The Prospector: Joacim Eriksson and the Comets beat the Heat; Dane Fox is good at shooting pucks

The Prospector is a semi-regular feature on Pass it to Bulis where we pan the Canucks prospects pool in search of gold.

In this instalment, Joacim Eriksson is the AHL’s player of the week, the Comets own the Heat, Dane Fox can shoot the puck, Brendan Gaunce is consistent, and vote for Ben Hutton for Hobey Baker.

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Camp Cuts: Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk sent back to junior, Jeremy Welsh reassigned to Utica

Last Friday, it looked like the Canucks had made the final cuts of camp, sending Frank Corrado and Zach Hamill to the AHL and Brendan Gaunce to junior. That left the Canucks with a 23-man roster that included 18-year-olds Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk, an exciting proposition for fans looking for an influx of fresh faces and high-end skill.

Then, like 80′s R&B girl group Teen Dream, Mike Gillis got busy and brought in three new players, two via trade and one via the waiver wire. That necessitated further cuts to the roster and both Horvat and Shinkaruk, along with newcomer Jeremy Welsh, were the victims.

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Camp Cuts: Frank Corrado and Brendan Gaunce get the axe, Zach Hamill gets double-axed

When the Canucks finished their final game of the pre-season against the New York Rangers, John Tortorella wasted no time making the final cuts of training camp. By the time he took the podium at the post-game press conference, he had already met with each of the players and delivered the bad news. Contrary to what Cat Stevens, Rod Stewart, and Sheryl Crow may say, the final cut is the deepest.

Brendan Gaunce got shipped back to junior with the Belleville Bulls, while Frank Corrado and Zach Hamill were reassigned to the Utica Comets. For Hamill, it was his second time getting cut this training camp, as he initially got sent down to Utica a week ago, only to get called up again when Jordan Schroeder suffered a hairline fracture blocking a shot. The reasons for Hamill getting sent down haven’t changed.

The most important part of these last few cuts is that the Canucks’ final roster is pretty much set. Assuming Schroeder gets put on the Injured Reserve, the Canucks now have a 23-man roster, though it includes the suspended Zack Kassian. The biggest news is that both of the Canucks’ first round picks from this year’s draft are still with the team: Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk. We’ll have more on this development later, but for now let’s look at the final cuts.

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Camp Cuts: Nicklas Jensen reportedly heading to Utica

The Canucks 2013 training camp is nearing its completion, as they play their final game of the pre-season tonight. Prospect forwards Hunter Shinkaruk, Bo Horvat, and Brendan Gaunce are still around, with all three having a chance to make the opening night roster, particularly with Jordan Schroeder injured, Zack Kassian suspended, and David Booth questionable until he actually sets foot on the ice.

There’s still one prospect forward who hasn’t officially been cut from training camp: Nicklas Jensen. According to his agent, however, he won’t be starting the season with the Canucks after suffering an upper-body injury against the Oilers on September 21st.

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Camp Cuts: Canucks send ten more to the Utica Comets

With just over a week remaining until the start of the NHL season, the cuts from training camp are beginning to resemble the Battle at Whiskey Outpost from Starship Troopers. We shouldn’t be surprised, really. During the Canucks’ first practice, John Tortorella could be heard screaming at them, “Come on you apes, you wanna live forever?”

Over the weekend, ten more players were cut from camp, including one minor surprise. Five defencemen, three forwards, and two goaltenders were assigned to the Utica Comets. In other words, that’s half of Utica’s opening night roster.

With all the other Canucks news happening this week, it took us a little longer to get to these cuts, but they’re all fairly easy to understand.

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Camp Cuts: Canucks send eight to the Utica Comets

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Canucks made significant cuts after losing their first game of the preseason. A number of the players on the roster against the San Jose Sharks had disappointing games, like Zach Hamill and Alex Biega. What is a bit surprising, however, is that of the eight players cut from the Canucks training camp, none of them played on Monday.

The Canucks assigned five players to their affiliate in the AHL, the Utica Comets, while the three other players they cut received an invite to the Comets’ training camp. Of the eight players cut, five were invitees to camp, while the other three were drafted by the Canucks. Of the invitees, three of them are already signed to the Comets, with the other two hoping to earn contracts in camp.

