Where and when you can watch Cole Cassels in the 2015 Memorial Cup

After Cole Cassels out-scored Connor McDavid in the OHL Championship, he was deservedly named the OHL Player of the Week. On Thursday, he earned further plaudits by being named the CHL Player of the Week, beating out the Kelowna Rockets’ Rourke Chartier and the Rimouski Oceanic’s Jan Kostalek for the award.

Starting Saturday, Cassels will once again need to best these top players and more, as he faces them and their teammates in the 2015 Memorial Cup.

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Watch the Utica Comets clinch a berth in the AHL’s Conference Finals [VIDEO]

Congratulations are in order, and not just to the Utica Comets who beat the Oklahoma City Barons in Wednesday night’s Game 7 to advance to the AHL’s Western Conference Finals, but also to me. Why, just yesterday morning, in setting up the big contest, I said this: “Like all Game 7s, this will probably be a goaltender’s duel.” I said that! Me! And it has quotation marks on either side of it! That’s a direct quote. I am so knowledgeable.

Yes, Game 7 between the Comets and Barons was a goaltender’s duel, as the two netminders combined to make 74 saves on 75 shots, keeping the game scoreless until well into the third period, no doubt terrified to give up the first goal. After all, since 1992, teams that have scored first in the AHL Game sevens have gone 47-13.

The only thing worse than giving up the first goal is surrendering the only goal, however, and that’s what poor Richard Bachman did at 7:11 of the final frame. The hero was Alexandre Grenier, who, I should note, got a mention in my write-up yesterday as a potential hero. It is as though I am some sort of hockey genius. And the Toronto Maple Leafs still have an open GM chair…

I’m just kidding. You couldn’t pay me enough to do that job, and I say that even after seeing what they gave Mike Babcock.

Anyway. Here are your game highlights.

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State of the Franchise: Forwards, where depth at centre is still an issue

Today we continue our look at the Canucks depth charts before kicking off the rampant speculation that inevitably surrounds the NHL entry draft and opening of free agency. Yesterday we delved into the defence, where the Canucks will have some difficult decisions to make.

Now it’s time to look at the forwards, take stock of the Canucks cupboards, and realize they need to pick up a few more centres from the store.

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Five things to know about the Utica Comets’ big Game 7

It seems like only just yesterday we were touting a big playoff matchup between a Canucks prospect and a (highly probable) Oilers prospect. But it wasn’t. It was last week, when Cole Cassels may not have shut down future Oiler Connor McDavid, but at least outproduced him.

And now, once again, future Oilers and future Canucks will be going head-to-head, albeit in a game of modern hockey, and not the Plutonian hockey that the Canucks and the Oilers of the future will be playing. (That’s too far in the future. By the time the NHL moves its base of operations to the icy reaches of Pluto, one imagines the likes of Sven Baertschi and Darnell Nurse will be long gone.) Down in the AHL, the Oklahoma City Barons and Utica Comets, Edmonton and Vancouver’s farm teams, respectively, will be doing battle in a Game 7 Wednesday night with a trip to the Western Conference Finals on the line.

Here are five things to know about this matchup.

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State of the Franchise: Defence, where waiver eligibility could force the Canucks hand

Before we head into the crazy season of the NHL entry draft and free agent frenzy, it’s a good time to take stock of the Canucks current state of affairs. What does the Canucks depth look like at each position? Who do the Canucks still need to re-sign? How will the Canucks current players and prospects affect their decision-making this off-season?

Let’s start with the defence, where the Canucks are pretty much all set on one side, but have significant decisions to make on the other.

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The Prospector: Cole Cassels heads to Memorial Cup, Jake Virtanen makes professional debut

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

This week, we look at Cole “McDavid Kryptonite” Cassels, along with Jake Virtanen, Sven Baertschi, and Alexandre Grenier in the AHL playoffs.

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Stick in Link: Canucks prospect awards; Bonino leads USA to bronze

It’s time for “Stick in Link”, the feature where we just plug in a bunch of stuff written by others! Featuring a smattering of links from around the Smylosphere and beyond once or twice a week during the off-season. Warning: our links are so hyper, they change colour when exposed to heat. (Have something for us to share in the next edition? E-mail us at passittobulis@gmail.com, tweet us @passittobulis, or just come over and write your link on a pad of paper, I guess.)

