Junior prospect pool for Vancouver Canucks populated with grit and toughness

By Kyle West
Photo: A sixth round draft pick in 2010, Alex Friesen brings a blend of sandpaper and offensive talent to the Canucks talent pool. (Photo courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)

While the Canucks do not have an overly large prospect pool when it comes to CHL players, they can point to the past season where nearly all made significant progress as prospects. In particular, free agent signing Darren Archibald had a remarkable year and has been a credit to the Canucks scouting department for having sought out the undrafted winger.

QMJHL

Steven Anthony, LW, Saint John Sea Dogs
Acquired: 7th round, 187th overall, in 2009


The much maligned winger has rekindled hope that he can be a viable prospect with a point per game year on the powerhouse Sea Dogs. Once compared to Crosby, the Halifax native was expected to be a franchise player for the Sea Dogs when they drafted him. Instead he has become a useful part of a much bigger machine this season, as Saint John has dominated the Q. Anthony was fifth in scoring on the team with 60 points in 61 games and was fourth in assists with 37. As a complementary player Anthony has shown his qualities as a playmaking winger, perhaps more importantly for his development he has also been applying a consistent effort at both ends of the ice and getting involved more physically. Although his strong playoff performance was shortened by a shoulder injury in game one of the Q finals, Anthony may yet be back in time to hoist the Memorial Cup.

Sawyer Hannay, D, Halifax Mooseheads
Acquired: 7th round, 205th overall, in 2010

Drafted to provide size and toughness on the back end, Hannay is a 6’4 blueliner whose only reason to cross center ice is to visit the penalty box. Leading the Mooseheads in penalty minutes this season, Hannay provided only seven assists in 58 games and failed to match last year’s goal scoring output of one. A willing combatant and noted pugilist, Hannay is well-liked by his teammates and feared by opponents, however he all too often hurts his team with ill-timed penalties. With another year to work on his skating and positional play, he may yet find employment at the next level as a crease-clearer and enforcer.


Adam Polasek
, D, PEI Rocket
Acquired: 5th round, 145th overall, in 2010

A solid all-round defender, Polasek has continued to play a steady physical game with flashes of offensive talent. Increasing his assists totals this year and improving his plus minus rating were just two statistical indicators of progress, an entry level contract offer from the Canucks and cameo with the Manitoba Moose were further evidence that Polasek’s size and mobility are pushing him up Vancouver’s depth chart.

OHL

Darren Archibald, LW, Niagara Ice Dogs
Acquired: Free agent, December 2010

Passed over in two drafts and rejected from both the Detroit and Columbus training camps without an offer, Archibald signed as a free agent with Vancouver and has suddenly turned into a top power forward prospect. Right after signing with Vancouver, the 6’4 winger was traded from Barrie to Niagara and scored 23 goals in 37 games with the Ice Dogs. He was also a playoff stud posting 10 goals in 14 games, one of them a between the legs and behind the back beauty that either of the Sedin twins would have been proud of. Previously noted for his size and toughness, Archibald has belatedly developed into a powerhouse who can crash the net and finish with style and is upholding Vancouver GM Mike Gillis’s reputation for being a magician who can turn leaden hands into golden opportunity.

Alex Friesen , C, Niagara Ice Dogs
Acquired: 6th round, 172nd overall, 2010

Archibald’s teammate and often time linemate with the Ice Dogs, Friesen has benefitted from having the big winger riding shotgun with him. An undersized center who often plays with a nasty edge, Friesen avoided the penalty box much more this season and saw his scoring stats soar as a result. He tallied 66 points in 60 games with the Ice Dogs and also saw increased time on both special teams. Friesen has also benefitted from an increased focus on positional play that saw his plus/minus rating jump from 18 to 29. Although a 5’10 forward will always have trouble fighting through checks at the next level, Friesen has shown the smarts and determination needed to make a go of it.


WHL

Kellan Tochkin , RW, Medicine Hat Tigers
Acquired: Free agent, July 2009

The scrappy little winger was traded to Medicine Hat from the Everett Silvertips halfway through the season and enjoyed a long playoff run with the Tigers. Swept in the semifinals by the Kootenay Ice, the Tigers had earned some notoriety by beating the Brandon Wheat Kings and Red Deer Rebels in the first two rounds. Tochkin chipped in five goals and 12 points in his 15 playoff games and exhibited the same fearless style of play that turned the heads of Canucks scouts. The WHL player of the week in November, Tochkin followed up a hat trick against Kamloops with two assists against Tri-City and a game winner and another assist against Seattle. Although tired of answering questions about his size, Tochkin will have to prove himself all over again at the next level when the 5’9 winger takes to the ice for the Manitoba Moose.