The Vancouver Canucks have signed NCAA unrestricted free agent defenceman Troy Stecher from the University of North Dakota to a two-year entry-level contract.
Financial terms of his contract have yet to be released.
The Canucks were already quite familiar with Stecher, a right-shot defenceman from Richmond, as he attended their 2014 Development Camp. Stecher stated last week that he dreamed about playing for the Canucks growing up, so it isn’t surprising that GM Jim Benning was able to sign him to a contract.
The 22-year-old defenceman just finished his junior season at the University of North Dakota, where Canucks top prospect Brock Boeser plies his trade.
Congrats @troystecher 😊
— Brock Boeser (@BBoeser16) April 13, 2016
Stecher had 29 points (8-21-29) in 42 games, setting career highs in goals and assists. He also improved his plus/minus from +11 last season to +23 this season.
North Dakota had a great regular season, which was capped by defeating Quinnipiac to win the NCAA Championship.
So, what do the Canucks have in Troy Stecher?
Eliteprospects.com has a very good scouting report on Stecher:
Highly skilled two-way defenceman that displays tremendous poise with and without the puck. Soft hands that can pass as well as let rockets fly. Excellent vision and a playmaker’s knack for the game. Very aware and responsible defensively, but is not comfortable having the puck in his own end for too long and will take it upon himself to get the puck out of the defensive zone. His impact upon the game occurs at both ends of the ice as an offensive and defensive force.
What has stuck out to me while watching Stecher is that he isn’t afraid to hold onto the puck in the offensive zone. He likes to skate and carry the puck while looking for seams in defensive coverage. This movement forces the opposition to adjust their placement, which in turn, causes those breakdowns that Stecher is craving. Stecher is then able to thread his passes to his open teammates.
He’s also very adept at finishing the chances he gets:
There are some concerns about Stecher’s size as he measures in at 5’11” and 190 pounds, but as the scouting report above suggests, he uses his hockey sense and positioning to avoid getting himself in trouble.
It will be fascinating to see how his game translates to the grind of professional hockey. The AHL will be faster, players will hit harder, and he will have less time to make decisions compared to the NCAA.
From a Canucks perspective, adding a defensive prospect with Stecher’s skillset is a smart investment. With the rapid ascension of Ben Hutton and Nikita Tryamkin, coupled with Andrey Pedan requiring waivers next season, there was expected to be a lack of defensive prospects in Utica next season.
Jordan Subban and Ashton Sautner are the only players currently playing for the Comets with realistic NHL futures, but given the unpredictability of prospects, adding a player like Stecher for free is a worthwhile gamble.