At this point, it would take a miracle for the Canucks to make the playoffs and the hockey gods have been particularly stingy with the miracles for the Canucks this season. With that in mind, it’s understandable that many fans are looking to the future, and Nicklas Jensen’s performance since getting called up from the Utica Comets is giving that future a certain rosy hue.
Jensen has looked like a legitimate top-six forward for the last few games, with the caveat that he’s playing alongside two very good first line forwards. It’s enough to get people to pencil Jensen into next season’s lineup, albeit faintly and with an eraser at the ready in case the Canucks go crazy on the trade market or in free agency.
He’s not the only Canucks prospect with the potential to step into the lineup next season, however. The Canucks have been criticized for their shallow prospect pool, but it’s simply not true. In fact, there are as many as 10 prospects that could step into the lineup next season and be real difference-makers.
1 | Nicklas Jensen
You may as well call Jensen “The Fixer”, because it can’t be a coincidence that the first line has started scoring since he got called up from Utica. Well, actually, it totally can be a coincidence, but it’s a better story if it’s not. In any case, Jensen has looked completely comfortable in a first line role, which is a nice switch from the beginning of the season, when he struggled with the Comets after coming back from a pre-season shoulder injury.
2 | Bo Horvat
Horvat has shown some progression in his offensive game this season, going from 0.91 to 1.37 points-per-game, though fans were likely hoping for a bit more considering the tear he went on in last year’s playoffs and the cost of his acquisition. He’s scoring those points, however, while playing as a shutdown centre and it’s his defensive game that could see him make the jump to the NHL next season, as he can play a checking role while his offence develops.
3 | Hunter Shinkaruk
Shinkaruk has the highest upside of any Canucks prospect, with the kind of shifty skating, smooth hands, and deadly shot to be a legitimate first-line forward in the future. The main obstacle for Shinkaruk is the hip injury that ended his WHL season and taking a year off of his development, but if he can show up to camp 100% healthy, he has a shot at making the opening night roster. No one else in the Canucks prospect pool has the same high-end offensive skill.
4 | Frank Corrado
Corrado was expected by many to make the Canucks roster this season after his solid debut at the end of last season and in the playoffs. He looked NHL ready then and played enough games to burn a year of his entry-level contract. Instead, he got bumped down to Utica, where he could play significant minutes. He’s done just that, playing in every situation for the Comets, and should be ready to make his mark next season, particularly if a trade creates an opening in the defence corps.
5 | Brendan Gaunce
Gaunce isn’t flashy and could use some more explosiveness in his skating, but he’s intelligent and uses his size well. While Gaunce doesn’t have the offensive upside of Horvat, he has a similar steady and reliable defensive game, which may make him a fit as a bottom-six centre as early as next season. More likely, he’ll need to round out his game at the AHL level and could spend his over-age year in junior again.
6 | Chubbs McKinley
At 6’11″ and 345 lbs, McKinley has incredible size, but can also skate extremely well. He can’t do anything else — he literally does not own a hockey stick — but man, can he skate.
7 | Shoot-a-tron 5000
Shoot-a-tron has been putting up good numbers in the robot league, but can he do it against NHL competition? Human NHL competition?
8 | Satan
The Canucks took the dark lord in the 6th round of the 2006 NHL draft with their 6th pick of the draft. What he lacks in hockey sense and experience with ice — since the Canucks didn’t win the Stanley Cup in 2011, hell has yet to freeze over — he makes up for it with the power of Hades and is finally ready to make the jump to the big leagues.
9 | A YouTube video of Pavel Bure highlights
While the technology to turn a YouTube video into an actual person does not exist just yet, Canucks scientists and engineers are working on it now and hope to have a prototype ready for training camp in September.
10 | Nicholas Barkstrom, the dog
There’s nothing in the rule book that says a dog can’t play hockey, and when this dog hits the ice, it’s two minutes for ruffing! This prospect will be fun for the whole family.
On second thought, maybe the Canucks’ prospect depth is a little shallow.
This feature takes a moment to recognize the best tweets of the week, because we’re online-type writers and Twitter is an online-type thing. If you see a great Canucks-related tweet, send us a link. Or plagiarize it and bask in its glory.
“When we trade Edler” “Edler’s trade value” “Once Edler’s gone” Edler pets his NTC and blinks, emotionless but content
— O’Gráinne (@wholegrainne) March 16, 2014
I’m now imagining NTCs as puppies the players cuddle with on their couches.
No one deserved two goals more than @aburr14 I must say I had a dream last night that burr would score 2. Told him before the game. Cray
— David Booth (@D_Booth7) March 13, 2014
Also cray: “cray” started trending in Vancouver after this tweet. Cray.
“In celebration of Henrik Sedin’s 1,000th game, the entire team will pass a lot and never score”
— Schneider’s Teeth (@SchneidersTeeth) March 13, 2014
Aw, this whole season’s been a tribute to Henrik. How sweet.