The 2012 Development Camp Invitees: Defence (Part 1)

The Canucks have cast a wide net in their summer development camp, inviting an astonishing number of undrafted and unsigned players to attend. While the camp is now over, that doesn’t mean that the Canucks relationship with these invitees is likewise over.

Several of the invitees, at least the ones that won’t be heading to college in the fall, are likely to also attend prospect training camp, with an opportunity to make it to main camp and earn a contract. As for the players that are heading to college, they now have a (hopefully) positive experience with the Canucks that may influence who they sign with once they’re done with the NCAA.

I have already introduced you to the goaltenders and the (many) forwards. Now it is time for the defencemen, highlighted by size, size, and more size. Also, a former Oilers’ draft pick with promising offensive upside.

Conor Allen – Defence
6’1″ – 205 lbs – January 31, 1990
Chicago, IL
University of Massachusetts Minutemen

At 6’1″, Allen is actually the second shortest invitee defenceman at camp, which tells you something about what the Canucks are looking for. Allen likes to hit, but is also sound defensively, transitions the puck well with his skating and passing, and has offensive ability, as demonstrated by his hattrick in November. He finished the season with 14 points in 35 games in his sophomore year with the Minutemen.

Allen is an excellent student whose father is a professor at Northwestern University. He chose to go the NCAA route both because it is a legitimate path to the NHL and because he can earn his degree, so he’s unlikely to leave UMass early.

Jake Baker – Defence
6’4″ – 210 lbs – July 18, 1991
Port Moody, BC
Northern Michigan University Wildcats

The Canucks website has Baker listed at 6’4″, but his college website has him at 6’6″. Baker played with 4 different teams in the BCHL, finding the most offensive success with the Trail Smoke Eaters in his final year, scoring 23 points in 32 games. When he was with the Victoria Grizzlies, he was described as the defence’s unsung hero, taking pride in shutting down the opposition’s top lines and playing a physical game. Baker was a leader for the Grizzlies and was named the team’s captain in his final season before being traded to the Smoke Eaters.

In his freshman year at Northern Michigan, Baker chipped in 8 points in 36 games, but offence isn’t his calling card, by his own admission. He unfortunately made headlines for the wrong reason, getting arrested, along with several other NMU hockey players, and charged with a misdemeanor for receiving and concealing stolen property after a large number of stolen bicycles were found in their possession. He pleaded no contest and is expected to have the charges dropped after a probationary period. It sounds like a group of freshmen got caught up in something that had been going on for a long time with the hockey team, which still isn’t a defence, but a bit more of an explanation.

Baker was identified as a C-level prospect in 2008 by NHL Central Scouting, potentially worth a late round selection in the draft. With his size and reach, he should be able to find a spot in professional hockey in a few years once he’s done school.

Corbin Baldwin – Defence
6’5″ – 215 lbs – February 5, 1991
Winnipeg, MB
Spokane Chiefs

Baldwin is taking an unconventional route, committing to the University of Manitoba of the CIS after four seasons in the WHL with the Spokane Chiefs. University of Manitoba head coach describes him as “an imposing defenseman with good mobility and puck skills” and saying he is “tough to beat one-on-one, plays with an edge, and is a fearless shot blocker.”

In his over-age year with Spokane, Baldwin scored a career-high 33 points, with 128 penalty minutes, and a team-high plus-35. It’s unlikely, however, that he’ll be known for his scoring in the future as he is more of a physical, shutdown type. He has 31 fights at the WHL level, which may help him eventually find a job in hockey. His management claims he has a strong stick and “personifies what a prototypical shut down defenseman should be like,” but that’s a bit of a biased voice.

Whatever the case, he is a hard worker, to the point that his coach in Spokane said, “Our coaches have to be careful he doesn’t go too hard in practice and get injured.”

Jeremie Blain – Defence
6’2″ – 200 lbs – March 19, 1992
Longueuil, QC
Acadie-Bathurst Titans/Victoriaville Tigres

Blain was the Edmonton Oilers’ 4th round pick in 2010 and appeared to be developing very well in the QMJHL. So it was a little baffling to see the Oilers pass on signing him by this year’s June 1st deadline. He scored 50 points in 58 games last season and 37 in 40 games the year before. He’s a tough, physical offensive defenceman, with scouting reports that suggest he has upside as a top-four defenceman in the NHL.

Lowetide had him pegged as the Oilers’ #14 prospect; Copper and Blue slotted him in as the Oilers’ #24th ranked player in the system under 25 years old.

The concerns are that his skating, defensive play, and a few injuries in junior will hold him back, but defencemen with his kind of upside are usually worth the risk. Blain re-entered the draft, but was not picked up. With his offensive upside and potential, he was a great invite by the Canucks.

Justin DaSilva – Defence
6’5″ – 215 lbs – May 22, 1990
Cambridge, ON
Ohio State University Buckeyes

DaSilva is a big, physical defenceman, but what’s intriguing is that he also has offensive upside. He scored 21 goals in his last two seasons in the BCHL with the Powell River Kings and finished his BCHL career with 77 points in 104 games over 4 years. That offence didn’t translate to his freshman year with the Buckeyes, scoring just 4 points in 24 games, but that’s not too unusual in the NCAA. He’ll need to step up that side of his game in the next few years.

His defensive positioning is sound, however, and he has impressive size. One Buckeyes fan compared him – favorably! – to Hal Gill and particularly appreciated how he “annihilated” opponents.

The concern with DaSilva is the usual with big defenceman: skating. He almost went into a sport where he wouldn’t have to worry about it: golf. Of note, he played with Cory Schneider on the Buckeyes. That’s Cory Schneider the forward, of course.

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1 Comment

  1. Anonymous
    July 3, 2012

    Jeremie Blain sure seems promising!

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