Canucks fans are excited for their young prospects like Jake Virtanen, Cole Cassels and Jordan Subban. But the success of this season is more on the shoulder’s of an older prospect, Sven Baertschi.
Penciled into the second line wing spot with Brandon Sutter and Radim Vrbata, Baertschi is being put in a place to succeed this season. The Swiss winger has the tools to be a successful top-6 winger; he has the speed, puck skills and knack for finding the open space in the offensive zone. Signed to a one-year, one-way contract, this is the year for Baertschi to prove he belongs in the NHL.
Baertschi has shown flashes of these skills before, but hasn’t been able to put it all together for an extended period. Baertschi wasn’t really being given a real chance to succeed in Calgary. When he wasn’t in the AHL, he was regularly playing on the fourth line with low offensive zone starts, while playing against the toughest competition.
But even though he was placed in tough situations, he still managed to make players like Paul Byron look good:
Given all that happened, Baertschi was growing frustrated and Flames management decided to ship him to the Canucks at last season’s trade deadline for a 2nd round pick. What looks like poor development by the Flames, may result in a win for the Canucks.
Baertschi spent the majority of the remainder of the season in Utica, where he was downright dominant. The former first round pick put up 15 points in 15 regular season games, and then followed up with 15 more points in 21 postseason games. He gave the Comets the game breaker they needed to make it all the way to the Calder Cup Finals.
By placing Baertschi directly into the top-6 (he was practicing with Brandon Sutter and Radim Vrbata in training camp), Canucks management is hoping that he can replicate the success he had in Utica, here in Vancouver. If he shows poorly, then we may be seeing players like Jannik Hansen or Chris Higgins back in the top-6. Although Hansen and Higgins are serviceable players, if they are mainstays in your top-6, it should be cause for concern.
Hopefully Baertschi can find consistency in his game, and some chemistry with Sutter and Vrbata. The Canucks’ playoff hopes may rely heavily on their second line to provide some secondary scoring.
If Baertschi plays well all year and can remain in the top-6, then he may prove to be a steal for GM Jim Benning.