Longtime Bulies will know that my favourite part of prospect camps is looking into the unsigned and undrafted invitees and seeing where they came from. The prospects that are already in the Canucks system are, to a certain extent, known quantities. Thanks to extensive draft coverage in the media, interviews and features on Canucks.com, and the frenetic googling of thousands of fans, we know a decent amount about each of them.
There is a mystery, however, surrounding camp invitees that makes them extremely interesting to me. While NHL scouting is excellent, plenty of players have made it to the NHL without being drafted, with Alex Burrows being a well-known example to Canucks fans. Maybe, just maybe, one of these invitees slipped through the cracks and is a diamond in the rough, just waiting to be shaped into a beautiful jewel.
There are a daunting number of invitees at this year’s development camp, more than twice the number from last year, so I’ll be splitting up the invitee profiles into three parts, organized by position. First up are the goaltenders. Of the five goalies at camp, four are invitees. The goaltenders are of particular interest to me this year, as this is the first draft under Mike Gillis where the Canucks didn’t select a goaltender. Since they also refrained from signing 2010 draftee Jonathan Iilahti to a contract, there is certainly room in the system for another goaltender.
Three of the four goaltenders are from the NCAA, so they won’t be signing a contract with the Canucks. The other goaltender, however, hails from junior hockey and is likely to head to the professional hockey this year. While the Canucks will have Eddie Lack and Joe Cannata in Chicago, if they choose to bring Lack up to the Canucks as a backup, there will be a spot available on the Wolves.
Mathieu Corbeil – Goaltender
6’6″ – 198 lbs – September 27, 1991
Saint John Sea Dogs
Corbeil was originally drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in round 4 of the 2010 entry draft, but, like Iilahti, was not signed by the June 1st deadline for 2010 draftees. He re-entered the draft pool for this year, but the draft came and went without him finding a home. It’s a little odd that the Blue Jackets chose not to sign Corbeil as he had the best season of his QMJHL career, posting a 2.38 GAA and .911 save percentage while going 37-10-1 during the regular season. With just 3 prospect goaltenders in the system, it doesn’t seem like they could afford to let Corbeil go.
He also went on a long playoff run with the Sea Dogs, helping them get to the Memorial Cup with a 16-0-1 record, 2.18 GAA, and .917 save percentage in the QMJHL playoffs. There, they fell short in the semifinal to the Shawinigan Cataractes in a game where Corbeil allowed 6 goals on 36 shots. Corbeil was nominated for CHL Goaltender of the Year, but former invitee Michael Houser took home the award. He did win the Jacques-Plante Trophy for the best GAA in the QMJHL and was named to the 2nd All-Star Team.
The argument against Corbeil is that he was playing behind a very good Sea Dogs team that made him look a lot better than he actually is. His play up until this season would certainly give that impression: up until this year, he had yet to post a save percentage above .900 in a season. Then, with all eyes watching at the Memorial Cup, Corbeil struggled. Still, at 6’6″, Corbeil has NHL-ready size and, if he can show the skill and athleticism to go with it, has a professional career in hockey ahead of him.
In fact, Corbeil is the only prospect at camp who has actually dressed for an NHL game, backing up Steve Mason on October 18th on an emergency recall. While he didn’t play, he still had a better NHL season than Mason.
Also, he was really hoping for a Dumb and Dumber sequel.
Joel Rumpel – Goaltender
6’3″ – 180 lbs – March 14, 1991
Swift Current, SK
University of Wisconsin Badgers
The former standout with the Penticton Vees of the BCHL is coming off a solid freshman season with the Badgers, posting a 2.48 GAA and a .919 save percentage as the starter. He played with Canucks draft pick Joseph Labate and big free agent Justin Schultz at Wisconsin, which iced a very young and inexperienced team. It showed and the team struggled overall, leading to Rumpel finishing with a 12-12-2 record.
Rumpel ended the season with the third best save percentage from a freshman goalie and led all freshmen with 3 shutouts. Those 3 shutouts are a Wisconsin record for a freshman. He was named WCHA Rookie of the Week three times throughout the season and was named the Badgers’ top recruit last year by Red Line Report. After January 1st, as the team started to settle in, Rumpel put up fantastic numbers, posting a 2.02 GAA and a .931 save percentage.
His uncle Roy Schultz was an All-American goaltender for Wisconsin back in the 70′s and he acted as Rumpel’s goalie coach from a young age. That lifelong coaching has paid off, as Rumpel moves well in his crease and has a quick glove hand.
Andrew Walsh – Goaltender
6’2″ – 185 lbs – December 15, 1990
Dawson Creek, BC
Bemidji State Beavers
The 21-year-old BC native just finished his first year at Bemidji State, playing in 11 games and finishing with a 2.37 GAA and .915 save percentage. It was an impressive debut, as Walsh had previously put up mediocre to poor numbers in the BCHL and NAHL playing for the Langley Chiefs, Prince George Spruce Kings, and Dawson Creek Rage.
His December was particularly good, as he put up a 4-0-1 record in 5 starts with the Beavers, was named WCHA Rookie of the Week twice in the month, and was named the National Rookie of the Month by the Hockey Commissioner’s Association. He had a 1.04 GAA and a .961 save percentage with 2 shutouts during the month. After December, Walsh had a 1.87 GAA and .935 save percentage in 9 games for the season. If you take a look at those numbers and then at his final numbers for the season, it’s pretty clear that things went downhill in his next two appearances.
Sure enough, in two games in January he gave up 9 goals on 47 shots and did not appear in another game for the Beavers.
Walsh is the first member of the Dawson Creek Rage to earn a scholarship at a Division 1 school, but he’s definitely a longshot for the NHL. Canucks development camp is a great opportunity for him to get a taste of professional hockey.
Will Yanakeff – Goaltender
6’4″ – 202 lbs – April 30, 1992
Michigan State Spartans
Owner of one of the best names at camp, Yanakeff is coming off a very good sophomore season with the Spartans, where he posted a 2.50 GAA and a .925 save percentage in 23 games. He took over the starting role by the end of the season and is expected to be the starter in September.
Yanakeff was originally a member of the US National Team Development Program, but was kicked out of the program for violating team rules. Evidently, he and another player were “involved in a drinking party.” This may have contributed to him not getting drafted, though it was more likely a subpar year in the USHL after being removed from the NTDP. He got things back together in his freshman year at Michigan State, posting a .927 save percentage as a backup and being named the team’s Outstanding Rookie.
With his size and college numbers, Yanakeff is sure to attract some interest from NHL clubs by the time he’s finished school. It looks like he’s set to make a lot of teams feel shortsighted for not taking a seventh round flyer on him in the 2010 draft.
Also, until recently he was known as Willie.Tags: 2012 Development Camp, Andrew Walsh, Invitees, Joel Rumpel, Mathieu Corbeil, Prospects, Will Yanakeff