Today, PITB bids a hopefully temporary farewell to Ludwig Blomstrand, Alex Friesen, Wes Myron, Mathieu Corbeil, Sacha Guimond, David Pacan, Mitch Elliot, and Jesse Mychan.

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Camp Cuts: Cole Cassels and Jordan Subban head back to the OHL

The Canucks’ preseason kicks off tonight with a game against the San Jose Sharks, meaning summer is officially over. There will be actual hockey on TV with actual NHL players skating on actual ice scoring actual goals. I mean, it’s just preseason, but hockey on TV will always be superior to no hockey on TV.

There are two players who definitely won’t be in the lineup for the Canucks, as they were cut from training camp and sent back to their junior teams: Cole Cassels and Jordan Subban. Both were selected in this year’s draft and had no chance of making the team this year, though both were impressive during the Young Stars Tournament and look like they have a promising future ahead of them.

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Young Stars Three Stars: Canucks prospects vs Jets prospects, September 9, 2013

If you’re eager for the return of our regular I Watched This Game feature, you’ll have to wait a little longer. Since the game itself isn’t really the point of the Young Stars tournament, we’re instead looking at the games with a three stars format looking at individual performances and who stood out the most. We’ll be looking at the three best players from among the Canucks prospects as well as making a few other observations.

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2013 Canucks prospect training camp invitees: part two

Today we continue our look at the invitees to the Canucks 2013 prospect training camp as the Young Stars tournament kicks off with a game between the Canucks and Sharks. Canucks.com will be streaming the game online at 7:30 pm, giving fans their first chance to see guys like Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk in action in a Canucks jersey. It will also be our first chance to see if some of the undrafted and unsigned invitees have a chance to earn a contract.

It’s interesting to note that five of the eleven invitees play left wing. Left wing is currently the weakest position in the Canucks’ prospect pool. Every other position has at least one player with a fairly certain NHL future: Nicklas Jensen at right wing, Bo Horvat and Brendan Gaunce at centre, Frank Corrado at defence, and Joacim Eriksson and Eddie Lack in net.

On left wing, however, the Canucks have Darren Archibald, Ludwig Blomstrand, Steven Anthony, Wes Myron, and Matthew Beattie. There’s some potential in that list and one of those players could surprise everyone, but none of them have significant upside to really get excited about.

If you don’t have quality, however, you may as well go for quantity and hope that you get lucky if you roll the dice enough times. It makes sense, then, for most of the invitees to play a position of weakness for the Canucks in hopes that one of them stands out and can be added to the prospect pool.

On Tuesday, we looked at the first five invitees coming to camp. Here are the remaining six:

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2013 Canucks prospect training camp invitees: part one

The Canucks prospect training camp kicks off on Wednesday, but it won’t just be Canucks prospects attending. As per usual, the Canucks have invited a number of undrafted and/or unsigned players to fill out their camp roster. Of the 31 players coming to camp and the Young Stars tournament, 11 are invitees hoping to catch the attention of Canucks’ management or, perhaps, the management of one of the other teams participating.

There’s even a recent success story from the Canucks invitees: Antoine Roussel. The native of France was an invitee at the Canucks’ 2011 prospect training camp and did enough during the Young Stars tournament to earn an invite to the Canucks’ main camp. He didn’t quite do enough to earn a contract with the Canucks, but did sign with their AHL affiliate at the time, the Chicago Wolves. His tough physical play earned the attention of the Dallas Stars and, after signing with them, had a surprisingly good 2012-13 season in the NHL, putting up 14 points in 39 games to go with his pugilistic tendencies.

The Canucks might hope that they actually signed the next invitee that has an NHL future, rather than seeing him go on to succeed elsewhere. Could any of this year’s invitees be that player? Let’s take a look at the first 5 invitees and try to learn a little bit more about them before they don Canucks jerseys this week.

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Canucks announce 2013 prospect camp and Young Stars tournament roster

August, the unhockiest of months, is finally over and, with the end of August, comes the announcement of the Canucks’ 2013 prospect camp roster. Prospect camp rosters are like the first robin of spring for hockey fans, the first indication that the figurative winter of the off-season is over and the literal winter of the hockey season is just around the corner.

