10. (6) Nicklas Jensen, RW, 7.0C
Drafted 29th overall (1st round) in 2011
After not making much progress, Jensen took a bit of a dive down the list to the number ten spot. He continues to gain experience at the AHL level but so far hasn’t been able to stick at the NHL level after a strong showing in the 2013-14 season. Jensen tallied six points in 17 games with limited ice-time in that audition, but could not crack the scoresheet in five games last season. He will dig in with Utica once again and wait for his chance to crack the Canucks roster. His chances may be running out however, as other options become available in the near future. If he can manage to get his defensive responsibilities in order he should have a good chance at sticking with the Canucks at some point, but he is looking more like a complementary player at this point.
9. (9) Brendan Gaunce, C, 7.0C
Drafted 26th overall (1st round) in 2012
Gaunce holds the 9th spot once again after a decent rookie pro season. He didn’t light up the score sheet but he played a responsible two-way game and learned the ropes from some experienced veteran teammates in Utica. With several of those veterans moving on this past summer it will be up to the likes of Gaunce and Hunter Shinkaruk to up their level of play moving forward. Gaunce should improve in all aspects as a pro during the 2015-16 season and may not be too far away from a cup of coffee with the Canucks.
8. (10) Ronalds Kenins, LW, 6.5B
Free Agent Signing in 2013
Kenins was a pleasant surprise last season after splitting playing time between Utica and Vancouver. This earned him a slight bump up the list to the 8th spot. The Latvian’s aggressive style and willingness to get his hands dirty to make a play make him an ideal candidate for a bottom six winger role. He won over the fans after joining the Canucks mid-season and should be a fan favorite again in 2015-16. Re-signed to a one-year contract, Kenins certainly offers a bit more skill than some of the other options for the depth winger role. While not a lock for the opening night roster, Kenins should definitely be in the mix.
7. (11) Frank Corrado, D, 6.5B
Drafted 150th overall (5th round) in 2011
Corrado is closer to being a full time NHL player than any other prospect in the system, except for maybe Kenins, and moves up into the 7th spot. Corrado has been up and down several times over the last few seasons and the time is now for him to seize an NHL job and hold on for good. He will have to prove to management that he is a viable long term option as there are several new blue-liners entering the pipeline behind him, all gunning for the same job. His lack of scoring during the AHL playoffs is concerning, but he plays a simple style and should eventually find his comfort level.
6. (7) Hunter Shinkaruk, LW, 7.5C
Drafted 24th overall (1st round) in 2013
Shinkaruk moves up into the 6th spot coming off a respectable rookie pro campaign with the Utica Comets. He felt the growing pains at times in his first season out of junior but that is usually quite common – especially on a veteran-heavy squad. How he responds in 2015-16 with greater responsibilities will be the focal point for his season. He could have a break-out year offensively and earn a call-up to the Canucks or he could slip into mediocrity and see his stock fall dramatically. While he has the potential it is up to him now to strive hard to reach that potential. Assuming he takes a step forward, Shinkaruk could see a Canucks jersey as early as this season but won’t get any full time consideration until the 2016-17 season.
5. (NR) Brock Boeser, RW, 7.5C
Drafted 23rd overall (1st round) in 2015
Boeser earns the number five spot after being selected 23rd overall in the 2015 draft. A very dynamic offensive player, Boeser will move to the NCAA for the 2015-16 season and play against much older, better opposition with the University of North Dakota (NCHC). If he excels at this level then the Canucks will really have something in Boeser. He will need to work on the defensive side of his game before he is ready to turn pro but he should continue to be an offensive threat throughout his career. The Canucks will be patient with Boeser and hope that he continues to show flashes of brilliance as he develops his all-around game.
4. (4) Thatcher Demko, G, 8.0D
Drafted 36th overall (2nd round) in 2014
Demko holds on to the number four spot after he had another fine season with Boston College and had a strong tournament with Team USA at the 2015 World Juniors. He will return to Boston College and play the majority of the games for the Eagles. He had double hip surgery in the off season that should only improve his already excellent positioning and mobility. Demko will likely finish his NCAA career with Boston College before turning pro. While not much else in the goaltending pool, Demko’s path to becoming an NHL starter is relatively free of obstacles.
3. (5) Cole Cassels, C, 7.5C
Drafted 85th overall (3rd round) in 2013
Cassels jumps into third spot ahead of Thatcher Demko based on a very strong final season of junior. He was a dominant force for the Oshawa Generals on their way to winning the 2015 Memorial Cup. He will make the jump to Utica this fall and should be a solid contributor to a much younger Comets team. His balanced style and two-way game make him a possible call-up to fill a bottom line center position if required. He will iron out his deficiencies in the AHL for the foreseeable future but an NHL career of some kind down the road looks to be almost a certainty at this point.
2. (3) Jared McCann, C, 7.5C
Drafted 24th overall (1st round) in 2014
McCann moves into the number two spot on the list with Bo Horvat having moved to the NHL for good. McCann will return to junior for 2015-16 and much like Jake Virtanen, he will be counted on to deliver big offensive numbers while refining his all-around game. He attended the Team Canada WJC summer camp and is a strong candidate to be selected to the 2015-16 team. McCann is arguably the top center prospect in the organization but is he good enough to replace Henrik Sedin one day? It will be up to Horvat, McCann and Cassels to try and convince the organization that one of them will be capable as a number one center one day.
1. (1) Jake Virtanen, RW, 8.0C
Drafted 6th overall (1st round) in 2014
Virtanen is the clear cut number one prospect in the Canucks organization. His dominating play at the WJC and another strong junior campaign with the Calgary Hitmen have him poised at a possible jump to the NHL. However, the smart money is on him being returned to junior for another year of dominating and a chance to play for a second gold medal at the WJC. His aggressive style and scoring touch have Canuck fans chomping at the bit to see him in a Canucks jersey but patience will pay off with allowing him another year of development in junior. His top-six winger role with Vancouver should be ready and waiting for him in 2016-17. Virtanen is destined to become a fan favorite given his aggressive style of play and being born and raised in the area. Canuck fans haven’t been this excited about a prospect in the last ten years or more, and with good reason.
Article written by Curtis Coulter