It’s been an up and down season for the Canucks junior prospects. Some have had career years, others have had career lows; however, there are some intriguing possibilities for the team’s future.
If everything moves forward without any unforeseen difficulties, the Canucks should see four of their eight junior prospects make the jump to professional hockey. This group includes Cody Hodgson, Yann Sauve, Prab Rai, and the newly-acquired Stefan Schneider.
Cody Hodgson, C – Brampton Battalion
Acquired: 1st round (10th overall), 2008
18 February 1990, 6’0, 185 lbs
Those around the Canucks are once again collectively holding their breath after it was revealed that the team’s top prospect, Cody Hodgson, may have reinjured his back in the final game of the Battalion’s first-round victory over the Kingston Frontenacs.
Hodgson, who was already playing with a sore foot, went into the boards awkwardly, but nevertheless continued playing and did not reveal the injury until after the Battalion was ousted from the playoffs. It had been anticipated the center would be joining the Manitoba Moose for their postseason, but Canuck doctors did not clear him to play, thus ending his season.
Yann Sauve, D – Saint John Sea Dogs
Acquired: 2nd round (41st overall), 2008
18 February 1990, 6’3, 214 lbs
Twenty-year-old Sauvé will most likely be ending his junior career with his highest totals in all categories this year. Along with Simon Després (PIT), and youngster Nathan Beaulieu, Sauvé has been an anchor on defense for a fast-skating Sea Dogs team.
The Canucks will probably determine that next year he would be better served by beginning his professional career; however, with other defensemen ahead of him on the Canucks depth charts, this will most likely be with the ECHL Victoria Salmon Kings. Obviously, this transition will be contingent on how well he performs at training camp. But that aside, playing against bigger, faster players will help Sauvé to continue developing his decision-making skills with the puck.
The Sea Dogs postseason is rolling right along, and Sauvé sits third overall on the team in points by a defenseman with seven.
Steven Anthony, LW – Saint John Sea Dogs
Acquired: 7th round (187th overall), 2009
21 March 1991, 6’1, 205 lbs
The Sea Dogs are experiencing more than a modicum of success in the postseason, but Steven Anthony has little to do with it.
After getting off to what looked like would be a career year, Anthony’s offensive numbers fell off somewhat precipitously in the second half of the season. The 19-year-old then added injury, having been sidelined by a recurring groin problem for all but four of the team’s playoff games. With the Dogs one win from going to the finals against Moncton, time is not on Anthony’s side this year.
Despite his slip in production, Anthony did contribute on the penalty kill, and his two short-handed goals led the team in that department. There has been a marked improvement in the defensive aspect of his game, and his plus/minus of +19 is a career high. He will be back with the Sea Dogs next year, and the expectations will be high.
Kellan Tochkin, RW – Everett Silvertips
Acquired: Signed as a free agent
15 February 1991, 5’10, 179 lbs
After posting only two points in the postseason, Tochkin was essentially a non-factor in the Silvertips first-round bow out to the Kelowna Rockets. As for the regular season, he had a career best in goals scored, as well as plus/minus, but slipped in the number of assists by 14.
With one year left of junior eligibility, Tochkin is going to have to show improvement overall in order to stay a viable Canucks prospect.
Kevin Connauton, D – Vancouver Giants
Acquired: 3rd round (83rd overall), 2009
23 February 1990, 6’1, 185 lbs
Although he slipped somewhat from his regular season scoring pace, Connauton still managed to produce during the Giants 2010 postseason. But his 13 points in 16 games weren’t enough to help the Giants move on, as they were defeated by the Tri-City Americans in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals.
Connauton has a lethal shot from the point which is very difficult for goaltenders to track. He led his team during the regular season power-play goals and was third overall in team scoring.
He’s got the offense down, but will need to continue developing the defensive aspects of his game. With this in mind, the jury is out on whether or not playing with the Giants next year as an over-ager is best way for him to do it.
Prab Rai, C – Seattle Thunderbirds
Acquired: 5th round (131st overall), 2008
22 November 1989, 5’11, 191 lbs
After a 300-game WHL career, it was announced on March 23 that 20-year-old Rai took the next step towards his professional career by signing a deal with the Canucks.
Rai’s goal scoring production jumped considerably in his last year however, there was no commensurate leap in his production of assists thus leading to only a marginal increase in overall points. Despite the lack of increase, Rai was still 14 points ahead of the team’s second leading scorer, linemate Charles Wells.
While it’s virtually impossible that Rai will be able to crack the Canuck lineup next year, the eldest of all the Canucks prospects in juniors should find himself as a regular contributor to the Salmon Kings while doing some spot duty with the Moose.
Morgan Clark, G – Swift Current Broncos
Acquired: 7th round (191st overall), 2008
17 February 1990, 6’01, 162 lbs
Clark takes a great deal of flak for his familial relationship to a member of the Canucks staff, but has managed to improve upon his numbers this year and show his value. His goals against average was ranked 15th overall and his save percentage was 11th. What could be of concern however for Clark was the Canucks signing of 22-year-old Swede Eddie Lack. This could make Clark expendable. He needs to be signed by June 1 or the Canucks lose his rights.
Stefan Schneider, C – Portland Winterhawks
Acquired: Signed as a free agent
13 December 1989, 6’4, 206 lbs
Originally a defenseman, Schneider made the transition to center when he was traded to the Winterhawks from the Vancouver Giants a couple of years back. While not signed for his prodigious scoring abilities, Schneider has size and offers some intangibles — first and foremost of these are his character and sportsmanship (for which he was recognized by winning the Bill Anderson award two years in the running). He was also named the team’s top defensive forward, and this is the role he’ll be looked upon to continue developing in with the Canucks organization.