The Canucks currently have one of the all-time great ECHL success stories in their lineup. Alexandre Burrows started his professional career with the Greenville Grrrowl in 2002, eventually working his way up to the AHL with the Manitoba Moose, then to the NHL with the Vancouver Canucks. Now he’s a first line forward with the Sedins and a consistent 25+ goal scorer.
Only eleven players have spent a season in the ECHL since the 2004-05 lockout and gone on to play in the NHL and none have had anywhere near the success of Burrows.
One player hoping to buck that trend is Sacha Guimond, who signed with the Canucks’ AHL affiliate, the Utica Comets, this past off-season after being named the ECHL’s defenceman of the year as a rookie.
Guimond was one of just three players to appear in every game for the Canucks during the Young Stars tournament in Penticton and he made a big impact, tying with Hunter Shinkaruk with a team-high 4 points. He was also the only Canuck to score two goals, scoring the gamewinning goal against the Oilers with a wristshot on the powerplay and the gametying goal against the Jets by jumping up on the rush.
His ability to create offence impressed Utica Comets coach Travis Green, who coached the prospects during the tournament. “I liked him, I liked him,” said Green, “He’s got a lot of offensive capabilities,” adding that there was a “good chance” he would be invited to the Canucks’ main camp.
Guimond survived the initial round of cuts on Monday, though with a few days to go until camp kicks off, there may still be some nervous nights ahead. “Hopefully I’m going to go,” said Guimond after his game against the Jets. “With that rookie tournament, I think I played well, so hopefully I’m going to get that invite.”
It was a bit of a rough start for the defenceman, as he struggled against the Sharks and Flames in the first couple games of the tournament, but he was turning heads by the end. “My first game was a bit hard,” agreed Guimond. “I was nervous, I guess. But I think game after game I got better. I scored a couple goals and I’m an offensive d-man, so I tried to join the rush and create some opportunities.”
In the process, he impressed his frequent defence partner, Jordan Subban. “It’s fun playing with him,” Subban said after the game against the Jets. “I think once we built some chemistry, it made it a lot easier to communicate with him and get a feel for the way he plays. He’s great offensively and he was good in our own end too.”
“I actually learned a lot from him,” he finished, which says something considering his own highly touted offensive ability.
Guimond liked what he saw from Subban as well. “I really like playing with him. He’s going to be a really good defenceman in the future. He’s still pretty young but you can see that he’s good offensively, and I think he’s going to get bigger and stronger and he’s going to play at the highest level.”
As for Guimond, there’s still a lot of work to be done in order for him to reach that same level. While his defensive game improved throughout the tournament, that’s clearly the area that he needs to focus on in order to earn an NHL contract. Green agreed: “ I still think he’s got to harden up a little bit defensively and make harder plays.”
He also faces a logjam in Utica, with a bevy of Canucks prospects slated to start the year in the AHL. Guimond will need to fight for a spot on the roster with Peter Andersson, Henrik Tommernes, Jeremie Blain, Patrick Mullen, Adam Polasek, and Yann Sauve. That’s not even including Frank Corrado, who may end up spending some time in Utica, and John Negrin, who is also signed to the Comets.
Considering the Canucks own the Comets, earning ice time at the expense of a developing prospect may not be in the cards, but he may be able to supplant an older player like Mullen, or see an underachieving prospect get sent down to the ECHL. Guimond agreed, however, that there’s a benefit to playing for an AHL team owned by their NHL affiliate: there may be a better chance to catch the eye of NHL management.
“Yeah, for sure,” said Guimond, “I had a couple offers, but I had a good feeling with Vancouver. I think we all play to get to the NHL, so obviously my agent was trying to get me an NHL contract, but it didn’t work, but I’m happy to be with the Vancouver organization and hopefully they are going to sign me during the year or next summer.”
Guimond said that with the same hope and confidence he displays on the ice when he jumps up on the rush. He’ll need to keep that confidence up all season in order to impress and make his NHL dream come true.
“I’m that kind of player,” said Guimond, “When I get my confidence I’m better.”Tags: Sacha Guimond, Utica Comets