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Dan Hamhuis and Team Canada dominate Russia, win World Championship gold

It wasn’t even close.

Canada completely out-classed Russia in the gold medal game of the 2015 World Championship, winning their first gold medal at the tournament in 8 years and first medal of any colour in 6. They finished the tournament undefeated, out-scoring their opponents 66-15. After surviving scares against Sweden and, surprisingly, France earlier in the tournament, they wiped the floor with Russia, winning 6-1 and silencing the Russian contingent in Prague, while earning cheers from both the Canadian fans who made the trip and the hometown Czech crowd happy to see Russia lose.

The lone Canuck on Team Canada, Dan Hamhuis, adds a World Championship gold medal to his trophy cabinet, to go with two World Championship silver medals, and, of course, Olympic gold.

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Spitballin on theme songs, a villain’s lifelong dream, and Tony Gallagher’s dystopian future

Spitballin’ (or Super Pass It To Bulis: All In, if you love adventurous acronymizing) is a feature that allows us to touch on a multitude of things really fast, because in the world of hockey, there are always lots of things to find and colour. Here are a few quick topics.

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Canucks end fretting, sign Jordan Subban to entry-level contract

Despite repeated assurances from Jim Benning that he would get a deal done with Jordan Subban, fans were freaking out. The concern seemed a little over-the-top, as the Canucks had until June 1st to sign Subban to a contract and fans seemed to start worrying the day after Subban’s OHL team, the Belleville Bulls, were eliminated from the playoffs.

The delay in signing Subban was attributed to everything from Subban intending to intentionally remain unsigned and re-enter the draft to Benning hating short players. When Benning signed Mackenze Stewart to an entry-level deal earlier this week, some saw it as a sign that Subban was on his way out, as if Benning saw Stewart as a replacement for Subban. It was all a bit overblown.

Those worries can be safely set aside now, as the Canucks signed Jordan Subban to a three-year, entry-level contract. The 20-year-old is expected to start next season with the Utica Comets, though he is eligible to return to Junior as an overage player.

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Stick in Link: Captain Community Man; will Eddie Lack get traded?

It’s time for “Stick in Link”, the feature where we just plug in a bunch of stuff written by others! Featuring a smattering of links from around the Smylosphere and beyond once or twice a week during the off-season. Warning: our links are so hyper, they change colour when exposed to heat. (Have something for us to share in the next edition? E-mail us at passittobulis@gmail.com, tweet us @passittobulis, or just come over and write your link on a pad of paper, I guess.)

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Canucks still have no idea what to do about Eddie Lack

Eddie Lack should have been in goal for the Canucks’ final game of the postseason.

I think even the Canucks braintrust would admit that, provided they didn’t have to do so on the record. Not only was Lack healthier, which should be the end of the conversation, but Lack was also the better netminder this season, according to the hard statistical evidence.

Sadly, everybody knows that hard evidence only wins one-third of the time. In the rock-paper-scissors of belief, hard evidence is scissors: incisive and able to cut through guesswork, which is as flimsy and unsupported as paper. But hard evidence can’t handle opinion, which is as immoveable as rock. Fortunately, opinion (rock) can always be clouded, and often shrouded, by insane guesswork (paper), since the moment you toss out evidence, you leave yourself vulnerable to some truly wacko ideation.

So it doesn’t really matter that Lack posted a .921 save percentage to Ryan Miller’s .911, or that he’s trending up while Miller is trending down, career-wise, so long as the Canucks’ braintrust continues to hold the opinion that Miller is better. And they might. They’re not sure yet.

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Canucks sign defenceman Mackenze Stewart, intend to develop him as a winger

Canucks fans have been eager to hear that a Canucks prospect defenceman has been signed to an entry-level contract; just not this one. Fans hoping to hear about an entry level contract for Jordan Subban before the June 1st deadline passes and he re-enters the draft were disappointed for another day, as the Canucks instead announced a contract for Mackenze Stewart.

