The feisty Frenchman is back, Sven Baertischi is too good for the AHL and the future in the crease. Checking in with the farm system of the Vancouver Canucks!
The farm system of the Vancouver Canucks is working well, and there are many players who have trickled down the system, dispersing quality throughout. While the Kalamazoo Wings are doing their thing in the ECHL, teaching Jake Kielly the rigours of professional hockey, there is also the top of the farm food chain, with the premium players on the Utica Comets.
After watching both the K-Wings and the Comets in person over the last few weekends, here are my thoughts on the Canucks’ minor leagues moving forward.
Antoine Roussel returns, and a possible future duo?
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Antoine Roussel, a fan favourite of the Vancouver Canucks has returned to the ice and is on a rehab assignment with the Utica Comets. His linemate through two games? Kole Lind and the two have hit off; hinting at a possible winger combination in the future of the Vancouver Canucks.
Roussel is a known quantity; he bangs and bashes until he gets the puck back, but is also skilled. His traits work well with a player such as the young Lind, who bases his game off skill rather than grit.
At many points during Saturday’s game against the Toronto Marlies at the Leaf’s Scotiabank Arena, the two linked together for dangerous scoring opportunities. Right on the first shift, Lind was able to find Roussel in the open, giving the Frenchman a very good scoring chance.
Lind’s second season in pro hockey has been much better than his first, finding 15 points in 21 games, including a goal Saturday. With Roussel down in the minors for a likely short period of time, Lind has the chance to learn from an experienced NHL winger, who will be able to show him what it takes to get to the top levels of the game.
After last year’s kerfuffle, the Goaltender’s are set for the future.
Jake Kielly and Michael DiPietro have been doing well for their respective teams this season, with the latter dominating in the AHL. Kielly has had a tougher job than DiPietro, as the K-Wings have one of the ECHL’s weaker lineups, but having only just made the transition from university late last year, his play has been promising.
In the game against the Brampton Beast, he stopped four high-quality chances and showed to be a hard-working, yet acrobatic goalie throughout the game. Making the transition from NCAA to pro hockey is difficult, but Kielly has shown lots of promise in his first paid season.
One level up, Dipietro is having the time of his life. Ahead of the season, some expected him, instead of Kielly to be pulling on the K-Wings red and blue, but that has not been the case as he has put up a .926 save percentage in the AHL. With him exceeding expectations, it’s no surprise that he has taken the starting job in Utica away from Richard Bachman and Zane McIntyre.
He learned a lot in his NHL debut trouncing (7-2 loss against SJS) last season and has brought those lessons into the Comet’s crease. When the Canucks have needed an extra goalie this season they have still turned to the more experienced McIntyre, but that’s the right choice for now. Game time and consistency are needed for DiPietro before becoming a callup.
With the Seattle expansion draft this offseason along with the expiration of Jacob Markstrom’s contract, “Mikey” could see himself as Vancouver’s backup come 2020-21.
Why is Baertschi in the AHL?
It took me only 17 minutes to realize how much better Sven Baertschi is than the rest of the AHL. Having recently come down from the Canucks, the Swiss-born forward is in his best possible form, but that form is too good for the American League.
He’s able to find holes on the ice that no one else sees. As we can see on this goal, Baertschi disregards the puck and finds space through the puck watching Marlies defenseman. This opened him up and gave him a clear look at the goal. This move is an NHL move and something that should not be banished into the AHL, most NHL defenseman will shut this down, and it’s an example of how much better he is than the competition he’s currently facing.
I’m not planning on doing a “47 reasons why Baertschi should be called up again” like site expert David Quadrelli, but this goal speaks for itself. Sven Beartschi should be in the NHL.
It has been very cool to see all the different levels of the organization over the last two weeks, and Vancouver’s farm system is very healthy. It’s been a better year on the west coast, and that has trickled down through the levels of North American hockey. The good times have just started, and with the minor league talent, they’re going to be here for a long time.