Only the cream of the crop is left of the Vancouver Canucks prospects.
For the Vancouver Canucks, the next few days hold nothing but a couple of games meaningless to the playoff race. For the prospects, however, the next few days are going to make all the difference. Last time around, we saw many prospects ousted from the playoff race. Let’s take a look now.
It’s been a long time coming. The NCAA Frozen Four Championship is here. Canucks GM Jim Benning is there, in Tampa Bay, and will look to scout his highly touted college players and possibly other free agents.
Of course, that hype is all about Brock Boeser (North Dakota) and Thatcher Demko (Boston College) who have posted numbers matching and surpassing those posted by their forerunners — forerunners who have made the NHL as elites.
But that is not it.
The former scout for the Buffalo Sabres, that is Benning, has his sights set on two prolific North Dakota players who will hit free agency upon the completion of the championship. Enter Drake Caggiula and Troy Stecher. This is from Elliotte Friedman’s 30 Thoughts:
"Billy Jaffe added the Canucks are pursuing UND free-agents Drake Caggiula (a forward) and Troy Stecher (a defenceman). Caggiula is hot property, with several suitors. Last week, I mentioned Ottawa and Philadelphia among them. The Senators are still very much a part of this, but a few sources indicated the Flyers may not be. Stecher, a local boy who attended Vancouver’s development camp in 2014, told reporters his father had season tickets to the Canucks and he “dreamed” of playing there."
To give a basic idea of how these players have their ties to the Canucks, here is Sportsnet’s article on how defenceman Stecher had dreams of playing for the Canucks as a child born in Richmond. He has eight goals and 20 assists in the 41 games played this season.
As for Caggiula, he is the left winger on Brock Boeser’s line. They are centered by Chicago Blackhawks prospect and USA World Juniors forward Nick Schmaltz. Craggiula has 21 goals and 46 points in the 37 games played this season.
That also puts into perspective how good Boeser’s 26 goals and 54 points are in 40 games played. Boeser, Caggiula, and Stecher will face Denver on Thursday April 7th in a one-game semifinal.
As for the Boston College side of things, netminder Thatcher Demko will lead his Eagles team against number-one ranked Quinnipeg. The winner of the BC-Quinnipeg game will face the winner of the ND-Denver game.
And of course. The ultimate question. In case Boeser and Demko meet on Saturday, April 9th in the finals, who are you cheering for?
OHL – Kyle Pettit
Thanks to his defensive prowess and four points in four games, Kyle Pettit’s Erie Otters are set to play Jared McCann‘s former team, the Saulte Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Game one of round two goes Friday in Erie.
QMJHL – Dmitry Zhukenov
Alongside Carl Neill and Guillaume Brisebois, centreman Dmitry Zhukenov had his QMJHL season ended in game six against the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. In the loss, Zukenov picked up two goals to up his playoffs total to three goals and six points.
And hence Kyle Pettit is our only hope. The WHL and the QMJHL are void of Canucks prospects and the NCAA tournament is to end this weekend. Time to focus on the AHL with the Utica Comets, eh?
AHL – The Utica Comets
Nothing much here. Alex Grenier, Jordan Subban, and Carter Bancks are leading the way in the points department while the netminding continues to be weakest link in the chain.
Reminder, all previously sent-down veterans are not playing for the Comets anymore. Yannick Weber was recalled and so was Chris Higgins, while Brandon Prust had to put the skates up early thanks to the ankle injury.
On that note, Curtis Valk may have extended his playing career just a bit with this performance.
The magic number of points the Comets need to get to qualify for the playoffs is five. They have six games remaining.
So who are you rooting for in the Frozen Four? Is it Boeser and the North Dakota Fighting Hawks or the Boston College Eagles and the Demko show in Tampa Bay?