When Jim Benning selected Stewart in the seventh round of the 2014 draft, it was met mostly with confusion. The sizeable defenceman, listed at anywhere from 6’3″ to 6’5″, was on no one’s radar and was already in his second draft-eligible year. Stewart himself said it was a surprise, while one WHL scout described his selection as “a complete shock” and ESPN’s scouting guru Corey Pronman described him as “not a prospect.”

That may seem a little harsh, but Stewart really hasn’t given any indication that he has a future as an NHL defencemen.

Jim Benning seems to agree. Stewart doesn’t have a future as a defenceman; that’s why Benning intends for the Canucks to develop him as a winger.

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Five ways the Canucks can improve their forward corps this summer

It’s going to be yet another long offseason for the Vancouver Canucks, who bowed out of Stanley Cup contention in mid-April, and won’t be back in pursuit of the elusive trophy until next October. But that’s okay. Even the most encouraged of Vancouver fans knows that, while this season was a step in the right direction, there’s still a lot to do.

And we want to help. Pass it to Bulis is more than just a fan blog. We’re an idea factory, like 3m Innovation, or that part of Science World where you get to play with Lego, or the Family Guy writers’ room. So, over the next several weeks, we’ll be laying out a plan for offseason action that will see the Canucks get bigger, stronger, faster, younger, smarter, fitter, happier, more productive, better-smelling, and, of course, more competitive. We’ll begin with forwards, and our four-part plan:

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Stick in Link: Cole Cassels is so happening (he is the only thing happening)

It’s time for “Stick in Link”, the feature where we just plug in a bunch of stuff written by others! Featuring a smattering of links from around the Smylosphere and beyond once or twice a week during the off-season. Warning: our links are so hyper, they change colour when exposed to heat. (Have something for us to share in the next edition? E-mail us at passittobulis@gmail.com, tweet us @passittobulis, or just come over and write your link on a pad of paper, I guess.)

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Get on board the Cole Cassels hype train

Connor McDavid is dead and Cole Cassels killed him.

Sure, that may seem like completely unreasonable hyperbole, borne out of just two games of tightly-contested playoff hockey. That’s because it is. But that won’t stop the Cole Cassels hype train, which left the station as soon as Game 1 of the OHL Championship ended and has been picking up steam ever since.

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Losing to Ryan Kesler would have been way worse than losing to the Flames

Perhaps you’re well on your way to moving on. The Vancouver Canucks have been out of the playoffs now for longer than they were ever in them; we imagine you’re mostly over it by now.

But if you need another little push towards closure, boy oh boy, do I have one for you this morning. With the Flames now joining the Canucks on the golf course after a swift, five-game elimination at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks, I can’t help but think that their playoff victory, unideal as it was, saved Vancouver fans from defeat at the hands of someone we hate far more: Ryan Kesler.

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The Prospector: Comets’ 4 overtime game may open door for Virtanen, McCann

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 edition, we look at the Comets’ quadruple overtime loss in Game 1 against the Barons and ponder how it might affect several Canucks prospects sitting in the press box. Also, Kyle Pettit still exists.

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Canucks prospect Cole Cassels vs. the best player in 30 years: who ya got?

The Canucks may be done for the season, but there are still some good Canucks-related storylines to follow. A few levels down, for instance, the OHL championship is set to kick off Friday. It’s the Oshawa Generals versus the Erie Otters, who employ a much-ballyhooed wunderkind named Connor McDavid. McDavid has 42 points in 15 playoff games so far, which is downright stupid. It goes without saying that shutting him down — or at least limiting his damage — is the key to the series.

That tall order has been farmed out to the Generals’ shutdown centre, Canucks’ 2013 third-round pick Cole Cassels, who’s looking more and more like a pretty good selection. Not Connor McDavid good, mind you. But who is? Wayne Gretzky said McDavid was “the best player to come into the league in the last 30 years.” Lemieux good. Crosby good.

Anyway, Cole Cassels, who was drafted 85th overall, just has to beat him.

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One obstacle cleared in arena deal that gives Seattle a third shot at the NHL

Chris Hansen — the hedge fund manager and Seattle basketball fan, not the former host of ‘To Catch a Predator’ — has been worked for several years now to build an arena in the SoDo District and bring the NBA back to Seattle. He nearly bought the Sacramento Kings and moved them to Seattle in 2013, but the deal was blocked by the NBA’s Board of Governors.

