Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning said last Monday that he planned to repair the team’s subpar blueline by looking into signing some college free agents. Josh Teves was signed on Tuesday, but who else could the Canucks take a look at?
The Vancouver Canucks blue line is not good and hasn’t been for a while. Luckily, the team is now trending upward and does, in fact, have the potential to have a fairly good defence core — headlined by Quinn Hughes, Jack Rathbone, Olli Juolevi, and Jett Woo among others — for years to come.
Signing college free agents is a great way to bolster your defence core. Benning’s comments earlier this week and the signing of Josh Teves got me wondering what other NCAA defencemen the Canucks could be interested in pursuing.
Jimmy Schuldt — LD, St. Cloud State University
Height: 6’1 / Weight: 205lbs
Jimmy Schuldt is a name you will be hearing quite a bit in the coming years. In the past two seasons of his collegiate career, Schuldt has improved his pro stock by turning down NHL opportunities and choosing to return to St. Cloud University.
In his rookie year with St. Cloud in 2015-16, Schuldt had a plus-minus of 31. Say what you will about the stat, but as a rookie, that number is eye-catching. At the time of this writing, Schuldt has nine goals and 22 assists through 34 games so far this season.
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The scouting report on Schuldt is that he is an NHL calibre defenceman who has been drawing the attention of NHL teams since as early as his freshman year. He has a booming slapshot, can skate, and has a high ceiling.
The Vegas Golden Knights and the Montreal Canadiens were rumoured to be interested in Schuldt, but the Canucks should consider making a play for the still relatively young defenceman in order to bolster their blueline.
Philip Beaulieu — RD, Northern Michigan University
Height: 5’11 / Weight: 194lbs
Although not the biggest defender, Philip Beaulieu has caught the attention of many around the hockey world with his playmaking abilities and solid positional play. A right-handed defenceman, Beaulieu could be a good addition to the Canucks prospect pipeline.
Beaulieu will be 24 this September, but as one of the commenters pointed out on my article on Teves, picking up players who are more physically mature isn’t a bad idea for the Canucks — it’s almost as if you know what you’re getting when they’re that age, yet they still have room to further improve and flourish.
In his sophomore year with Northern Michigan, Beaulieu put up 11 goals and 31 assists in 43 games. Those are some pretty eye-catching numbers for a defenceman. This season, Beaulieu picked up 34 points in 36 games played. Not bad — not bad at all. Adding Beaulieu would be another low-risk move for the Canucks that could prove to help out their blue line in the long run.
Brady Keeper — RD, University of Maine
Height: 6’2 / Weight: 194
Coming out of Ben Hutton‘s alma matter is right-handed defenceman Brady Keeper. I’m going to do my best to finish this article without making a bad joke about how Keeper may be a keeper for whatever team lands him.
Sportsnet’s Rick Dhaliwal reported in January of last year that the Canucks were keeping close tabs on Keeper as his season was winding down. You have to wonder if the interest is still there from the Canucks to add a right-handed defenceman to their prospect pipeline in the form of Keeper.
The thing that jumps off the page is Keeper’s freshman year with the University of Maine. In that season, he tallied 22 points in 37 games. But perhaps the most eye-catching thing about that year was Keeper’s penalty minute total of 88. That total was good enough to lead all freshman defencemen in the NCAA that year.
Keeper has a rough style of play, and as Daniel Wagner of the Vancouver Courier mentions, most of the penalties Keeper takes are what you would consider “aggressive” penalties. Penalties such as interference, elbowing, and roughing. In junior, Keeper racked up 202 penalty minutes in just 58 games with the Opaskwayak Cree Nation Blizzard of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.
Don’t be fooled, however, Keeper has the skill to go along with his brute force. He can rush the puck effectively and is not afraid to jump up into the play and take shots on goal. A defenceman who plays the game hard and with an edge sounds exactly like the type of player that would interest the Canucks.
These are the three defencemen that I would like to see the Canucks take a look at. After signing Teves, the Canucks may not sign another NCAA free agent, but I say signing a righty like Keeper or Beaulieu is a rather low-risk move that may pay dividends when all is said and done. Which prospect would you like to see the Canucks add? Let me know in the comments below!