Anton Rodin leads group of Vancouver Canucks prospects In Europe and the NCAA

By Andrew Sykes
Photo: Peter Andersson is a big, mobile defenseman who has plied his trade in the SEL over the past two seasons. (Photo courtesy of Holly Gunning/HF)

The Vancouver Canucks currently have five prospects playing in Europe including speedy Swedish winger Anton Rodin. Three of their prospects played in the NCAA; a group highlighted by the play of goaltender Joe Cannata who performed as one of the top goalies in all of college hockey.


Europe

Peter Andersson, D, 19
Acquired: 5th round, 143rd overall, 2009


A 19-year-old Swedish defenseman, Andersson played his second season with Frolunda in the Swedish Elite League. After recording five points as an 18-year-old in 2010, Andersson hasn’t been able to find the score-sheet and went pointless in 27 games with the Swedish club. At 6’3 and nearly 200 pounds, Andersson is a big, strong blueliner who plays a solid two-way game. If he can continue to polish up his entire skill-set, the Canucks may have found themselves a fifth-round steal.

Mats Froshaug, C, 22
Acquired: 6th round, 161st overall, 2008

The Norwegian-born Froshaug is an interesting prospect for the Canucks. Drafted as a recommendation by top European scout Thomas Gradin, Froshaug was a dominant player this season, albeit in the Norwegian GET-league. In 40 games with Lorenskog, the 22-year-old scored 15 goals and totaled 29 points in 40 games. A skilled two-way center, Froshaug has the potential to be a good North American pro if he decides to make the jump. If and when is the only question.


Jonathan Iilahti, C, 18
Acquired: 6th round, 175th overall, 2010

The Canucks youngest goaltending prospect, Iilahti has seen time with three different teams in Finland this year. The 18-year-old played in 18 games with the SM-Liga Jr. Blues as well as a slew of games with both Kiekko-Laser and Suomi’s Under-20 programs. He has struggled with consistency throughout the year but as such a young goaltender that can be expected.

With the country’s ability to churn out some of the best goaltenders in the world, you can bet that Iilahti will be groomed with some excellent coaching and developed to his maximum potential, which the Canucks hope will turn into another great Finnish goalie.


Ilja Kablukov, LW, 23
Acquired: 5th round, 146th overall, 2007

Now in his fifth pro season, Kablukov started the year with Moscow Spartak appearing in 11 games before being dealt to Mytischi Atlant where he played in the club’s final 25 games. The 23-year-old had a combined total of four goals and nine points in 36 games split between the two teams.

Kablukov won’t blow anyone away with offensive production but he is a solid all-around player who can bring size and strength on the wing. Like is often the case with late-round Russian draft picks, it is very unlikely that he will ever be willing to play in the AHL which he most certainly would be required to do if he chose to come to North America.


Anton Rodin, RW, 20
Acquired: 2nd round, 53rd overall, 2009

Part of the successful 2009 draft which included the likes of fellow Vancouver top-prospects Jordan Schroeder and Kevin Connauton, Rodin had an excellent first full season in the Swedish Elite League. In 53 games with Brynas, Rodin scored seven goals and collected 19 assists, demonstrating his gifted offensive skills. With his superb skating, quick release and good overall hockey sense, the 20-year-old is without question one of the Canucks top offensive prospects; right there with the likes of the aforementioned Schroeder and Cody Hodgson.


NCAA

Joe Cannata, G, 21
Acquired: 6th round, 173rd overall, 2009

The 2010-11 season was an incredible one for Cannata and a historic one for Merrimack College. A sixth-round pick in 2009, Cannata helped lead the tiny school to its best ever season which included their first ever trip to the NCAA tournament. With a sparkling 25-10-4 record along with a 2.48 goals against average and a .911 save percentage, the 21-year-old’s performance ranked him as one of the top goalies in college hockey. He ranked fourth in the nation in wins and was the sixth busiest netminder spending 2252 minutes between the pipes.

Cannata helped Merrimack to their first ever appearance in the Hockey East championship game where they were defeated by the Boston College Eagles. Despite the loss they earned an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament but had their season end in heartbreaking fashion in a 4-3 OT loss to Notre Dame. With one year of eligibility remaining, Cannata is likely to return for his senior year but he will have a chance to compete for a spot with the Manitoba Moose in the AHL should he choose to skip his final year.

Taylor Matson, C, 22
Acquired: 6th round, 176th overall, 2007

A junior at the University of Minnesota, Matson has battled a knee injury through most of his college career but was able to play in a significantly increased amount of games this season. After appearing in just 13 games as a freshman and 19 as a sophomore, Matson played in 33 this year which enabled to establish career highs in both goals (10) and points (16). The 22-year-old center has made an effort to add muscle and strength to his slight frame, but unfortunately he suffered another injury late in the Gophers season. He will need to recover fully and produce a quality senior year if he hopes to ink a minor-league contract with Vancouver.


Jeremy Price, D, 20
Acquired: 4th round, 113th overall, 2009

Vancouver’s fourth-round pick in the 2009 draft, Price has turned himself into a promising offensive defenseman through his first two seasons at Colgate University. The Milton, Ontario native led the team in scoring among defensemen with 19 points displaying his ability to produce points from the back-end and quarterback the team’s power play. The 20-year-old will return for his junior season and will be counted on to help lead a young rebuilding program.