After another loss in a season of losses, Canucks fans probably could use something to feel good about right now. Well look no further than the monthly Vancity Buzz Canucks Prospect Report for a bit of hope and optimism!
It’s always fun to look at prospective future Canucks lineups, integrated with the up-and-comers looking to make a name in Vancouver. This edition will feature Nicklas Jensen, Jeff Costello, Dane Fox and Cole Cassels.
51 GP – 15 G, 5 A, 20 Pts
The 29th overall pick from the 2011 NHL Draft was expected to challenge for a roster spot at the beginning of this season, after seeing success in the Swedish Hockey League last season. But, Nicklas Jensen unfortunately suffered a shoulder injury in training camp and once recovered, was assigned to the Utica Comets to ensure that he received as much ice time as possible.
When he returned from his shoulder injury in late October, he struggled, putting up only 4 points in 22 games. But since the turn of the New Year, Jensen has been playing like the Canucks hoped when they originally drafted him. Since January 1, Jensen has scored 16 points in 28 games (most of them goals), which eventually led to his call-up this past week. Jensen possesses a great wrist shot and has started to go to the ‘dirty areas’ to score goals. If he can translate his recent success in the American Hockey League to the NHL, then the Canucks could have a good top 6 sniper. So far Jensen hasn’t looked out of place, albeit in only two NHL games.
Image: Utica Comets
35GP – 12 G, 8 A, 20 Pts
Jeff Costello was acquired last week at the trading deadline for depth defenceman Patrick Mullen. Originally when the deal went through, I thought it was just a deal to free up a contract spot, as Costello is an unsigned college player. But after looking into Costello, it is clear that the Canucks specifically acquired him with the hopes that he can become an effective third or fourth line forward.
In the same vain as Darren Archibald, Costello has been regarded as a hard-worker who goes into the corners and gets in on the forecheck. He is also a player that likes to play physical and finish his checks. Costello will likely turn pro at the end of the season, and I assume the Canucks will sign him to an entry level deal with the intention of grooming him in the AHL for a bottom 6 role within the next few years.
64 GP – 62 G, 39 A, 101 Pts
Dane Fox was signed to an entry level deal by the Canucks in December after going undrafted. The 20 year old has taken advantage of playing alongside young phenom Connor McDavid, in the Ontario Hockey League for the very stacked Erie Otters, scoring at an unbelievable rate this season. At his age, in the OHL, Fox is physically superior to younger competition, so it will be hard to judge him until he turns pro and plays alongside men he will be more physically matched with.
Similar entry level deals, such as those with Eddie Lack and Chris Tanev, have worked in favour of the organization, allowing the team to bring on young talent outside of the draft. The advantage of adding a player without using a draft pick outweighs the risk in most cases, and hopefully the same is true with Fox.
59 GP – 24 G, 47 A, 71Pts
The son of former Canuck Andrew Cassels, Cole Cassels is one prospect that I am certainly excited about.
My excitement started at the Young Stars Prospect tournament in Penticton in September. While everyone was watching Nicklas Jensen, Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk, Cassels was the quiet, consistent player for the Canucks prospect team. In a checking role, he was making quick work of shutting down the other teams’ top players and still generating offence on every shift.
Cassels, the Canucks’ third round pick in 2013, carried this success back to the Oshawa Generals in the OHL, going from 0.65 points-per-game last season to 1.2 points-per-game this season. This progress has allowed him to become a leader for Oshawa on the first unit power play and penalty kill with other top NHL prospects like Scott Laughton and Michael Dal Colle. Canucks management took notice of Cassels’ strong play, signing him to a 3 year entry level deal this past December.
I am looking forward to see how much he has improved at next year’s training camp.