Vancouver Canucks Top 25 Under 25: #19 Borna Rendulic

Sep 29, 2015; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman (6) defenses Colorado Avalanche right wing Borna Rendulic (71) at Scotiabank Saddledome. Flames won 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 29, 2015; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman (6) defenses Colorado Avalanche right wing Borna Rendulic (71) at Scotiabank Saddledome. Flames won 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports /

The Vancouver Canucks are in the midst of a youth movement. So, let’s take a look at the club’s top youngsters!

If the Vancouver Canucks want to make their ‘rebuild on the fly’ work, they need a strong foundation of young roster players. We all know the Bo Horvats and Ben Huttons of the team, but what’s after that? How are things for the AHL Utica Comets and what can we expect from the Canucks’ next crop of youngsters?

To answer those questions, our staff ranked all signed Vancouver Canucks players under the age of 25. After compiling a list of the top 10 Canucks prospects recently, this is all about who can help today. And guess what, the Canucks only have a total of 26 players under 25 signed and playing in North America right now.

Under the microscope today is Croatian winger Borna Rendulic, who was signed by the Canucks this year.

#19 – Borna Rendulic

Age: 24
Position: Right Wing, Left Wing
Team: Vancouver Canucks (NHL) / Utica Comets (AHL)
NHL Experience: 14 Games

How He Got Here

Borna Rendulic moved away from his native Croatia to pursue a professional career when he was 16 years old. Back home, he obviously flew under the radar, so when Canadians, Americans, Russians, Finns and Swedes his age were under the NHL draft spotlight, Rendulic had a quiet time.  That was not only because of his heritage, but also because he never seemed outstandingly talented. He was always a good player but never played higher than his actual age group.

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Then, in the 2011-12 season, Rendulic suddenly had a huge breakout year, scoring 21 goals and 49 points in 34 Jr. A SM-Liiga games. That season, he also got a first taste of Finnish pro hockey. At the end of the year, Rendulic joined a new club, HPK, and made their Liiga roster right away. The next season, he led an overall weak roster with 11 goals and 32 points in 57 games — and the rest is history.

Rendulic became the first Croatian-born player to ever sign an NHL contract and to play a game in the world’s best hockey league. The Colorado Avalanche signed him out of Finland and it quickly looked like he could jump right into the NHL. Rendulic started the 2014-15 season in the AHL but was quickly called up and subsequently played 11 NHL games that year. Unfortunately, injuries, including a broken leg, prevented him from getting more.

With the injury, Rendulic was promptly brought back to reality — his career path wouldn’t continue to go straight up. Instead, he only played three more NHL games for Colorado, and 68 for their AHL affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage. And now, he’s here.

Where He Is Today

In Vancouver, Rendulic will have to start where he was last season. As an AHL player with NHL upside. At 6-foot-3 and 203 pounds, Rendulic possesses the perfect combination of size and skill, but he has yet to show that he can translate his scoring ability to the NHL. So far, he has a goal and two points in 14 games.

In the AHL, things look a little better. There, Rendulic has a total of 20 goals and 46 points in 94 games. Better than his AHL numbers, but still not good enough to be considered as a future middle-six scorer for the NHL. Rendulic will likely start the season in the AHL and try to make his way back to the NHL as an injury call-up.

Where He’s Headed

A scorer back in Finland, Rendulic has to find a way to prove he’s worth an NHL roster spot. He doesn’t project as an NHL scorer anymore, but his combination of size and scoring ability should be great for a skilled third line.

In Colorado, Rendulic played mostly fourth-line minutes, so it wasn’t exactly easy for him to stand out in the point department. It’s the same as Vancouver’s Brendan Gaunce having one point in 20 NHL games after playing all of them with bottom-six line mates. Neither Gaunce nor Rendulic is the type of player who makes those around him better. Playing with the right line mates, they can produce.

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But, of course, neither are (currently) good enough to play with the Sedin twins or anything like that. What they need is ice time with other skilled two-way players who can score. So, Rendulic should probably play with guys like Gaunce and Mike Zalewski in Utica. At the AHL level, all three have proven they can score and all three are capable of filling NHL bottom-six roles.

Rendulic’s 2016-17 season could either look like his first in the NHL — i.e. an early call-up and a good amount of NHL ice time — or like his second — only a couple of appearances.