Vancouver Canucks: How Brock Boeser Could Fit in


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Vancouver Canucks prospect Brock Boeser is rumoured to turn pro next season — how would he fit in?

When the Vancouver Canucks selected forward Brock Boeser of the USHL Waterloo Black Hawks in the first round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, fans were unsure what to expect. After all, the American high school leagues do not get as much attention as Canadian junior leagues, especially in Vancouver and the rest of Canada.

Boeser committed to the University of North Dakota for the 2015-16 campaign and as Canucks general manager Jim Benning told Sportsnet, he did not know what to expect either.

"“(Boeser) went in there as a freshman and you don’t know how these guys are going to adapt to the college game and the speed and the strength of the players, but the coaching staff did an excellent job with him this year,” Benning said."

At the end of the regular season, Boeser was awarded the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) Rookie of the Year. He led the UND Fighting Hawks in goals (26) and points (54) this season, while ranking second in assists (28).

But here is the big question: does that qualify him to play professionally, perhaps even in the NHL?

As Sportsnet’s John Shannon noted during Monday’s broadcast of the Canucks’ game against the Los Angeles Kings, Boeser might turn pro for the upcoming 2016-17 campaign.

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Listed at 6-foot-1 and 194 pounds, the physical aspect should not be an issue for Boeser in the professional ranks. Still, going from high school hockey to the NHL, or even the American Hockey League, within two years seems like a huge jump for a player who just turned 19 in February.

The biggest mistake the Vancouver Canucks could make is to throw Boeser right into the ice-cold lake that is the NHL, if he does not look 100 percent ready. Letting him play 10 minutes a night like they did with rookies Jared McCann and Jake Virtanen would be a terrible decision.

Luckily, Boeser took the NCAA route and will therefore be eligible to play in the AHL, which was not the case for the aforementioned McCann and Virtanen. Down in Utica, Boeser can develop into a leader with the Comets and earn himself a call-up at some point during the season. Whether that happens after 10 games or 60 games is not important — the important part is that Boeser is brought along slowly.

While bringing him along slowly is important, leaving him in college for another year is not the right thing to do either — Boeser seems ready for the AHL.

The one thing that can keep him at UND is a loss in the Frozen Four tournament this week. A guy like Boeser will want to win it all, and staying with UND for another season would obviously not end his career. In turn, a victory could almost guarantee him turning pro this summer.

That said, Boeser will likely get a fair chance in the NHL once he makes it. With Radim Vrbata out and Anton Rodin in, the Canucks’ right-wing depth chart will look like the following:

  1. Jannik Hansen
  2. Jake Virtanen
  3. Emerson Etem/Alexandre Burrows
  4. Anton Rodin
  5. Derek Dorsett

If Anton Rodin succeeds and actually becomes the second-line scorer the Canucks want him to be, Boeser’s chances will not be quite as good. However, if Rodin is nothing more than an average scorer at best, Boeser could get a chance to play on the second line as early as next season.

The Canucks will simply have to try him out to see how far he really is in his development. Having him in the AHL would make that much, much easier.

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If Boeser makes the jump this year, he could be a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. If he stays at UND, he might start the 2017-18 campaign in Utica to get used to the professional game.

Either way, the Canucks have an outstanding prospect who should be a huge piece of the club’s future core.