Hansen’s proposed arena took another step towards becoming reality, as an environmental impact study found no major obstacles to prevent the arena from being built. The next step: a financial proposal for making the arena work without an NBA tenant. That’s because the NBA is still several years away from considering expansion and is unlikely to relocate a franchise at this time.

The NHL, on the other hand, could expand as early as 2016-17 in Las Vegas and the speculation is that Seattle will be soon to follow, as long as there is an arena in Seattle that can accommodate the NHL. If Hansen and Seattle can sort out the financial element of having hockey precede basketball in the new arena, we could see an NHL expansion team in the next few years.

Along with a Las Vegas team, this would balance out the Eastern and Western Conferences at 16 teams each and would also restore an old rival of the Vancouver Canucks, who used to battle the Seattle Totems for league championships in the old WHL days.

It might not be that simple, of course, and Seattle has come close to having an NHL franchise two times before.

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Dan Hamhuis in leadership role for Team Canada

After Team Canada went into the first intermission down 3-0 to Sweden in their fourth game of the World Championships, I have to wonder if Dan Hamhuis spoke up in the locker room. “A 3-0 lead after the first is nothing, guys,” he might have said. “Trust me: I know.”

Sure enough, just a week-and-a-half after the Calgary Flames came back from a 3-0 deficit to defeat Hamhuis’s Canucks, Canada did the same to Sweden. It wasn’t, of course, an elimination game, but it did all be ensure that Canada would finish first in their group ahead of Sweden. Canada remains undefeated and has three games remaining in the round robin: France, Switzerland, and Austria.

A lot of the attention on Team Canada has focussed on their young cadre of forwards, with a couple young defencemen grabbing a few headlines of their own: 19-year-old Aaron Ekblad has 2 goals and 4 points in 4 games, while the 24-year-old Patrick Wiercioch went from press box patron this season to key Team Canada defencemen, scoring the crucial game-tying goal in the third period against Sweden and tying for the tournament lead in plus/minus among defencemen.

While the young guns have grabbed all the attention, however, the unheralded Hamhuis has played a key leadership role.

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This Canucks season was a success disguised as a failure

In storming back from a three-goal deficit to eventually defeat the Canucks in Game 6 and eliminate them from the Stanley Cup playoffs, you’d have thought the Flames blew up Alderaan: millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.

That was Canuck nation shutting it down for the year. The journalists went on vacation. The Smylosphere went into hibernation. The fans went outside. (The summer sun arrived right around the same time. Vancouver is awesome. We only have two seasons: hockey and summer, and both are six months long.)

It happened quickly. Too quickly. Rather than winding down, paying close attention to the locker clean-outs, speculating wildly about stuff that won’t happen for months, and weaning ourselves off the product, the fans this year just turned it all off when the final horn sounded on Game 6.

I suspect it’s because we’re upset. After all, the Canucks blew it. The Flames were beatable, and the Canucks let them off the hook. I’ve heard some say they choked, they failed. And I’d argue it’s become the majority opinion: this season was a failure.

It’s not an unfair comment. But I think it just misses the mark. This season was a failure. Which makes it a huge success.

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Stick in Link: Sedins still unappreciated; who the Canucks shouldn’t draft

It’s time for “Stick in Link”, the feature where we just plug in a bunch of stuff written by others! Featuring a smattering of links from around the Smylosphere and beyond once or twice a week during the off-season. Warning: our links are so hyper, they change colour when exposed to heat. (Have something for us to share in the next edition? E-mail us at passittobulis@gmail.com, tweet us @passittobulis, or just come over and write your link on a pad of paper, I guess.)

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The Prospector: Virtanen, McCann join the Comets; Cassels vs McDavid in OHL Championship

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

This time around, we look at Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann as they head to Utica to join the Comets, touch on Brendan Gaunce’s successful return from the press box, and ponder if Cole Cassels can shut down Connor McDavid.

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Conspiracy Watch: Canucks’ emphasis on integrity, character cost them a playoff series

Conspiracy Watch is the official PITB home for the tinfoil-hatters, a large demographic in Vancouver that deserves to have its voice heard. Every Friday, Kevin Vanstone will espouse and catalog insane conspiracy theories no one else will validate, probably because they’re too true.

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