The Vancouver Canucks have two of the best players in all of US college hockey in Thatcher Demko and Brock Boeser. Both players have Canucks fans excited about the future of the franchise. With the Canucks on pace for their worst finish since the late 90s, the timing of Boeser and Demko’s emergence is a great relief to management and the fan base.
Lukas Jasek and Nikita Tryamkin were the only Canucks prospects playing in Europe in 2015-16. Tryamkin’s KHL season has already ended and he is now a member of the Vancouver Canucks.
Here is a look at all the Canucks prospects that played in the NCAA or the European leagues for the majority of the 2015-16 season.
Thatcher Demko, G, Boston College (Hockey East)
Drafted 2nd Round (36th Overall), 2014
Thatcher Demko has had an absolutely fantastic 2015-16 season so far with the Eagles and recently received the honor of being named co-winner of Hockey East Player of the Year. Demko is at or near the top of all statistical categories in the NCAA and even went so far as to break Boston College’s shut-out record previously held by former Canuck Cory Schneider by putting up ten shut-outs.
A fine season personally will mean little to Demko however, unless the Eagles can win the Frozen Four Tournament set to start April 7th in Tampa. Boston College has a roster loaded with future NHL players yet Demko has been the Eagles most valuable player throughout the season. A national title would be the cherry on top for the great season Demko and the Eagles have had so far.
Canucks fans have watched with anticipation as Demko has gotten better and better over his college career and he may be ready to turn pro this summer. If Demko does sign a contract with Vancouver he will likely be given the chance to start the majority of games for the Utica Comets in 2016-17 while the Canucks sort out the starter and back-up roles with the big club. With little left to prove at the NCAA level it appears very likely that Demko will turn pro and join the Canucks organization sometime in the very near future.
Brock Boeser, RW, University of North Dakota (NCHC)
Drafted 1st Round (23rd Overall), 2015
Brock Boeser has been a huge bright spot for the Canucks organization. Heading to UND for 2015-16, few expected Boeser to catch fire like he did and lead the team in scoring as a freshman. Playing on a top line with Drake Caggiula and Nick Schmaltz, Boeser has learned the intricacies of the college game from his veteran linemates. The chemistry between the three is evident and the scoresheet has their names all over it on most nights.
Not only did Boeser manage to lead his team in scoring but he has helped get the Fighting Hawks into the Frozen Four Tournament with a legitimate shot at a national title. Boeser received several honors from the NCHC including being named a First-Team All-Conference and to the NCHC All-Rookie Team.
Breaking scoring records in NCHC play and earning honors for his efforts, even he didn’t expect the kind of success that he achieved in 2015-16. Winning a national title would be the perfect end to a nearly perfect season for Boeser. As far as the future for Boeser, the Canucks will likely allow him another year in college before he turns pro and begins his career as a Vancouver Canuck. When that day comes the organization will have a legitimate top-six scoring winger in Brock Boeser.
Adam Gaudette, C, Northeastern University (Hockey East)
Drafted 5th Round (149th Overall), 2015
Gaudette got off to a bit of a slow start to his collegiate career but caught fire mid-way through the season. He managed to push into the top five for points and third for goals with Northeastern. In addition, his 30 points in 41 games was good for 15th among under-20 players and ahead of several with more impressive draft pedigrees.
Gaudette was often overlooked as Brock Boeser and Thatcher Demko put together amazing seasons with their respective teams, but Gaudette has managed to gain some attention with his own successful season. Still a long term prospect, Gaudette has shown that he is going to work hard to get to the next level and he should eventually be a useful bottom-six forward with a solid two-way game.
Nikita Tryamkin, D, Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg (KHL)
Drafted 3rd Round (66th Overall), 2014
Tryamkin was signed by the Canucks to an entry-level contract after the conclusion of his season with Yekaterinburg of the KHL and brought to Vancouver to audition for a role with the Canucks in 2016-17.
Tryamkin finished out his time in the KHL having played over 200 games so his transition to the NHL was quite seamless. Tryamkin was a bit overwhelmed in his first game as a Canuck and opened his NHL career with a nervous twelve second shift before heading to the bench for a change. Once he calmed down and fell into the flow of the game, Tryamkin started to show signs of why the Canucks selected him 66th overall back in 2014.
Tryamkin skates well for a big man and is rarely caught out of position. His active stick and good gap control make him a good all-around defender but Canuck fans and management alike want to see the big man display a bit more of a nasty side. He finishes his checks and clears the front of the net well but a man of his size should be physically dominating in all aspects of the game. If he develops that physical edge, Tryamkin will be a force to be reckoned with and in the physical Western Conference that is exactly what the Canucks need moving forward. The Canucks have even used Tryamkin on the power play as a human wall to screen opposing goalies so he is certainly being given every opportunity to succeed so far in Vancouver. All signs so far indicate that Tryamkin has likely secured a spot in the Canucks’ top six defensemen group for next season and beyond.
Lukas Jasek, RW, HC Trinec (Czech)
Drafted 6th Round (174th Overall), 2015
A season of bouncing around the Czech leagues has left Canucks fans wondering what they really have in the young winger. Jasek is dominant against other under-20 Czech players but has had trouble producing against men in the elite league.
Jasek’s puck skills and playmaking ability are not in doubt, but it is his lack of a physical dimension that has some scouts concerned about his overall potential. Jasek often appears outmatched when playing against men and he needs to add some muscle to his frame before his potential can truly be assessed. If he bulks up and learns to play with a bit of a physical edge then he should be in consideration for a move to North America where he can gain some experience on the smaller ice surfaces of the CHL or AHL, depending on where the Canucks place him for the 2016-17 season.
Another season of bouncing around the Czech leagues cannot be the best developmental path for young Jasek – who does not turn 19 until the end of August – so a move to North America seems like the best option at this point. Whether he suits up for Utica or is even placed in one of the major junior leagues remains to be seen but it is in Jasek’s best interest to get some experience playing on the North American ice. While still an intriguing prospect, the jury remains out on Jasek’s overall potential as an NHL player and it will be up to him to take the necessary steps to advance himself to the next level.
Prospect of the Month
As noted above, Brock Boeser has been simply phenomenal so far in his college career and it appears that the sky is the limit for the young forward. Boeser’s stock has definitely risen over the course of the 2015-16 season and Canucks fans are eagerly anticipating the day when Boeser joins the big club.
It seems incredible that North Dakota, for all the program’s success, has not won a national title since 2000. Boeser could further solidify a place in school history by helping to add to the team’s hardware.