Prospect camp kicks off on September 4th in Penticton, with all on-ice sessions open to the public. The Young Stars tournament starts the next day, as the Canucks host the Sharks, Flames, Oilers, and Jets. Pass it to Bulis will be in Penticton to provide in-person coverage of the event and get our first real look at the Canucks’ 2013 draft picks, particularly Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk.

Here’s the complete Canucks prospect camp roster and you can expect our usual invitee profiles over the next couple days.

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2013 Canucks Development Camp invitees: forwards, part two

The Canucks 2013 prospect development camp wrapped up yesterday. While the Canucks’ drafted and signed prospects will be sent into the off-season with a training plan full of things to work on heading into next season’s training camp, the invitees will have a couple nervous months ahead of them, as they hope to receive a follow-up invite to training camp or, if all goes well, a contract offer.

It took until September for Evan McEneny to sign with the Canucks after impressing at the 2012 development camp, so if none of the invitees sign immediately, it does not necessarily mean they won’t eventually. Still, it’s rare for an invitee to sign at all. Some will return in September for prospect training camp and will hope to earn their way to the main camp from there or to Utica to sign an AHL contract with the Comets.

We’ve covered the invitee goaltenders, defencemen, and four of the nine forwards. Here are the final five invitee forwards, featuring two Latvians, a Californian, and diametrically opposite WHL prospects.

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2013 Canucks Development Camp invitees: forwards, part one

The Canucks’ 2013 prospect development camp is coming to a climax with a scrimmage that is open to the public and viewable online. Canucks fans eager to see the Canucks’ latest draft picks will get their chance, along with an opportunity to see how past picks have developed.

I admit, however, that my eyes are likely to be drawn to some of the lesser known names on the ice. After scouring the internet for information about the 16 undrafted and unsigned invitees to this year’s development camp, I’m eager to see them play. So far, I’ve covered the invitee goaltenders and defencemen, which leaves us with the nine invitee forwards.

Two of the most interesting invitee forwards, Miks Indrasis and Cody Sylvester, will be coming in part two, but part one has a fair share of intriguing prospects, with two offensive-minded college freshmen and two physical, two-way Major Junior players, including one with a prior connection to John Tortorella.

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2013 Canucks Development Camp invitees: defence

The Canucks’ 2013 prospect development camp is well underway, as the 38 prospects have participated in on-ice drills, MMA training, yoga, and scrimmages. Tuesday, they’ll have off and on-ice sessions, then do some dragon-boating and cooking classes, presumably to learn about teamwork and nutrition, respectively.

Among the 38 prospects at camp are 16 invitees who were neither drafted nor signed by the Canucks. On Monday, I profiled the three invitee goaltenders, as the invitees don’t receive much coverage at camp and are generally relative unknowns compared to the prospects already connected to the Canucks. Today, we’ll look at the four invitee defencemen at camp, featuring three college boys and a WHL grad.

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2013 Canucks Development Camp invitees: goaltenders

The Vancouver Canucks 2013 prospect development camp kicked off this weekend I am endlessly intrigued by invitees to the Canucks development, prospect, and training camps. The undrafted and unsigned invitees have an intrigue surrounding them as, unlike the prospects that are drafted and signed by the Canucks who are the subject of interviews and highlight videos on the Canucks website, as well as coverage from the media, the invitees are virtual unknowns.

Will any of this year’s 16 invitees repeat Evan McEneny’s feat from 2012 and earn an entry-level contract with the Canucks? Let’s take a look, starting with the goaltenders.

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Canucks (finally) release 2013 development camp roster

Thanks to the NHL lockout, events have been jammed together more than usual over the past couple weeks. The end of the Stanley Cup Final led directly into the draft, with barely a moment to compose ourselves before free agency opened and craziness ensued.

Meanwhile, the Canucks’ prospect development camp has snuck up on us, as 38 players descended upon Vancouver this weekend, including all seven of the Canucks’ 2013 draft picks and a healthy dose of unsigned and undrafted invitees. This Sunday, they finally released the official development camp roster.

