Vancouver Canucks prospect Troy Stecher “threw a wrench” into the team’s plans — but it’s all good now.
Going into training camp, the Vancouver Canucks had an abundance of defensemen available to fill a maximum of eight spots. So when rookie Troy Stecher emerged as a legitimate contender for one of those spots, things got difficult. As head coach Willie Desjardins said, Stecher “threw a wrench” into their plans. Luckily, they found a quick solution.
Sending 23-year-old blueliner Andrey Pedan through waivers in order to reassign him to the AHL Utica Comets was a risky move. Even with hindsight, I wouldn’t even say it was a risk worth taking. Losing Pedan would have been terrible, even though — or maybe exactly because — we don’t know what we have in him yet. But the fact that the Canucks did take it, makes things a lot easier in the future.
Instead of sending Stecher to Utica, keeping Pedan up in Vancouver, and waiving veteran Alex Biega — which is what most fans found to be the best option — the Canucks can now do whatever they feel is best.
Keeping Pedan in Vancouver would have had just one purpose: make sure the Canucks don’t lose another young player for nothing, like they did with Frank Corrado last summer. One player (Biega) would have had to be waived and moved to Utica alongside Stecher nonetheless. So, whether the Canucks assign Pedan and Stecher to the Comets or Pedan and Biega really doesn’t make a difference.
Going solely by training-camp performance, Stecher has definitely earned his spot. Between Stecher and Biega, Stecher looks like the superior player, and there is no reason why he shouldn’t stay to start the regular season.
While one could argue that the Canucks already have a similar player to Stecher in Philip Larsen, and could therefore use a defensive blueliner like Biega, Stecher’s defensive abilities are worth noting. Listed by EliteProspects.com as 5-foot-11 and 192 pounds, Stecher sure isn’t a physical player. But he is a hard worker who understands his defensive responsibilities, which turns him into a great two-way player.
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If we are being honest, the only reason for Biega playing 52 games for the Canucks last season was the club’s injury luck. He is a serviceable depth player, but shouldn’t be in the NHL full time.
Stecher, on the other hand, provides the Canucks with another strong option for the first power-play unit. He would be (or still is?) battling Larsen for regular ice time on the bottom pairing.
There are just two question marks about Stecher.
One, would Stecher look as good playing beside Luca Sbisa as he did playing with top-pairing veteran Alex Edler?
Two, would regular top-pairing AHL time be better for his development than splitting games with Larsen?
Regarding the first question, Larsen with Sbisa actually scares me more than Stecher with Sbisa. So, I would definitely try it out and at least find out how well it can work.
To answer the second question, we would need Stecher to play in both the AHL and NHL at the same time and evaluate which version of him developed better. Only time will tell, no matter what Willie Desjardins’ and Jim Benning’s decision is.
As to pros for keeping Biega in Vancouver over Stecher, I can only think of the expansion draft rumour. Are the Canucks scared someone would claim Biega only to expose him at the 2017 expansion draft? It’s just a rumour, but it makes some sense.
Still, before Pedan was waived, I argued the AHL was inevitable for Stecher. But it isn’t anymore.