With the NHL Draft being hosted by the Vancouver Canucks this year, the team decided to move their prospect development camp to the week right after. Let’s see what went down this past week.
What does it take to be a member of the Vancouver Canucks? Prospects learn very quickly when they are thrown onto the ice at development camp and then tasked with running up the grouse grind in classic Vancouver fashion, in the pouring rain.
The Canucks development camp this year was a success, despite not having 2019 first-round pick Vasily Podkolzin in attendance, as the young Russian flew back home shortly after the draft. Nonetheless, the level of skill and pure talent on display at UBC last week was simply amazing. As Canucks’ owner Francesco Aquilini was told by his “hockey ops people”, this may be the most skill, speed and commitment ever seen at a development camp.
So who stood out the most at development camp this year? Who are these players showcasing the skill and pure talent that Francesco is referring to?
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Keep in mind, we have been spoiled with all-stars the past couple of years, as Elias Pettersson stole the show in 2017 with Quinn Hughes doing the same in 2018. Both of those players were first rounders, but 2019 second rounder Nils Hoglander was the player who had everybody picking their jaws up off the floor this year.
Hoglander was projected by many to be selected in the mid-late first round, so Judd Brackett and the rest of Canucks’ management were over the moon to select him at 40th overall. Now we know why. Hoglander showed off an incredibly deceptive release on his shot all week long along with a great set of hands and solid skating abilities.
When asked which shooters jumped out at him during camp, goaltender Michael DiPietro responded, “Hoglander’s pretty good, some shifty moves on the breakaway, that’s for sure.” Many view Hoglander as being NHL ready, although he is under contract and expected to play next season in the Swedish Hockey League with Rogle BK. It will be interesting to see if the Canucks entertain the idea of bringing him up to the big club sooner, rather than later.
"We finished camp by doing the Grouse Grind a few hours ago and the guys are still buzzing. What a trip. I knew it would be deadly, but I did not know the stairs were that steep; it started raining and everything got slippery, then it was cold too going up the mountain, which really made it a challenge. It was a great experience overall, especially because my Euro team of Hoglander, Utunen, Elefalk, Plasek and myself was unreal. That was the third activity we did away from the rink this week, we also took part in a cooking competition at Dirty Apron restaurant Tuesday night, and visited the BC Children’s Hospital Wednesday afternoon."
In classic Vancouver Canucks fashion, the prospects paid a visit to the BC Children’s Hospital. We all know how much former Canucks such as Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Roberto Luongo, and many others paid visits to BC Children’s Hospital on their days off. In my opinion, it’s important for the team to instill that sense of being involved in the community into the next wave of young Canucks.
All in all, it was a successful week for the young Canucks’ prospects, who got to experience what it takes to be a Canuck, and as Ryan Johnson said, hopefully leave the camp better players than when they showed up at the start of the week.