The Vancouver Canucks: The Anton Rodin Story

The previous Vancouver Canucks regime lead by former general manager Mike Gillis has a terrible draft history. Yet, in an era where few of Gillis’ high-profile draft picks panned out, one talented player was never given a legitimate chance and has only the hockey gods to blame: Anton Rodin.

Rodin’s path to the National Hockey League was long, unfortunate, and unconventional. Next year is his final audition to suit up for the Vancouver Canucks. If he proves his worth than great! If not, having been cut from two Canucks rosters under different management groups it is almost certain Rodin will go home.

Nevertheless, this is his story.

2009 NHL Entry Draft

Climbing the developmental ladder in Swedish hockey, Rodin progressed in every junior level until he was draft eligible in 2009. He played for the Brynäs IF organization his entire Swedish career (Under-18 and professionally). Lucky for Brynäs hockey, Rodin dominated in junior and would eventually develop into a Swedish Hockey League superstar.

Going into the 2009 draft, Rodin came off a 29-goal, 55-point season. In the playoffs, he scored 12 points in seven games.

Perhaps his frail figure at the time discouraged amateur scouts; however, few people grow into an adult body at 18 years-old. Fellow Swede Ellias Petterson – the Vancouver Canucks latest first rounder –  is a prime example.

Despite Rodin’s offensive talent and dynamic play, he went seemingly unnoticed by casual NHL fans and the league in 2009; but, he caught the attention of the Canucks. I remember Gillis saying that if respectable NHL scouts and insiders like Bob Mckenzie did not rank Jordan Schroeder so high, Gillis would have selected Rodin in the first round.

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Thus, Rodin was selected 53rd overall. The Canucks stole Rodin, and Gillis could not believe the Swede was available at 53. According to the Vancouver Observer, Gillis “had Rodin ranked as a first rounder in the draft, so he felt fortunate he was still available late in the second round”.

Rodin is one of the highest draft picks the Canucks have used on a Swedish player. In 2009, the consensus amateur scouting report on Rodin was promising. Like many of his countrymen, he is quick, smart, and for his size surprisingly physical. He plays the game so hard that, before his body filled out, he would injure himself running guys.

Overall Rodin, the projected third-line winger, had skill and a scoring ability that can only be described as pure.

Sweden Circa 2010

Rodin went back to Brynäs in 2009-2010, this time to play with the big boys in the SHL. In his first professional season, the Canucks prospect did not score like he did in junior (SuperElit). A diminished role that surely called for more defense, plus adjusting to playing with grown men could have been a factor. Rodin played spectacular in international tournaments that year though; so it was not all bad.

Junior international tournaments are best on best, but they still don’t compare to a professional league of men. Applying what he learned from his introduction to the SHL, Rodin stood out in his six World Junior games scoring 10 points. After the season was over, he scored 13 points in 11 games at the World U20s.

The young winger was developing just fine.

Loaner

Despite the solid developmental year for Rodin, there was no chance he was making the Canucks roster in 2011. That team was arguably the best Vancouver team in history, and Rodin was not even on the depth chart.

Management believed another year of SHL experience was needed before he was ready to test North American ice. Now officially under contract by the Canucks Rodin was technically on loan.

Rodin’s second year in Brynäs was solid. Having put on some more weight, he was winning more puck battles and successfully playing his high-tempo style. Rodin scored 26 points in 53 season games, and contributed a goal and an assist in his first five SHL playoffs games.

Next Stop… Chicago!

With only a few minor changes going into the 2011-2012 season, the Canucks were still one of the league’s top teams. Thirsty for another Stanley Cup Final series, the team stayed relatively intact; thus, limiting roster spots – especially for rookies.

Still high on Rodin, the Vancouver Canucks assigned him to their American Hockey League, the Chicago Wolves. With Craig MacTavish behind the bench, the Wolves had a good season winning 42 games and finishing with 91 points. Unfortunately, they lost in the first round of the playoffs.

Rodin’s first season in North American season was a step up from his sophomore year with Brynäs. Though he put up almost the same amount of points in 11 more games with the Wolves, he scored more goals while adjusting to the smaller ice surface and battling various injuries.

Overall, good first season out west.

Sophomore Slump

As the subtitle reads, Rodin’s second season with the Wolves was awful. Now, credit to the Vancouver Canucks prospect, he battled through sporadic injuries throughout the year. But a severe shoulder injury ultimately comprised his season.

Rodin only managed to score only 14 points in 49 games in 2012-2013. A chance to play an NHL game was nowhere in sight. But the young Swede was just about to jump-start his professional career.

Welcome Home

Despite adjusting well to the North American game, both the Canucks and Rodin decided he would play the 2013-2014 back in Sweden. With something to prove coming off a terrible season, Rodin exploded with offence upon returning to Brynäs.

Staying healthy is key for Rodin. His dynamic play-making ability and speed shined that season. Rodin helped Brynäs make the playoffs. Though they had an early first-round exit, Rodin’s confidence was back.

