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.
No. 18 on our list is Cole Cassels.
#18 – Cole Cassels
Position: Center, Right Wing
Team: Utica Comets (AHL)
NHL Experience: 0 Games
How He Got Here
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From Hartford, Conneticut, Cole Cassels played for the Oshawa Generals of the OHL for four seasons before being drafted in the third round, 85th overall, by the Vancouver Canucks in 2013. In 2011-12, Cassels won the bronze medal with Canada Ontario at the U17 World Hockey Championships. A year after that, he skated in the CHL Top Prospects Game, signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Canucks, and in 2014-15, Cassels and the Generals were CHL Memorial Cup champions, as well as OHL champions.
During his time with Oshawa, Cassels developed offensively, scoring 72 goals and notching 136 assists in 243 games. In his championship final season, during which he was named an assistant captain, Cassels had 81 points in 54 regular season games and then turned it on in the playoffs, adding another 31 points in 21 games. Cassels’ team took down a formidable Erie Otters squad led by none other than Connor McDavid and then went on to defeat a seriously stacked Kelowna Rockets lineup.
Where He Is Today
The 2016-17 season will be Cassels’ second with the AHL Utica Comets. After a disappointing and rather unproductive first season, Cassels — once highly touted and shiny — has taken a bit of a free fall in the prospect ranks of the Canucks’ system. In 67 games with the Comets last year, Cassels only managed a meagre 2 goals and 5 assists.
He’ll only turn 22 this season but Cassels’ sub-par play thus far in Utica has pushed him out of the spotlight and somewhat into the doghouse. Cassels will need to regain the trust of Comets coach Travis Green, and show some big strides in his personal development. The scouting staff of the Canucks will be looking to Cassels to rediscover his scoring touch and translate what worked in the OHL to the AHL level.
Where He’s Headed
Despite the poor start to his AHL career, Cassels is still young and has time to develop. Luckily, the Canucks have other forward prospects much farther ahead of Cassels, who they will be looking to to contribute in the near future.
Travis Green should be able to get the most out of Cassels and hopefully light a fire under him. His scoring abilities may have temporarily disappeared but Cassels is still a solid, hard-working, hard-nosed two-way player who has value for the Comets and, by extension, the Canucks. If he maintains a diligent work ethic and displays the leadership he’s known for, Cassels will be given opportunities to succeed.
Perhaps flying under the radar a bit will allow him to quietly work on developing his offensive game at the AHL level. Cassels will almost certainly stay in Utica for the entirety of 2016-17.