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YouTube Scouting: Bo Horvat’s high-end finishing ability

When it comes to the NHL draft, we depend on scouting reports and draft rankings from experts. There are simply too many prospects and too many games to really get a read on draft-eligible players. For the Canucks’ top pick, Bo Horvat, I saw a little bit of him during the OHL Championships and Memorial Cup, but they were fleeting glimpses without much context.

The other option for seeing Horvat play is YouTube. The instant reaction of many fans when a draft pick is announced is to dive straight into the videos to find highlights that illustrate how he plays.

There’s an inherent bias in this type of “scouting,” of course. Highlight videos only show players doing “highlight-y” things: scoring goals, undressing goaltenders, and making pretty passes. It’s an incomplete picture at best and can sometimes be an entirely false picture. Still, combined with scouting reports and statistics, it’s better than nothing.

So what can we glean about Bo Horvat from YouTube? A decent amount, it turns out.

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Taking stock of the Canucks heading into free agency

There were a lot of extreme reactions from Canucks fans on Sunday as the goaltending controversy in Vancouver ended in one of the most unexpected ways possible. Trading Cory Schneider to New Jersey for the ninth overall pick certainly wasn’t on my SportsAction menu, and I wouldn’t have bet on it if it was.

But with that deal done, it was astonishing to see fans who seemed to be under the impression that the Canucks were now the worst team in the league and had completely destroyed any chance of winning in the coming seasons. Even if the trade itself is far from ideal, though Tyler Dellow argues that it’s on par with past deals for high draft picks, the Canucks are still a good team with good goaltending. Losing Schneider doesn’t actually change the Canucks’ chance of winning now all that much and they were able to add a top-end prospect who will improve the Canucks in the future.

With that in mind, let’s take stock of where the Canucks are at this point, particularly with free agency starting on July 5th. The Canucks certainly have holes in their lineup, along with some pending restricted and unrestricted free agents. This is likely to be a busy week for Mike Gillis and Laurence Gilman.

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Seven players who the Canucks may select with the 24th pick in the 2013 NHL entry draft

The Stanley Cup Final isn’t even over yet and we’re already just one week away from the 2013 NHL entry draft. Thanks to the lockout, the NHL’s off-season schedule has been pushed back and condensed just like the season itself. If the Final goes to seven games, the General Managers of the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks will have just three days in-between the end of the playoffs and the start of the draft.

Mike Gillis, on the other hand, has had a lot more time to consider the draft, even while interviewing head coaching candidates and shopping around Roberto Luongo. Unfortunately, the Canucks’ ouster in round one combined with winning the Northwest Division left the team with the 24th overall pick in the first round.

Thankfully, the 2013 draft is expected to be a very good one, with many suggesting that it will compare favourably to the 2003 draft, which is considered to be one of the best of all time. The Canucks nabbed Ryan Kesler with the 23rd pick in the first round in 2003; will the 24th pick in 2013 give them a player of the same calibre as Kesler?

I dug into the draft rankings from several respected sources to see who might be available to the Canucks at and around the 24th pick this year.

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Canucks sign Swedish goalie Joacim Eriksson

Assuming that Roberto Luongo does finally get traded this off-season, the Canucks will need a backup for Cory Schneider. They have a few different options for finding one: they could try to get a goaltender back in the Luongo deal, sign one of the older, veteran goaltenders in free agency, or let their goaltending prospects battle for the job.

The latter option isn’t particularly appealing, since the Canucks’ available goaltending prospects are Eddie Lack, Joe Cannata, and…nope, that’s it.

At least, that was it, as it appears that they have signed another goaltending prospect: Joacim Eriksson.

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Body movin’: Zack Kassian, Andrew Gordon down, Bill Sweatt, Nicklas Jensen up

On Saturday, the Canucks put in their most lacklustre effort of the season, losing to the Edmonton Oilers in less than 8 minutes. It was a demoralizing loss and, with the trade deadline just a couple days away, many Canucks fans are eager to see Mike Gillis shake things up by making a big move.

On Sunday, the Canucks called up Nicklas Jensen and Bill Sweatt from the Chicago Wolves and sent down Zack Kassian and Andrew Gordon.

It would be a mistake to connect these two days together by anything more than chronology. Fans and media alike were quick to call this a desperation move, but the roster movement doesn’t seem to be sparked by the loss in Edmonton. Instead, it looks like this roster move was caused by something that happened before the game even started.

