All Vancouver Canucks fans and media seem to care about these days is Elias Pettersson – and rightfully so. The Swedish rookie is not only exceeding expectations, he’s outplaying the most optimistic fans’ wildest dreams.
But he’s not the only youngster to get excited about.
While some Canucks prospects are struggling to get ice time and produce with the AHL’s Utica Comets, others are thriving early on this season.
Suddenly, the future doesn’t look so bleak.
Instead of turning pro this season, 2018 first-round pick Quinn Hughes opted to return to Michigan for his sophomore year of NCAA hockey.
So far, it’s working out for him.
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) October 12, 2018
The defenceman has seven points in seven games, including three goals, and he looks like exactly the type of dynamic puck-carrier the Canucks need on the backend.
Expect Hughes to star for Team USA at the World Juniors in Vancouver and Victoria next month, before contributing at the NHL level following his college season.
Jack Rathbone took an unconventional path to college hockey. Despite early USHL interest, he decided to return to high school for his NHL draft year. What’s more, he returned for yet another year after being drafted by the Canucks, to be close to his little brother in Massachusetts, who has autism.
Now finally arrived at Harvard, Rathbone is proving there isn’t just one path to prepare for college hockey.
Welcome to collegiate hockey! Jack Rathbone puts us on the board in the second! #GoCrimson
— Harvard Men's Hockey (@HarvardMHockey) November 3, 2018
In his first three games, Rathbone recorded two goals and six points. An excellent skater and puck-carrier, the freshman is proving he can not only keep up but be a difference-maker on an NCAA top pairing with Carolina Hurricanes prospect Adam Fox.
The rook can play defense and can lay the lumber too.. You don't want to meet this kid in open ice #GoCrimson
— Harvard Men's Hockey (@HarvardMHockey) November 4, 2018
For his efforts, Rathbone was named ECAC Hockey Rookie of the Week on Monday.
An AHL club needs a large roster to get through the rigours of a long season full of injuries to both their team and their NHL affiliate. So, while the AHL is a developmental league that pushes talented prospects up to the NHL year after year, the roster makeup can result in young prospects struggling to get the ice time they want and need.
For Jonathan Dahlen, however, the start to the season could have gone worse.
Check out this gorgeous goal he scored against Laval on Friday:
— Utica Comets (@UticaComets) November 3, 2018
The Swede is playing his first full season in North America, and managed to score two goals and five points in his first 11 games with the Comets. His stats aren’t popping off the page yet, but in his time playing on the top line with Zack MacEwen, Dahlen has looked like a player who can one day fill a top-six role with the Canucks.
All that’s missing now are improvements from Jonah Gadjovich and Petrus Palmu, who both came in with high expectations, but are without a point through six games.
Tyler Madden was a controversial choice for some when the Canucks picked him 68th overall at the 2018 draft, especially when the Chicago Blackhawks scooped up Jake Wise just one pick later. Looking at rankings from major scouting services Future Considerations, Hockeyprospect.com, and ISS Hockey, Wise was consistently ranked about 20 spots ahead of Madden.
But for what it’s worth, Madden has had an excellent start to his post-draft season while Wise has just one point in six games and is still waiting for his first goal.
— Northeastern MHKY (@GoNUmhockey) October 19, 2018
The son of former NHLer John Madden, he became the first Northeastern rookie to score a goal in each of his first three NCAA games in 18 years and, despite going scoreless in the following five, has been fitting in nicely with the Huskies.
Of course, there are no guarantees for Madden to become a better player than Wise, and their early season play isn’t enough to predict where either player will go in their careers. Nevertheless, Madden’s first weeks of college hockey have been highly encouraging.