2014 Canucks Development Camp Invitees: Forwards

It’s Friday, which means that the Canucks development camp is coming to a close with a 4-on-4 tournament. The prospects have run through drills with Canucks coaches, done yoga, hiked the Grouse Grind, taken cooking lessons, and visited BC Children’s Hospital. Not everyone at camp took part in that last one: the kids at the hospital might not have been as keen to meet the invitees who haven’t been signed or drafted by the Canucks.

Still, they’ve had a busy week getting to know what it will take for them to make the jump to the NHL. For the NCAA prospects, this will be their last taste of the NHL this year, as they’ll be back at school by the time training camp starts, but for several others, they’ll be hoping to earn a second invite to a Canucks camp in the Fall.

These invitee profiles were all intended to go up prior to the start of development camp, but the team ended up a little busier than I anticipated, re-signing several restricted free agents, adding to their coaching staff, and dealing with trade rumours. As a result, the invitee posts ended up spread out throughout the week. Let’s take a look at the last group, the seven invitee forwards.

 

Michael Borkowski – Left Wing
6’0″ – 174 lbs – May 30, 1992
Kanata, ON
Colgate University

Borkowski is at Canucks camp for a second time, coming to development camp in 2013 as an invitee. He did an in-depth interview about his first experience at Canucks camp and it’s definitely worth reading. Here’s the pertinent part of his profile from last year:

[He] played for the Cumberland Grads in the CJHL, where Borkowski was the captain in 2010-11. He was then traded to the Cornwall Colts for his final junior year, where he exploded offensively, going from 14 goals and 32 points in 41 games with Cumberland to 28 goals and 87 points in 61 games with Cornwall.

He then improved his production in the playoffs, putting up 29 points in 16 games, leading the league in playoff scoring. He’s probably best known for an incident in the previous year’s playoffs, however, when a collision with an opposing goaltender led to a concussion, a (brief and uneventful) police investigation, and a two-game suspension, despite the league saying there was clearly no intent.

Borkowski put up decent numbers as a freshman for the Raiders, scoring 17 points in 36 games. Freshmen normally don’t play significant minutes and Borkowski appears to be more of a playmaker than a goalscorer, so he may put up more points when put on a line with better players. Or, perhaps, the scoring will come with more experience: 14 of his points came in his final 20 games.

Sure enough, Borkowski improved his offensive totals, jumping to 8 goals and 28 points in 39 games, good for fourth on the team in points and second in assists. A few months into the season, in fact, Borkowski was leading the team in scoring, but his play fell off a little as the season wound down. Despite his low goal totals, he was actually second on the team in shots on goal. On top of that, half of his 8 goals were game-winners.

Borkowski was also important defensively for the Raiders, as he is known as one of the best penalty killers on the team. He was given the Steve Riggs award by the school for his gentlemanly play, which should erase any last stain on his record from his controversial suspension in Junior A.

Daniel Ciampini – Left Wing
5’11″ – 185 lbs – November 5, 1990
Concord, ON
Union College

Ciampini is the oldest player at camp at 23 and just completed his junior season at Union College with the Dutchmen. He was a prolific scorer in Junior A with the St. Michael’s Buzzers, finishing in the top-10 in league scoring in both 2009-10 and 2010-11, scoring 75 goals and 170 points in 99 games between the two seasons.

He brought that scoring touch to Union College, where he scored a point-per-game last season, finishing with 23 goals and 41 points in 41 games to lead the team in goalscoring. He was particularly dominant in February, tallying 7 goals and 11 points during a 7-game point streak, for which he was named the ECAC player of the month.

To top it all off, Ciampini helped lead Union College to victory in the Frozen Four for their first national championship. He had a hattrick in a 5-4 victory in the semifinal game (against new Canucks prospect Thatcher Demko, natch), then scored once more in the final in a 7-4 victory over the heavily favoured University of Minnesota. He finished with 4 goals and 2 assists in Union’s four tournament games.

