The Vancouver Canucks have a solid group of defensive prospects on the way. We project when each of those young guns will be with the club full-time.
With 28 games to go in 2019-20, the Vancouver Canucks are having an excellent season. They sit atop the Pacific Division, largely on the backs of their scoring and goaltending.
However, if there has been one major question mark for the Canucks this season, it has been their defence. The blueline has been unabashedly average so far (mediocre, if you will), with the team sitting middle of the pack in plenty of defensive stats.
Unfortunately, there are more questions than answers for the future, as in the coming years, the team’s cap situation will likely force the departure of a number of veteran defenders. Replacing them will be a host of prospects, so today let’s take a look at the young guns and project when each of the Canucks’ top defensive prospects will fit into a full-time NHL role.
Brogan Rafferty, in my opinion, is the likeliest of these candidates to join the Vancouver blueline by 2020-21. Vancouver signed the 24-year-old undrafted defender from Quinnipiac University late last season, and he immediately shattered all expectations playing in the AHL with the Utica Comets.
So far, he has 39 points in just 44 games, which is tops among all Utica defencemen. Rafferty has been tasked with quarterbacking the Comets’ power play, and he represented Utica at the AHL All-Star weekend, during which he recorded five points. In 2019-20, Rafferty has been to the Comets what Quinn Hughes has been to the Canucks.
While not all players that succeed in the AHL are able to transition that success to the top level, Rafferty has the tools to make an NHL career a reality, as long as he gets the opportunity. As it happens, that opportunity may arise by next season.
This offseason, both Chris Tanev and Troy Stecher will be free agents, and considering the Canucks’ currently tight salary cap situation, one will likely be on the move — leaving an opening on the right side of the blueline.
Without the cap space available to bring in outside signings, the team will have to look to its future. Of their right-handed defensive prospects, Rafferty is by far the most NHL-ready talent and will hopefully be able to enter a bottom-pairing role smoothly.