Wearing the “A” that year, Rodin scored 12 goals and 35 points in 47 games. He also added three points in 5 post-season games. While the Canucks were about fall off their rails, Rodin and Brynäs IF were about to excel.

Round Two

A coaching change going into the 2014-2015 season left the Vancouver Canucks too preoccupied to care about a Swedish player of theirs without a contract. Therefore, Rodin remained in Brynäs. He probably would not have thrived under John Tortorella, so it was the right decision.

Like in junior, – with the exception of his off-year in Chicago – Rodin’s year-by-year development was on a positive trajectory. His goal scoring ability drastically improved in 2014-2015. As mentioned above, when healthy Rodin produces.

He dressed for 54 regular season games and scored 19 goals and 40 points. In addition, Rodin scored two goals and three points in seven playoffs games. Unfortunately, Brynäs IF fell short again losing in the first round.

Let’s make one thing clear, Rodin was robbed of an opportunity to join Vancouver after this season. Coming off an awful season, the Canucks replaced their management team and most of their coaching staff.

The management group that was so high on Rodin was gone. Understandably, the new regime and Tortorella’s replacement Willie Desjardins, did not take a chance on a player they probably knew very little about when most of the Vancouver Canucks’ 2011 core was still intact.

Ayy Captain

If the new Canucks management group did not know much about Rodin before 2015-2016, he was sure on their radar now! Rodin – now a journeymen professional – was named captain of Brynäs IF in 2015-2016. As captain, Rodin performed at an elite level.

However, this was the beginning of another series of serious injuries. Towards the end of the season after playing 33 games, Rodin suffered a knee injury that ended his season. During practice, Rodin lost an edge and skated into a teammate who unfortunately stepped on his leg above his right knee, lacerating Rodin’s quadriceps tendon.

Rodin required surgery but was optimistic at the time saying the Brynäs IF medical staff projected he may be able to return for the playoffs. Unfortunately he could not.

If not for his banged-up knee Rodin could have finally lead Brynäs past the first round of the playoffs and joined the Canucks for their last few games of the season.

Rodin was still offered a one-way one-year contract worth $1 million by Vancouver as he was expected to be at 100% by training camp. But knowing Rodin’s luck that wasn’t going to happen.

The Hockey Gods Hate Me

Rodin was not 100% in training camp. Though he played well providing offense and highlighting his abilities, the Canucks probably pushed him to hard. The only knock on Rodin here is he may not have disclosed that he was still nursing his knee.

Rodin at 25 waited so long for his NHL opportunity. He did everything expected of an international prospect and was noticeable in the 2016-2017 pre-season. Unfortunately coming off a back-to-back game he re-aggravated his knee; so much so he did not see his first NHL game until December 24th 2016.

To avoid making the same mistake again, the Canucks were careful inserting Rodin into the line up. In his first game, he played just over seven minutes to get a feel for the pace of the game. He was then scratched for the following two games as they were against physical opponents.

He was re-inserted against Colorado where he scored his fist point assisting on a Bo Horvat goal. What occurred just days later was unbelievable. On January 6th 2017 in a game against Calagry, Rodin’s right knee pad slipped-up as he fell to the ice. His unprotected knee taking the blow.

Poor Rodin. He was soon shut down due to ongoing inflammation in his knee-joint resulting from his quadriceps tendon surgery a year ago.

The surgery changed the structure of Rodin’s knee because of his rare condition: bipartite patella that was diagnosed upon his surgery by Canucks medical staff. Basically, his kneecap is split into two bones rather than one. Bipartite Patella forces stress on the cartilaginous joint that can cause inflammation.

To top off an already terrible season, Rodin was also one of the Canucks players to get the mumps. Why hockey gods? Why?

One Last Chance

Rodin was re-signed last month to a one-year $700 thousand contract. Because he was not given a fighting chance last year, and seeing how the Canucks want to create a competitive training camp come autumn, one more shot at Rodin makes sense. Even if he starts for the Utica Comets.

The second rounder who was drafted above players like Dmitri Orlov and Tomas Tatar can excel in the NHL. His speed and puck moving skills while skating fits the NHL profile. Yesterday JD Burke on the TSN 1040 Bro Jake Show said that if you run NHL equivalencies on Rodin’s numbers from his SHL production, he checks out to scoring between the 40-50-point range.

Rodin makes opponents pay if he has space. His hockey sense, talent, and competitiveness gives him a legitimate shot at fighting for a spot on the wing against Brock Boeser and Nikolay Goldobin come training camp…if healthy.

Rodin is still the offensive dynamo that the Canucks wanted to bring over from Sweden last summer. Like his sophomore season in the AHL 2016-2017 is a write-off. If I were Rodin, I’d pray to the hockey gods every day this summer, asking to remain healthy for the Vancouver Canucks.

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