In this video, you can see his hattrick against Boston College, all scored from directly in front of the crease, as well as his excellent screen on the first Union goal. Clearly, despite being slightly undersized, he’s willing to go to the front of the net, though it was empty on his third goal.

Ciampini’s strengths appear to be his skating, hands, and finish around the net. Judging by his point totals, he’s primarily a goalscorer, not a playmaker, but that’s not really a problem when the goals are as nice as this one:

There’s also whatever this is.

Andrew Goldberg – Right Wing
5’11″ – 198 lbs – November 9, 1994
Toronto, ON
Mississauga Steelheads

Goldberg is not known for his offensive upside, tallying a career-high 17 goals and 33 points in 60 games as a 19-year-old in the OHL last season. That was actually good enough for third in scoring on a bad Mississauga team, but it’s not a particularly good sign for a player hoping to have an NHL future.

The power forward, who was raised in a conservative Jewish home, was already identified as a grinder in his draft year, someone who earned his ice time by making life difficult for his opponents on the forecheck, in front of the net, and in the defensive zone. It’s that skill set, along with his stocky frame that earned him an invite to camp. Unfortunately, the ability to play that kind of game at the NHL level generally requires a baseline of puckhandling and scoring ability that allows a player to excel in junior.

He’s not entirely without skill, of course, as this 3-point game against the Belleville Bulls indicates, with a nice bonus of some Brendan Gaunce and Jordan Subban highlights for Canucks fans.

Cordell James – Centre
6’1″ – 190 lbs – June 14, 1996
Hamilton, ON
Barrie Colts

James is still just 17 — he turns 18 next week — and is the youngest of the invitees and the second youngest player at camp behind — or rather, ahead of — Jake Virtanen. He already has good size for his age and is described as responsible, smart, coachable, and competitive. He was ranked 165th among North American skaters by Central Scouting heading into the draft, but didn’t get selected.

James was also a high-level soccer player, but quit to focus on hockey. He played limited minutes on a strong Colts team, playing mainly a defensive and physical role, but sees himself as more of a playmaking centre. That didn’t show up on the scoresheet this season, as he finished with 13 points in 66 games and went pointless through 11 playoff games, but it may show up as he gets more ice time in coming seasons.

In fact, switching to a more defensive mindset was an adjustment for James, who was always a top scorer before reaching the OHL. If he can bring along the offensive side, his work as a shutdown centre this past season will give him a solid foundation for building towards a professional career.

Jonathon Martin – Centre
6’2″ – 212 lbs – August 23, 1995
Winnipeg, MB
Kootenay Ice

Jon Martin is a big guy at 212 lbs and was a regular in the ring last season, finishing with 9 fights and matching his teammate Sam Reinhart’s 105 points with 105 penalty minutes. He has limited offensive upside, scoring just 17 points in 63 games. He is, however, an effective role player, using his size and strong skating to throw big hits. That has gotten him in trouble in the past, as he’s received a couple suspensions for charging in his junior career.

A scouting report from McKeen’s last year praises his strong skating and notes that he tends to make “safe, simple decisions with the puck.” It also notes that “aside from his physical play, he will need to expand his tool kit in order to be a player at the next level.” One tool already in his kit, however, is a powerful slap shot that he is apparently quite adept at using off the rush.

The question is then whether Martin can develop his other skills enough so that his straight-ahead style will translate to the professional game. NHL scouts have suggested to him that he has potential as a bottom-six winger, but he has a lot of work ahead of him to reach that plateau.

Curtis Valk – Centre
5’9″ – 170 lbs – February 8, 1993
Medicine Hat, AB
Medicine Hat Tigers

Hunter Shinkaruk’s former linemate with the Medicine Hat Tigers is one of the most intriguing invitees on the roster. Over the last two seasons in the WHL, Valk has scored 93 goals and 183 points in 143 games and added 12 goals and 21 points in 18 playoff games last season.

