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.
We are now at No. 13 on our list, so we are slowly getting to the NHL regulars. No. 13, Alexandre Grenier, is trying to get there — but he’s struggling.
Position: Right Winger
Team: Utica Comets (AHL)
NHL Experience: 6 Games
How He Got Here
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Alexandre Grenier, a 6-foot-5, 200-pound winger from Laval, QC, started his junior hockey career with the Saint-Jérôme Panthères of Quebec’s Jr. A league, the QJAAAHL. That’s really not an issue; there are plenty of players who made the NHL from there. However, Grenier only played two games there in his draft year, the 2008-09 season. He really didn’t look like he had NHL talent.
Luckily, he broke into the league with a bang. In his first full season with the Panthères, he had 26 goals and 54 points in 51 games. But, that wasn’t enough to get drafted either.
Then, in 2010-11, Grenier left the QJAAAHL after another 33 games, and joined the QMJHL Quebec Remparts for the remainder of the year. He had nine goals and 21 points during that stretch while playing a strong physical game. The Vancouver Canucks liked that a lot, and selected the overage winger in the third round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
Where He Is Today
Grenier had to spend another year in junior and decided to make a rather odd move 64 QMJHL games and 64 points later — he went to Austria. There, Grenier made his professional debut but probably didn’t like it too much and returned halfway through the season, joining the Canucks’ AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, on an AHL deal for the rest of the season. Well, he actually only played four games in the AHL and 37 in the ECHL, but fact is, he returned to North America.
Grenier has been an active part of the Canucks organization ever since. Since 2013, he appeared in 231 games for the Utica Comets, scoring 58 goals and 148 points. In the 2015-16 campaign, Grenier’s work finally paid off and he made his NHL debut for the Canucks. The 24-year-old failed to record a point in his first six games, but he is finally in consideration for a depth role with the big club.
Where He’s Headed
Being closer to the NHL than every is great. But it doesn’t guarantee anything. Grenier has a lot of competition in Brendan Gaunce, Jake Virtanen, Mike Zalewski, Michael Chaput, Jayson Megna and NHL roster players Alexandre Burrows, Emerson Etem and Derek Dorsett. Getting a full-time NHL job will be a tough task.
That said, Grenier is also one of the names I would mention in a discussion about the players that could push the names above out of the lineup. With a strong training camp, Grenier has the same chances as Gaunce, Zalewski, Chaput or Megna. The only players who are a step ahead of him at this point are the remaining four, who all spent the entire 2015-16 season in the NHL.
On paper, Grenier is the perfect bottom-six player. He is big, physical and can score. Grenier likes to battle hard and hit anyone who gets in his way, working his way into high-danger scoring zones. If he can translate that to the NHL level, he could be a terrific option for the Canucks’ bottom lines.