After a wave of Medicine Hat Tigers in the Vancouver Canucks lineup, the time is now for some North Dakota green in Vancouver.
The Vancouver Canucks have signed top NCAA defenceman Troy Stecher to a pro contract, the first one that GM Jim Benning has handed out to a college free agent this season. Stecher, a native of Richmond, BC, comes back north of the border after playing three years with the North Dakota Fighting Hawks, a stint that ended last week with North Dakota winning the Frozen Four Championship.
The 5-foot-11, 191-pound defenceman had played his junior hockey with the Penticton Vees, proceeding to score 13 goals and 53 points in 119 NCAA games. This past season, he functioned as the team’s top defenceman while wearing the alternate captain’s “A”.
Stecher’s 29 points in 43 games this year was enough for him to be the sixth-best college defenceman in the scoring department. In comparison, Ben Hutton scored 21 points in the 39 games during his third year with Hockey East. Of course, Hutton’s University of Maine was not a championship team that year like Stecher’s was.
Here is Stecher’s scouting report, courtesy of EliteProspects.com:
"Highly skilled two-way defenceman that displays tremendous poise with and without the puck. Soft hands that can pass as well as let rockets fly. Excellent vision and a playmaker’s knack for the game. Very aware and responsible defensively, but is not comfortable having the puck in his own end for too long and will take it upon himself to get the puck out of the defensive zone. His impact upon the game occurs at both ends of the ice as an offensive and defensive force."
Have the Canucks landed a second Hutton in the making? The hype around Stecher is mixed. Hutton sure did set high expectations for upcoming college defencemen. With the Canucks already boasting a massive logjam on the blueline, I imagine that if Stecher makes the team, trades are going to happen.
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Stecher’s most recent honour saw him named to the Frozen Four All-Tournament Team. Brock Boeser most likely helped Vancouver secure one of the best college defenceman available.
Here are some quotes, courtesy of Adam Forsythe at News 1130.
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As always, Jim Benning seems to have found his player — a hard-working defenceman who is not afraid to play hard and compete for the puck battles. General Fanager reports this deal as a two-year, entry-level contract that pays $925,000 annually. Stecher will have restricted free agent rights at the end of the contract. More details to come, as these figures are not yet confirmed.
At 22 years of age, Stecher is one year younger than Hutton is. Next season would see Stecher in a nearly identical situation as the one Hutton was in to start the 2015-16 campaign. Although this is exciting, Vancouver should not set too high of an expectation for Stecher. More analysis to come in the coming days.
As for now, though, I trust that Jim Benning is still working those phones and trying to grab onto a couple of other high-profile NCAA free agents. Another North Dakota player is on the radar, as Boeser’s linemate Drake Caggiula is in the open market after a jaw-dropping performance at the Frozen Four.
Quinnipiac netminder Michael Garteig is also on Benning’s watch, as the Prince George native looks to return home. Of course, the Canucks are hoping to sign their own prospect Thatcher Demko to a pro contract in the near future.
For now, pencil Stecher in with the rest of the fringe-NHL blueliners — Alex Biega, Andrey Pedan, and Philip Larsen. And consider Stecher as a catalyst for the youth movement on the blueline! More to come.