Vancouver Canucks Prospect Camp Overview

By: Ryan Aceman 

NHL prospect camp is a time of optimism, particularly for teams that perennially miss the playoffs. And with the Vancouver Canucks in the midst of a complete rebuild, the only thing fans of the franchise can do is look toward the future. Some veterans were signed this offseason to insulate what could be one of the NHL’s youngest rosters – however the next potential taste of contention for the Canucks appears at least several years away.

From July 4th-6th, the newest members of the Canucks organization were invited to the annual development camp, where fans could watch the guys practice and get a sense of what the future holds. The camp concluded with a full scrimmage at Rogers Arena. Being huge Canucks fans, Connor and I were in attendance for both practice days and the full scrimmage, trying to identify how some of the prospects might fit into the team down the road.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at a few of the Canucks’ top prospects, examine how they competed during camp, and provide an outlook for their potential spots on the Vancouver roster in the near future.

Elias Pettersson, C/W, Timra IK (Swe-1)

2017’s fifth overall pick was impressive throughout camp, showcasing elite stick handling and dynamic playmaking ability at top speed and in all situations. At 6'2 and 161 lbs, Pettersson is rail thin and is not quintessentially strong on the puck yet. But at just 18 years old, his presence and vision are sure to bring the Vancouver Canucks valuable scoring in just a few seasons after further development in either Sweden or North America. Pettersson’s skill level is transcendent. He makes those around him better and generates offence in unique ways. A potential Pettersson/Horvat-lead centre group is certainly encouraging going forward. 

Watch Pettersson's two beautiful goals from scrimmage:

Brock Boeser, RW, U. of North Dakota (NCAA)/Vancouver Canucks

Perhaps the Canucks most NHL-ready prospect, Boeser has already experienced playing in the NHL, suiting up for nine games with the Canucks last year in which he amassed four goals and an assist. Unlike most players at camp, Boeser had very little to prove and seemed focused on improving his skills rather than accumulating stats or flashy plays. He’s most likely to make the team of any forward at the camp, and will look to cement himself a long-term spot on the Canucks roster with a strong showing in his true rookie season. Boeser has 20 plus-goal potential thanks to his outstanding shot and high hockey IQ.

Olli Juolevi, D, London Knights (OHL)

The 2016 fifth overall pick experienced some stagnation in his second CHL season – but we should take into account that Juolevi’s London Knights team was not quite the Memorial Cup winning roster from the year prior. So perhaps the ability to maintain his numbers in year two is an accomplishment in itself.  He looked noticeably stronger at camp since the last time I saw him play in the spring, and his usual prowess in the offensive zone was on display. He’s an outstanding passer, both in his own end and on the attack. He’s still not a remotely physical defenceman, however he uses his stick well and reads passing lanes on an elite level. May not make the team this season, but figures to be a steady top-4 contributor down the road.

Guillame Brisebois, D, Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL)

The 6'3 190 lbs Brisebois is one of Vancouver’s best prospects on the back-end, who has demonstrated an ability to be a two-way player, both at camp and during his fourth junior season. After collecting 47 points and a +35 rating in 61 QMJHL games, the 19-year old emerged as a potential top-6 defenseman for Vancouver in the future. His play during practice and scrimmage revealed an intelligent defensive player capable of contributing in all situations – short handed and power play figure to be amongst his strengths, and 2015’s third round selection could end up being a steal if he continues improving exponentially.

Check out Brisebois 2016-2017 season highlights:

Adam Gaudette, C, Northeastern University (NCAA)

Gaudette, a 2015 fifth round selection, was easily one of the most intriguing prospects at camp. He skates very well, and can make all of the necessary plays with speed and precision. He possesses superb stick handling and a creative set of moves in the offensive zone. Gaudette had an exceptional second season for Northeastern, accumulating 26 goals and 26 assists in 37 games. At 6”1 184 lbs, Gaudette projects nicely as a middle-6 forward with first-line potential if the stars align. He appears to be a capable offensive contributor and was one of the standout forwards at camp thanks to dynamic skill and speed.

Gaudette had a strong showing in scrimmage as well:

Zack MacEwan, C/W, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)

At around 6'4 210 lbs, MacEwan has a quintessential power forward frame to go along with one of the best shots of any Canucks prospect. He’s an undrafted player that the Canucks wisely signed to a contract on March 2nd, after recording 31 goals and 74 points in 66 games. He has a lighting-fast release to go with deadly accuracy, and can pick corners at will. Also a dynamic skater, MacEwan is deceptively fast and good on his edges. He just turned 21, and is a dark horse to crack the Canucks roster for 2017-2018 – if not, he’ll be one of the best forwards in Utica.

So while the present appears bleak, there is still plenty to look forward to for Canucks fans. For now, we need to accept not being competitive, patiently accumulate more elite prospects/draft picks, and build to be successful in the future. This is how the elite NHL teams – à la Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins, etc. – were built, and Vancouver must exercise a similar level of prudence during this period to become a Western Conference powerhouse once again.

Stay tuned for Connor's analysis coming soon, where we go a little more in depth about some of the prospects.