Consecutive 40+ goal, 90+ point seasons will certainly attract NHL attention, but it’s not surprising that no NHL teams took a chance on him with a late draft pick. There’s one big reason or, more accurately, a small reason: Valk is just 5’9″. While there are plenty of success stories from smaller players, particularly recently, they’re still relatively rare. There are far more stories of undersized scorers who are unable to make the jump to the NHL and become stars in the AHL or in Europe.

Most small players that make it were prolific scorers prior to reaching the NHL, which is an issue for Valk as well, as he didn’t have a breakout season in Junior until he was 19. His 55 points in 67 games as an 18-year-old is nothing to sniff at, but it’s troubling that he didn’t truly explode offensively until Emerson Etem left town and Valk was put on a line with the then 17-year-old Shinkaruk.

That said, Valk outscored Shinkaruk in 2012-13 and continued to produce when away from Shinkaruk that season and again as an over-ager when Shinkaruk was injured last season, taking over as captain of the Tigers as well.

Helping his case is his durability: Valk didn’t miss any games over the last two seasons due to injury. He is also an evasive skater, able to avoid big hits, though he doesn’t shy away from going to the dirty areas on the ice and initiating contact himself. He combines his skating ability with a quick release on his accurate wristshot and a great one-timer.

He’s described as smart with a strong work ethic and, while his vision, hockey sense, and passing make him a strong playmaker, he can also score all kinds of highlight reel goals with his soft hands and finishing ability.

Valk is most comfortable at centre, but he has also skated on the right wing and, with his size, likely projects as a winger at the professional level. Given the Medicine Hat connections in the Canucks’ new front office and on the coaching staff, it will be interesting to see if he gets a chance in the Canucks organization. At the very least, he should definitely get an invite to training camp in the fall.

Also, he’s no relation whatsoever to ex-Canuck-turned-analyst Garry Valk.

Klarc Wilson – Right Wing
6’1″ – 205 lbs – April 1, 1993
Edmonton, AB
Prince George Cougars

Up until last season, Wilson was known far more for his fisticuffs than for scoring. The sizeable Wilson regularly dropped the gloves as a member of the Edmonton Oil Kings, with 57 fights in his WHL career, including the playoffs. After getting traded to the Prince George Cougars, however, he found the offensive side of his game and had a breakout season as an over-ager.

Wilson wasn’t completely invisible from the scoresheet prior to last season, with three straight 20+ point seasons, but he unexpectedly scored 27 goals and 60 points in 72 games asa a 20-year-old. Simply put, Wilson played a different role for the Cougars than he did for the Oil Kings, skating on the top line with fellow over-ager Todd Fiddler.

The question is, however, whether this breakout season can translate to the NHL. He has the size and demeanour to be a fourth-line forward, but even most bottom-six forwards in the NHL were offensive stars at some point before going pro. Considering his linemate, Fiddler, had 50 goals and 98 points in 66 games, Wilson’s breakout may be less to do with his own ability than who he played with.

That said, you have to have some talent to play with talented players and it may simply be a case of getting an opportunity with the Cougars that he wasn’t going to get with the Oil Kings. He’s clearly a tough customer and, if he can handle the puck and hold his own defensively, he’ll find work.

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3 comments

  1. Scott
    July 11, 2014

    “Also, he’s no relation whatsoever to ex-Canuck-turned-analyst Garry Valk.”

    Yet another feather in his cap ;)

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  2. Kenji
    July 11, 2014

    This Valk is very interesting. How much does size matter in the NHL? The scouts say: a lot. Not to compare draft eligibles and overagers too closely, but does this invitation assuage the pangs of the “we want more skill” fans who would have been happier with Ehlers or Nylander? In Valk, there is an example of what skill without size can do. It gets 40+ goals and no draft, apparently. But as the future is yet unwritten, perhaps – perhaps – Valk gives us that tiny speedster that can play.

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  3. BBoone
    July 11, 2014

    Great reporting , thanks. Does anyone commenting know the exact rules about young players
    playing the AHL vs Junior or the NHL
    thanks

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