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Canucks sign college free agent Kellan Lain, hulking centre and Batman fan

The Vancouver Canucks have made the first splash in the 2013 pool of college free agents, beating out other Western Conference suitors like the Ducks, Red Wings and Coyotes to sign massive centre Kellan Lain from Lake Superior State University.

Again, that’s Kellan Lain, not to be confused with Kellan Lutz, the actor who played Emmett Cullen in the Twilight movies. Lain is a hockey player. Lutz is an actor. Remember that for now and for always.

But Lain does have some similarities with Lutz’s vampiric alter ego Emmett Cullen. No, he doesn’t sparkle in the sunlight, but he is a big, intimidating figure, at 6’6′, 222 lbs. Plus, while he’s not a vampire, he’s clearly damned in some way. What do you get when you add the 2 + 2 + 2 that make up Lain’s weight? 6, which means his personal stats are three sixes in a row. Is it just a coincidence that Lain’s height and weight are a thinly-veiled number of the beast? Perhaps. But perhaps not.

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Report: Canucks sign 2011 draft pick Ludwig Blomstrand

According to Swedish website Aftonbladet, the Vancouver Canucks have signed their 4th round draft pick from 2011, Ludwig Blomstrand, to a 3-year entry-level contract. The 20-year-old will reportedly be flying to Vancouver either today or Saturday and will likely report to the Chicago Wolves.

Like Nicklas Jensen, Blomstrand’s season in Sweden is done, as his club, Almtuna, failed to make the playoffs in the Allsvenskan. At 6’2″ and 218 lbs, Blomstrand has the size for North American hockey and the defensive ability to get in Alain Vigneault’s good books. He also has an awesome name, which immediately puts him in my good books.

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Canucks make final training camp cuts, give the Wolves their team back

With opening night only a day away, the Canucks made their final training camp cuts Friday, trimming the roster down to the league maximum 23.

It was simple, really: they just gave the Chicago Wolves their team back.

The Canucks had borrowed 9 members of their AHL affiliate for training camp, not so much to actually give them a shot to make the team, but so they’d have enough guys to stage a scrimmage on Wednesday and Thursday night in anticipation for the real action on Saturday. Friday morning, they sent home 8 of them: Peter “Laser Eyes” Andersson, Darren Archibald, Joe “Debbie Downer” Cannata, Kevin Connauton, Andrew “Escaped mental patient” Gordon, Derek Joslin, Anton Rodin, and Bill Sweatt.

Of course, there was a few notable absences among this group. Jordan Schroeder and Zack Kassian didn’t catch the private jet home.

Schroeder was a surprise. A night after doing what some thought to be the impossible — turning Mason Raymond into an unstoppable scoring machine — it appeared as though Schroeder had done the truly impossible by convincing Alain Vigneault that the Canucks should ice a raw rookie over a trusted veteran in the top-six. Did he make the team?

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Canucks to add 6 or 7 more Wolves for training camp: who will they be?

When the lockout ended, the Canucks immediately called up five players from the Chicago Wolves: Andrew Ebbett, Zack Kassian, Chris Tanev, Jordan Schroeder, and Kevin Connauton. That combination certainly makes sense. Four of the five are likely to start the season with the Canucks and Connauton has a chance to make the team out of camp as well.

The move left a large number of Canucks prospects on the Wolves, but it was assumed that with an abbreviated training camp, the team didn’t want to call up prospects when they had such a short time to give them a long look. Instead, it turns out the Canucks were just biding their time. Alain Vigneault announced today that he expects to call up 6 or 7 more players after the Wolves have completed their two-game series against the Abbotsford Heat this weekend.

The timing does make sense: after all, with the Wolves playing in Abbotsford Friday and Saturday, it’s a quick drive down Highway 1 to report to Canucks training camp on Sunday, which is when camp is assumed to be starting. As long as the Port Mann Bridge doesn’t become sentient and try to kill them along the way (which has been happening), it shouldn’t be much of a hassle. The Wolves don’t play again until Wednesday, so these new call-ups will have three days to impress at camp without having to miss a game.

So who might the Canucks call up from the Wolves? Here are the 7 that I think are most likely to make the trip.

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