There are still two Canucks prospects in the CHL playoffs. Regrettably, neither are high-scoring forwards who provide plenty of fodder for highlight videos. Anton Cederholm made it to the finals of the WHL playoffs with the Portland Winterhawks, while Miles Liberati is in the OHL finals with the North Bay Battalion.
The three remaining Canucks forward prospects were eliminated in round three and all were, to a certain extent, shut down by their opposition. Dane Fox, Brendan Gaunce, and Cole Cassels combined for just 2 goals. The way the Guelph Storm dominated the Erie Otters might make you see Bo Horvat’s struggles to score against them in round two in a new light.
That said, the Canucks have to be happy with how their forward prospects performed. Even with their disappointing final rounds, all four forwards finished above a point-per-game for the playoffs.
Gaunce had just 1 goal and 1 assist in round three, but still finished with 16 points in 14 games. He benefitted from some pretty blatant (and uncalled) interference on his one goal, but that’s still a gorgeous shot top corner from the slot.
His assist is just a smart decision to immediately return the puck to his teammate after a turnover, drawing a defender out of the slot in the process.
Fox had an unreal first round, scoring 6 goals and 12 points in 5 games, but slowed down significantly in the next two rounds. There are rumours that he was battling an injury, but they have not been confirmed. His only goal of the third round wasn’t even scored with his lethal wrist shot, but was instead a deflection in front.
Fox still finished with 8 goals and 19 points in 14 games, but after his incredible start, it has to be a disappointing end to the season.
Cassels was still a point-per-game in the third round, tallying 4 assists in 4 games. With that said, three of those assists owe a lot to Scott Laughton. Still, he finishes his playoffs with 17 points in 12 games, good for 10th in points-per-game in the OHL playoffs.
This is definitely the end of Fox’s major junior career and it’s entirely possible that it is for Gaunce as well, unless he returns as an over-age player next season. It seems more likely he’ll choose to become professional; even if he starts the season with the Utica Comets, he should have opportunities to earn a call-up throughout the season.
For Horvat and Cassels, they’ll be back in the OHL unless they make the Canucks next season. There’s a better chance of that for Horvat than Cassels, though the latter was definitely impressive at camp last season and had a fantastic season.
Another player whose junior career may be over is Hunter Shinkaruk, who has been absent from these playoff posts because of his season-ending surgery in December. Shinkaruk turns 20 in October, so is eligible to turn pro and it seems likely the Canucks would prefer him in the AHL rather than back in the WHL.