Vancouver Canucks prospect Brogan Rafferty is grabbing the attention of everybody down in the AHL with the Utica Comets.
It caught many people by surprise when the Vancouver Canucks elected to not draft a single defenceman at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. Aside from Quinn Hughes, the team’s defence prospects weren’t nearly as impressive as what the team boasted at the forward positions, so it was interesting to see them elect to not draft any blueliners.
The Canucks made some NCAA free agent signings last March, acquiring goaltender Jake Kielly, and defencemen Josh Teves and Brogan Rafferty. Kielly is in the ECHL with the Kalamazoo Wings, while Teves and Rafferty are currently honing their craft with the Utica Comets in the AHL.
Rafferty and Teves both saw some preseason action, but Teves was among the first sent home. Rafferty, on the other hand, was given an extended look, and faired well in the preseason games he got into. He looked poised with and without the puck, was skating hard, and continuously made all the right plays.
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Some pondered whether or not he could challenge for the seventh d-man spot out of camp. Just kidding, that was only me.
Rather than sit him in the press box, the Canucks elected to send Rafferty down to the Comets where he could further learn the tools of the trade at the professional level. Much like he did during his preseason stint with the Canucks, Rafferty has made good on his opportunity with the Comets.
Rafferty is currently tied with former Canuck Derrick Pouliot for first in scoring amongst AHL defencemen. The two blueliners both currently sit at 21 points. Rafferty’s 21 points also leave him tied for second amongst all rookie AHL skaters.
Rafferty’s play away from the puck has been just as impressive. Say what you will about plus minus, but Rafferty’s +13 is tied for seventh among AHL defencemen. Rafferty is garnering attention for all the right reasons, and in the event of an injury or a trade, the Canucks would be smart to try to get a longer look at Rafferty at the NHL level.
Rafferty has run with every opportunity he’s been given by the Canucks. Next year, when Rafferty will be 25, may be the right time to give him an honest shot at cracking the big club’s lineup. Troy Stecher is a pending RFA and Chris Tanev is set to hit unrestricted free agency this June.
The right side of the Canucks blue line could look different next year, and if Rafferty continues to impress down in Utica, he could quickly be apart of the new look defence corps. Until then, the Canucks would be ill-advised to put all their eggs in one basket and bet on Rafferty being legit; rather, it would be wise to get a longer look at Rafferty at the NHL level in order to have a better idea as to whether or not he can be a fit.
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So far this season, Rafferty has gotten everybody’s attention — that’s for sure.