The Canucks prospect camp opens on Friday, September 9th. Last Friday I introduced you to the 3 defensemen invitees, Craig Duininck, Ian Saab, and Marc-Anthony Zanetti. Today, it’s time for the forwards, highlighted by a solid two-way winger, a French sniper, and a standout NCAA scorer. Three of these forwards trace their origins to the QMJHL. In fact, five of the eleven invitees come from the QMJHL, which is an interesting trend.
Will any of these invitees earn themselves a spot on the Canucks roster? It’s extremely unlikely. The Canucks have a logjam of forwards at every position, but it’s possible that an impressive performance could earn one of these forwards a contract and a spot with the Chicago Wolves.
Michael Curtis - Left Wing
6’0″ – 181 lbs – January 26, 1993
Michael Curtis is not renowned for his scoring ability, but has made his name with his two-way ability and consistent effort. The winger was ranked 82nd amongst North American skaters by central scouting going into the 2011 entry draft and was even considered by some to be a potential second round pick, but went undrafted, possibly due to his falloff in scoring. Curtis scored 19 goals in his rookie OHL season, but only managed 9 goals in 2010-11, though he played 9 fewer games due to injury.
If he makes his way to the NHL, it will likely be as a shutdown forward, the role he played while winning gold for Team Canada in the 2010 Ivan Hlinka tournament. He also participated in 2010′s NHL Research & Development camp. Whether he can add value beyond the defensive end on the ice will depend on whether he can brush off his last offensively disappointing season and build on his more impressive 19 goal rookie year. Curtis also spent some time at centre for the Bulls and his versatility may make him a tempting player. His minus-25 rating is less exciting, but he was on a very weak Bulls team where not a single player finished with a positive plus-minus rating.
Ryan Harrison - Centre
5’10″ – 185 lbs – May 31, 1992
Medicine Hat Tigers/Everett Silvertips
Ryan Harrison is the future of American tennis. Wait, that can’t be right. Ah, here we go: Ryan Harrison is a centre from Kelowna who finished the 2010-11 season with the Everett Silvertips. His midseason trade to the Silvertips sparked a turnaround in Red Wings’ prospect Landon Ferraro and Harrison had 19 points in 29 games for the club. He has 141 points in 204 career WHL games and is entering his 4th season in the league after going undrafted in 2010 and 2011. He was ranked 161st among North American skaters going into the 2010 draft after being ranked 137 in the mid-term rankings and was extremely disappointed after going undrafted and also missing the cut for Team Canada’s U-18 team.
Harrison has decent speed and skill, but also plays with a physical edge, with 350 penalty minutes in 204 games in the WHL. He also apparently oozes leadership, which is gross. Note: December 9th is Ryan Harrison Bobblehead Doll Night in Everett. Don’t miss it.
Jonathan Lessard - Left Wing
6’0″ – 172 lbs – February 22, 1991
Lessard went undrafted in 2009 after being ranked the 149th best North American skater by Central Scouting. He followed up this disappointment with two straight 60+ point seasons, potting 36 and 37 goals, respectively. He was 29th in scoring in the QMJHL this past season with Acadie-Bathurst and was 33rd the year before, though he did benefit from playing with a superb playmaker in Gabriel Levesque, who led the league in assists.
Lessard represented the QMJHL in the 2010 Subway Super Series, where he recorded 1 assist and an even rating in 2 games. He also courted controversy with this ugly hit from behind after a goal, for which he was suspended 4 games. The scorer has been traded from Acadie-Bathurst to the Baie-Comeau Drakkar this offseason, where he will be expected to carry the bulk of the offensive load. It remains to be seen if he will be able to produce at the same rate without the offensive support he had in Acadie-Bathurst.
Nathan Longpre - Centre
6’0″ – 170 lbs – June 16, 1988
Robert Morris University Colonials/Worcester Sharks
At 23, Longpre will be the oldest prospect at the Canucks camp. He’s also the most proven of the forwards coming to camp: Longpre has led the Colonials in scoring for the last two seasons and has averaged over a point-per-game in his four-year career in the NCAA. He finished 17th in the NCAA last season in points-per-game, earning himself a tryout with the Worcester Sharks of the AHL, where he had 1 assist and a minus-7 rating in 8 games; not exactly inspiring numbers.
Still, his scoring prowess for RMU, where he holds the record for career assists, indicate that he will have a solid professional career and may be an interesting target for a contract from the Canucks, given the recent focus on NCAA players. He was a force on the powerplay for the Colonials, with 7 of his 14 goals coming with the man advantage and his highlight reel demonstrates his on-ice vision, quick shot, and ability to protect the puck.
Antoine Roussel - Left Wing
5’11″ – 192 lbs – November 21, 1989
Roussel is a native of France and played for his country in the 2008 World Junior Championships in Division I. He led the tournament in goals, scoring 6 in 5 games. He played his junior hockey in the QMJHL, scoring 139 points in 252 games, while adding 417 penalty minutes and was ranked 118th among North American skaters in 2008. In his final year with the club, he was named team captain and came up big in the playoffs, scoring 9 points in 7 games. Without a contract offer out of Junior, he attended the Boston Bruins 2010 training camp in hopes of catching someone’s attention and he did: with their AHL affiliate. He describes the day he received his contract offer from the Providence Bruins as “maybe the best day of my life” as he was considering going to university in Canada until he received the offer.
Roussel was a roleplayer for the P-Bruins, killing penalties and dropping the gloves when necessary, logging 10 fights in 42 games. If you watch the fight videos, however, you’ll see he doesn’t win too many of them. That, plus the fact he wears a visor, means he should be hoping to score a few more points next year. He has been likened to a young Steve Begin and the Canucks may have the opportunity to make a direct comparison if Roussel makes it to main camp.
Andrew Smith - Right Wing
6’5″ – 220 lbs – October 1, 1991
Corner Brook, NL
Smith will be the tallest player at Canucks’ prospect camp and uses his size as a physical fourth-liner, throwing hits and dropping gloves. He had 12 fights in last year in the QMJHL, picking up 102 penalty minutes but only 5 points in 50 games. He recognizes that he does not have a scoring role but embraces his role as an emotional, gritty player. With his size and willingness to play physical, Smith could find a job as a professional despite his lack of hands.
The Canucks scouting staff contacted Smith before the end of his season and expressed an interest in the hulking winger, inviting him to camp after he went undrafted. With Victoriaville unlikely to keep him as one of their three overage players, Smith will hope to earn a spot with the Chicago Wolves and is training in St. John’s, Newfoundland with professional players like Ryane Clowe and Teddy Purcell to prepare himself.
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