The 2011 Canucks Prospect Camp opens on Tuesday, July 5th, marking the first chance for Canucks management and fans to see their 2011 draft picks in person and mark the development of their other prospects. The Canucks have announced that 34 players will attend the camp, though the released roster has 35 names. And while it will certainly be fun to see the big names, like 2011 first round pick Nicklas Jensen, December signee Darren Archibald who finished 9th in OHL goalscoring, and 2009 second round pick Anton Rodin, I am more interested in the invitees.
The undrafted and unsigned players are often the most intriguing players at camp, as there’s always the hope that one of them will be the next Martin St. Louis, Dan Boyle, or Alexandre Burrows. While none of last year’s invitees were signed by the Canucks, a few signed with other NHL teams, like Matt Fraser with the Dallas Stars, Keith Kinkaid with the New Jersey Devils, and Taylor Fedun with the Edmonton Oilers.
The Canucks will have 12 invitees at this year’s prospect development camp. So just who are these mystery players? Do any of them have the potential to make the NHL? Will any of them earn a contract with the Canucks?
Justin Courtnall – Left Wing
6’2″ – 185 lbs – May 22, 1989
Justin has a pretty obvious connection to the Canucks, being the son of former Canuck Geoff Courtnall. Like his dad, Justin plays left wing, but he doesn’t quite have the same scoring touch. After two nearly point-per-game seasons in the BCHL, he had no points in his freshman year and only scored 6 points in 32 games in his sophomore year with the Boston University Terriers, though he has been skating on the fourth line and may get more offensive opportunities as a junior and senior. Justin has been to prospect camps previously, attending the 2008 Tampa Bay Lightning camp after being selected by the Bolts in the 7th round of the 2007 entry draft and the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks camp. The Lightning lost the rights to Courtnall after not offering him a contract within the two years he was drafted prior to him heading to Boston University. At 22, Justin will be one of the oldest players at camp and he’s largely considered to be a bust at this point.
Thomas Honeckl – Goalie
6’1″ – 203 lbs – October 10, 1989
Honeckl is one of only two invitees from outside North America. The Austrian netminder split time with Reinhard Divis, who was the first Austrian goalie to play in the NHL and a former national team goalie. Honeckl posted a 3.40 GAA and a .908 SV% for the Red Bulls in the regular season. Honeckl appeared in 2 postseason games as the back-up to Divis, but was forced into action as the starter in the final two games of the championship as Divis went down to injury. Honeckl only allowed two goals in each of those two games helping EC Salzburg win the 2011 Austrian Hockey League Championship. He finished the playoffs with a 3.61 GAA and .912 SV% and it’s likely his playoff heroism attracted the attention of the Canucks scouts. Honeckl has re-signed with the Red Bulls, but might have an out-clause to go to the NHL if the Canucks decide to trade Cory Schneider and want to bring another goalie into their system to play in the AHL.
Cody Kunyk – Centre
6’0″ – 181 lbs – May 20, 1990
Sherwood Park, AB
University of Alaska-Fairbanks
Kunyk is one of the most intriguing invitees to this year’s development camp. The 2010 AJHL MVP and CJHL Player of the Year, Kunyk led the Nanooks in scoring as a freshman in 2010-11, posting 30 points in 38 games. It’s not often that a freshman leads his team in points in the NCAA, and he received an honourable mention for the CCHA All-Rookie Team. The Business Administration major was strong at even-strength, leading the Nanooks in plus/minus with a +12 rating, key to the powerplay, tying for the team lead with 5 powerplay goals, and also saw time on the penalty kill, tallying a short-handed goal. This well-rounded game will likely make him attractive to NHL scouts, though it’s surprising he went undrafted with all of the accolades he received. It may be because he chose to stay in the AJHL to retain his NCAA eligibility instead of playing in the WHL for the Prince George Cougars.
Antoine Laganiere – Centre
6’4″ – 187 lbs – July 5, 1990
Ile Cadieux, QC
At 6’4″, Laganiere is the tallest of the invitee skaters, but he also has skill to go with his size, scoring 23 points in 50 games in two years with the deep Bulldogs. Prior to heading to Yale, Laganiere put up 66 points in 50 games with Deerfield Academy and was ranked 126th amongst North American skaters by Central Scouting heading into the 2008 entry draft. In his second year of eligibility, Laganiere was ranked 176th amongst North American skaters in the midterm rankings, but slipped right off the board by the end of the season. He will need to have much stronger Junior and Senior seasons if he hopes to earn an NHL contract right out of college, but this camp is an opportunity for him to get on the Canucks radar.
Joey LaLeggia – Defense
5’10″ – 181 lbs – June 24, 1992
With 82 points in 58 games, LaLeggia led all BCHL defensemen in scoring this past season, led his team in scoring, and finished 5th amongst all skaters in scoring. The closest defenseman in scoring was 26 points behind LaLeggia. The Burnaby native skates well, has excellent vision, a heavy shot, and plays with intelligence and poise. He has the ability to be an excellent powerplay quarterback and premiere puck mover while still playing a defensively responsible game. So why wasn’t he drafted? Size. While he’s added some weight recently, he was previously listed as just 5’9″ and 150 lbs, which is definitely enough to scare scouts away. Even at his listed 5’10″, 181 lbs, scouts will pause and wonder how effective he can be at the NHL level. Add in the fact that he wasn’t playing Major Junior hockey as he’s heading to the University of Denver, and things begin to make more sense. He will need to prove in the NCAA that he can compete with larger players and a more physical style before NHL teams will take a chance on him being able to overcome his slight stature. If he does so, the Canucks will hopefully have the edge in signing him.
Travis Oleksuk – Centre
5’11″ – 185 lbs – February 3, 1989
Thunder Bay, ON
University of Minnesota-Duluth
Oleksuk was a key contributor for the Bulldogs as they won the 2011 NCAA championship, scoring a goal and assisting on the gamewinner in the championship game against Michigan. Oleksuk recorded 33 points in 42 games in his junior year, finishing 5th on the team in goals and points, but first on the team and second in the NCAA in gamewinning goals, with 7. His best attribute is his hard and accurate shot, but he’s also a strong skater who goes hard to the net. His point totals suffer slightly from playing behind Hobey Baker finalist centre Jack Connolly, who will be returning next year, making it difficult to judge whether Oleksuk could score more in a bigger role or if he benefits from opponents focussing on the top line.
Looking for Part Two? Yes. Yes you are. Here it is.Tags: 2011 Development Camp, Canucks, featured, Invitees, Prospects