The Prospector is a semi-regular feature on Pass it to Bulis where we pan the Canucks prospects pool in search of gold.
Joacim Eriksson named AHL player of the week
#Canucks prospect Joacim Eriksson has been named the AHL Player of the Week after going 3-0-0 with a 1.31 GAA, .953 SV% and one shutout.
— Tyson Giuriato (@TysonGiuriato) January 27, 2014
After a rough start to his professional career, Eriksson has come on strong of late, with a 1.73 goals against average and .940 save percentage over his last eight starts. I happened to see Eriksson in the worst of his three starts on Saturday in Abbotsford and he still looked solid, with sound positioning and good reflexes.
Kevin Woodley, who covers the Canucks for NHL.com and writes about goaltending for InGoal Magazine, made the point that Eriksson is much-improved since spending time with Canucks’ goaltending coach Rollie Melanson while he was called up and pondered why the Comets don’t have a full-time goaltending coach.
Dan Cloutier, who is currently a “goaltending consultant” with the Canucks, works part-time with the goaltenders in Utica, but considering how Eriksson has responded to a full-time goaltending coach, it seems prudent to hire one full-time for the Comets.
You can see a few of his 21 saves against the Chicago Wolves on January 21st in this highlight video. The sliding glove save at 1:11 is particularly nice. As a bonus, Nicklas Jensen’s spinning wrist shot snipe at 2:03 is quite pleasant to watch. Also, there’s the guy at 3:10 with what appears to be an L.A. Kings jersey with the number 99 and the nameplate “Problems”. I’m not sure if I’m impressed or annoyed.
Comets are dominating the Heat this season
The Comets have not had the greatest inaugural season, which is fairly understandable. After all, the team lacks established AHL stars, bringing in the likes of Pascal Pelletier and Benn Ferriero back from Europe to help lead the Canucks’ young prospects. Combined with the Canucks’ mediocre prospect depth, with many of their top prospects still playing in Junior, and we shouldn’t be surprised at the Comets’ struggles.
The Abbotsford Heat, on the other hand, are having a solid season, sitting in second place in their division, comfortably in playoff position. They also boast one of the top goaltenders in the league in Joni Ortio. They have an impressive 26-14-3-1 record (the AHL counts overtime and shootout losses separately), while the Comets are a dismal 15-20-2-3.
Here’s the thing, though: 6 of the Comets’ 15 wins have come against the Heat. The Comets have a 6-1-1-0 record against the Heat, losing just once in regulation. The Comets only two losses to the Heat so far came at the start of the season when they were trying to find their feet as a team and had a 10-game losing streak. Since then, the Comets have a 6-game winning streak against the Heat.
Here are the highlights from the Comets two most recent victories over the Heat on Friday and Saturday.
Eriksson’s 36-save shutout on Friday was highlighted by his unreal glove save on Markus Granlund at 1:22 and his save on Max Reinhart on the breakaway at 2:38.
Saturday’s game featured a lot more scoring, highlighted by Alexandre Grenier’s sweet shot at 2:29 and Benn Ferriero’s breakaway slapshot gamewinner in overtime at 5:22.
Dane Fox has a wicked release
It’s hard to know how excited to be about the newest Canucks prospect, 20-year-old Dane Fox. On the one hand, players who break out in their over-age season don’t have the greatest track record of NHL success. On the other hand, breaking out for an over-age player doesn’t usually mean going from just short of a point-per-game to second in the OHL in points and leading the OHL in goal-scoring by a 15-goal margin.
Since signing with the Canucks at the end of December, Fox has 10 goals and 7 assists in 10 games. That’s including his recent 4-game goal-scoring slump. He had a 4-goal and a 3-goal game earlier in January.
Fox now has 51 goals and 84 points in 47 games this season. Considering the reports prior to this season pegged him as a potential NHLer in an agitating, physical, two-way role, it’s hard to avoid getting enthusiastic at the addition of point production to his other attributes.
Seeing is believing, however, and a highlight video speaks more to some people than any number of statistics. Fortunately, YouTube is a thing that exists, so we can see almost all of his goals in 2013 in one convenient, if slightly blurry, place.
The first thing that jumps out is Fox’s unreal release on his shot. The puck gets off his stick in a hurry. Just as important, however, is his ability to get into position to use his shot. While a highlight video is inherently deceptive, showing all the good and none of the bad, it looks like Fox continually finds soft areas in the offensive zone.
It’s also nice to see him scoring goals in multiple different ways, from one-timers on the power play to batting in rebounds around the net, even showing off some dangles at 2:30. Obviously, you don’t score 51 goals in 47 games by being a one-trick pony.
My favourite moment from the video, however, is his goal celebration at 2:24, spinning his hockey stick into an imaginary scabbard. I know you’re supposed to “act like you’ve been there before”, but to a certain extent an inventive goal celebration is acting like you’ve been there before and gotten bored with how many times you’ve been there and need to liven things up a little.
In any case, with the way the Canucks have been shooting the puck this season, seeing a prospect join the ranks who can go bar down with the best of them is a welcome sight.
Brendan Gaunce is Mr. Consistency
While Gaunce doesn’t have the gaudy point totals of his Erie Otters teammate, Dane Fox, he has been remarkably consistent all season. In 22 games prior to his trade to the Otters, he had 26 points for the Belleville Bulls. In the 22 games since the trade, he also has 26 points.
Gaunce has yet to go more than two games without a point this season, and that has occurred just twice. That fits Gaunce’s description as a reliable two-way centre who may not dazzle, but will contribute in every game.
Vote for Ben Hutton for the Hobey Baker Award
Canucks defenceman prospect Ben Hutton is a little under the radar for most Canucks fans, as he is playing in the NCAA instead of major junior, but he is putting together a great season for the Maine Black Bears.
The 20-year-old is one of the top defencemen in the NCAA and currently has 20 points in 24 games, sixth in Division I hockey among defencemen. He leads all defencemen in goals-per-game, with 9 goals in his 24 games.
Hutton is one of the 68 nominees for the Hobey Baker Award, given to college hockey’s top player. The field will be narrowed down to 10 on March 2nd and further narrowed down from there. One interesting aspect of the Hobey Baker Award is fan voting, which counts for one percent of the ballot.
You can vote for Hutton once per day at hobeybaker.com. Hutton is currently fourth in fan voting behind Shayne Gostisbehere, Ryan Farigher, and Johnny Gaudreau, but there’s still time for him to catch up. Vote early and often to continue the long and proud hockey tradition of people voting for major awards who don’t know anything about the players they’re voting for.Tags: Ben Hutton, Brendan Gaunce, Dane Fox, Joacim Eriksson, Prospects, The Prospector, Utica Comets