The Canucks trimmed their training camp roster by 11 players today, reassigning two to their junior clubs (Kellan Tochkin, Frankie Corrado), assigning six to the Wolves (Anton Rodin, Taylor Ellington, Alex Friesen, Prab Rai, Adam Polasek, and Stefan Schneider), releasing two to attend Wolves’ camp on a prolonged tryout (Matt Clackson, Nathan Longpre,), and releasing one outright (Manny Legace).

As usual, PITB is here to break down every cut, and we’ll be doing so in two stages today. I’ve got the top half of the release; Harrison’s got the bottom (and Corrado, who got his own separate release). What that in mind, here’s a detailed look at the factors that led to Tochkin, Rodin, Friesen, Rai, and Ellington getting cut from the training camp roster.

Kellan Tochkin has been returned to the WHL, where he will play his over-age year with the Medicine Hat Tigers. He was initially signed by the Canucks after an astounding rookie year in the WHL where he scored 74 points in 72 games, but he disappointed in his subsequent two seasons by stagnating instead of improving on those numbers.

With his undersized frame and lack of speed to compensate, it was unclear whether he could handle NHL hockey. Appropriately, he models his game after Kyle Wellwood, another small, skilled forward who lacks wheels but thinks the game at a high level. That in itself endeared him to PITB, along with his willingness to be interviewed, but it was his excellent performance in the Young Stars Tournament that sealed the deal.

He played only one game in the preseason, getting 8:45 in icetime, essentially because the Canucks found out what they needed to know. Yes, Tochkin is progressing. No, he won’t be ready for the NHL for several years. It is far more important for Tochkin to show he can dominate in the WHL getting plenty of offensive opportunities and lots of icetime.

Anton Rodin is heading to the AHL, where it is hoped he will play a key offensive role for the Wolves this season. He clearly has some high-end offensive skill, scoring the prettiest goal of the Young Stars Tournament. It was, however, his only point in his three games and it looks like he will take some time to adjust to the North American game after spending his entire career thus far in Sweden.

He and Sebastian Erixon, a fellow Swede playing in North America for the first time, seemed to shy away from contact at the beginning of the Young Stars Tournament. While they adjusted fairly quickly to that level and were getting involved physically towards the end, they’ll both find the level of physical play increasing as they go on.

Alex Friesen

Like Tochkin, Rodin played in only one preseason game with zeroes across his stat line. Also like Tochkin, no one expected Rodin to battle for a spot immediately on the Canucks. He will have time to adapt to North American hockey with the Wolves.

Alex Friesen has been assigned to the Wolves. He was a pleasant surprise at the Young Stars tournament. Though he didn’t score, he showed a well-developed defensive side to his game and was a feisty and aggressive forechecker that got under the skin of his opponents. With his two-way ability and aggressive edge, Friesen has the potential to be a future third-line forward for the Canucks, but he was also a point-per-game player in his final two seasons in the OHL and he showed moments of offensive flare.

But if Friesen wanted to make the club this season, he needed to have more than just a few moments. The young centre clearly needs more seasoning in professional hockey before he’s ready to take the next step, but his attention to the defensive side of the puck definitely gives him a leg up on getting noticed by coaches and management.

Prab Rai

Prab Rai has also been assigned to the Wolves, where he will play his first season in the AHL after missing all of last year with an injury. The injury certainly threw his development for a loop, though he came to camp stronger than before. He seemed to be missing that extra gear in his skating that gave him an edge in the past, but he clearly still has skill.

If Rai wants to avoid the “enigmatic” label, however, he will need to start going hard to the net with more consistency. He frequently floated around the edges of the game during the Young Stars tournament though he showed stretches of determination where he battled for the puck and carried it with some authority. Those stretches were too few, however. He did not dress for any preseason games due to an undisclosed illness.

Rai will hope to establish himself as a professional this season and take aim at the Canucks lineup next year.

To be perfectly honest, I had no idea Taylor Ellington was at training camp. That’s not really a good sign for a prospect, but it’s possible that Ellington is still recovering from the concussion that cut short his season at 14 games last year. He apparently skated in practice in training camp alongside Sawyer Hannay and there was no report that he was kept out of contact drills, so he is hopefully ready to play.

While he has struggled to adapt to the professional game, Ellington had made some progression in 2009-10, playing 19 games with the Moose and scoring 4 points. Salmon Kings fans report that Ellington was easily their best player. Unfortunately, his development has been interrupted by what is obviously a major injury. Ellington has not played since last November and there is no update available as to his current status. Here’s hoping that he will be able to play for the Wolves this season and get his career back on track.

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1 Comment

  1. Island-Insider
    September 23, 2011

    Ellington was easily the “best salmon king contracted to the canucks” but did not shine as a standout, plenty of ECHL d-men are blacklisted by the politics of the draft and nurture game. Elly is a fine player and we look forward to his chances of sticking with the AHL this year. Yann Sauve was nuthin special during his Victoria visit. The ECHL is a messy game my brothers.

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