dressed for the game outside of Joe Pavelski who did end up scoring so the jury is definitely still out on Lack despite an impressive AHL career so far. At the age of 25 he should be ready mentally to handle playing in the NHL. The only area where he could use a bit of work on is rebound control which seems to be common with most goalies and when Cory Schneider first came up with the Canucks he had similar rebound control issues. I'm definitely not a goalie expert, and like Torts I don't care how they do it, I just want them to stop the puck and so far Lack has done that at every level he's played at. He definitely has the ability and upside to maybe one day become an NHL starter at his height, with his positioning and athleticism. But for this year, the Canucks just need him to be a solid NHL backup, but the potential is there for him down the road to outgrow that role.
This is my first blog at HockeyBuzz, or any site for that matter so any feedback or thoughts on the article would be great Thanks!