The Paper Feature: 10 prospects that could make a big impact next season

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.

***

Tweet Podium

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. 

BRONZE

 

I’m now imagining NTCs as puppies the players cuddle with on their couches.

SILVER

 

Also cray: “cray” started trending in Vancouver after this tweet. Cray.

GOLD

 

Aw, this whole season’s been a tribute to Henrik. How sweet.

20 comments

  1. Chrìs
    March 19, 2014

    Maybe the Canucks scientist can drop the YouTube idea and work on fusing shoot a tron 5000 with chubs McKinley. We can rename it Trent klatt 2.0

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  2. Chris the Curmudgeon
    March 19, 2014

    Your an idiot.

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    • Harrison Mooney
      March 19, 2014

      Wha?

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      • Chris the Curmudgeon
        March 19, 2014

        Just feeling foolish after reading this, you know.

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    • gretchen grouse
      March 19, 2014

      “you’re” is the correct contraction of “you are”.

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      • Chris the Curmudgeon
        March 20, 2014

        Funny, you would think I would have known that, right? After all, I’m not known for being facetious.

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  3. cathylu
    March 19, 2014

    I want to see Nicholas Barkstrom! He might be better than a couple of our current players and he’s obviously Swedish!

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    • iain
      March 19, 2014

      i heard he yaps at the refs a lot.

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    • Lemming
      March 19, 2014

      Plus he seems like he’d be a fun, laugh-filled romp for the entire family!

      But seriously, the last crack at the end that the whole season has been a tribute to Henrik Sedin because they’re passing and never scoring made me crack up pretty good.

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  4. DanD
    March 19, 2014

    What about Gunner Stahl? You know, from Iceland? That kid’s gonna be a star!

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  5. RG
    March 19, 2014

    I wanna see a first line starring Nicholas Barkstrom and Mark Meow-ssier!

    (Sorry for mentioning he-who-must-not-be-named)

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  6. Wagman
    March 19, 2014

    Very nice… got a good laugh. And here I was actually hoping for some insight into the depth chart of 6 through 10 and maybe even beyond. Cray.

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  7. Noodle
    March 19, 2014

    Was about to pull up HockeysFuture and search Chubbs McKinley but then I started reading further.

    You got me this time, Daniel.

    /shakes fist at computer

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  8. Jake
    March 19, 2014

    Now tell me about some prospects WHO could make a big impact next season!

    /grammarnazi

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  9. JDM
    March 19, 2014

    … Jacob Markstrom? Sure, he’s 24, but he still has to qualify as a “prospect”. And as we all know, this is Vancouver, so while he’ll likely start the season as the backup, he’ll have stolen the net by January and Lack will be put on the block.

    (the above I suppose could also apply to Eriksson)

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    • ikillchicken
      March 20, 2014

      I can hear the fan chants now: “Start Joe Cannata! Start Joe Cannata!”

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  10. 2006Draft
    March 20, 2014

    That 2006 draft was a weird one, being on June 6 with the Canucks’ announcement at 7:06.

    Too bad we ended up with Grabner, instead?

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  11. shoes
    March 21, 2014

    Where is Dane Fox in your list of prospects. This guy is overage and may well be ready as soon as Horvat. He may end up being a great two way centre or he may end up being the scoop of the century.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      March 22, 2014

      He didn’t make the cut because he’s a longshot to make the NHL and is unlikely to make the Canucks next season. If he does develop into an NHL player, he’ll likely need at least one season in the AHL to adapt to playing against men. Fox isn’t the first guy to have a breakout season at 20, even one as good as he’s had, and most don’t make the NHL.

      That said, Fox has some things going for him that many of those others don’t and I’m still optimistic about his chances at becoming a good third-liner with some potential to chip in on a second-line at some point, but it’s not likely to be next season. I mean, he could surprise everyone with an incredible training camp, but it’s just not all that likely.

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  12. Dave
    March 22, 2014

    I LOL’d at the YouTube Pavel one. And then I cried that it was fake and died on the inside. And possibly peed a little.

    That said, you don’t see a good joke coming. This one surprised me. Well played on this piece, Mr. Wagner, well played.

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