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Looking to make the leap: Um, lots of young Canucks

Aug 11, 2014, 2:59 PM EDT

Vancouver Canucks v Edmonton Oilers Getty Images

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.

  1. vancouversportsbro - Aug 11, 2014 at 3:26 PM

    It will be an interesting season. I like the moves Benning has done to give the team an intriguing prospect pool. Not sure if I like Cory Schneider being dealt in the way he did but Bo Horvat seems promising. I think people are writing off Jake Virtanen too early and he could turn out to be really good. This team is far from finished and I think they will surprise people next year. Wille Desjardins was the best move.

  2. pigeonbutt - Aug 11, 2014 at 3:29 PM

    There are apparently rumblings that Horvat is still a half-step or so behind the game and could use another year. It would be interesting to see him start the season using the 9 game grace period of the ELC, but the Canucks have such a clog in the bottom 6 that I find it highly unlikely he’s with the team permanently. I think the hope/expectation is that he or newly acquired McCann become the second line, Kesler/Bergeron style shut down centreman with some offensive upside. Gaunce would theoretically develop into the third liner and Cassels shows he’s got the spark for 4th line. Along the way drafting or somehow acquiring a first line offensive centre is a must.

    Zack Kassian has me very excited for the next season. Biggest knock is consistency and he was the most consistent Canucks forward at the end of last season including 10p in 10g. He should be seeing second line time – ideally he’s the possession/play-making winger who sets up Burrows while potting 20 goals himself. He started to showcase a smart shot on top of his excellent passing last season. If he can be more consistent defensively then Burrows – Bonino – Kassian has the makings of a solid possession line.

    Linden Vey is such an exciting trade, likely my favourite Benning move so far. That said. the bottom 6 clog becomes an issue again. It might be best for Vey to start as a winger and move to centre if injuries occur.

    Jensen has the shot, release and positioning to be an NHL top 6 forward. He needs more consistency and should spend the year in the AHL developing with the large influx of Van prospects joining Utica this year.

    Same for Corrado – kid will be a stud 2 way defender for Van but he’s not as mature as Stanton and they will want to give Sbisa minutes to figure his game out. Corrado too spends the year developing in Utica.

    • withseidelinn - Aug 11, 2014 at 3:57 PM

      I agree re: Horvat – No doubt he is a great player, but I am surprised that they didn’t take Max Domi with the 9th pick. More offensive upside and that’s exactly what the team needs. I guess they figured with Shinkaruk being available at 24 they got the best of both worlds, but it still surprises me Domi was passed over.

    • leepetertk - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:01 PM

      Agree with you on the need to find a future #1C. I think the canucks recognized the need for a future #1C and they tried so aggressively to obtain #1 and pick Sam Reinhart in this years’ draft. Obviously that didn’t play out. Without a bonafide #1C in development, they now have a lot of maybe wingers like Shinkaruk, Jensen, and Virtanen.

  3. leepetertk - Aug 11, 2014 at 4:21 PM

    Thinking back to last year, the Canucks lack of depth and injury woes were so much that Jensen spent a lot of time playing with Daniel or Henrik Sedin late in the season. This year the Canucks have some decent depth so the likes of Jensen, Gaunce, Horvat,or Shinkaruk don’t have to play in the NHL out of necessity.

    Linden Vey should make the team. He will have to clear waivers if he were to play in the AHL. This is an important year in his development because he is practically guaranteed a third line spot this year.

    Corrado could play for the Canucks, but I think they will option him to the minors and use Stanton/Weber as 6/7. It is no rush to bring him up now.

    Shinkaruk and Gaunce will get big minutes in the AHL. Shinkaruk was injured most of last season and missed a crucial junior development year. Gaunce has struggled since being drafted 2 years ago.

    Horvat is an interesting topic. He seemed like a lock to make the NHL this year, but new management may have other plans. He will have to beat out some players in camp to play in the NHL this year. Vancouver media thinks there is little for him to learn going back to junior.

  4. canada2014gold - Aug 12, 2014 at 1:46 AM

    Listening to all these comments the Canucks really don’t have to do much to exceed expectations. People are def doubting them. I guess we will see but I doubt they will be that bad.

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