Of the Canucks’ top five prospects on defence, Jack Rathbone is the most distant away from a full-time role in the NHL, though not for lack of readiness or ability. Rathbone has been tearing up the NCAA ever since starting at Harvard University last season.
In 2018-19, he put up 22 points in 33 games while playing in a sheltered role on the Harvard blueline, but Rathbone has since exploded since taking over the top spot on Harvard’s power play from New York Rangers defenceman Adam Fox. Rathbone has 18 points in 17 games, and he’s now among the best in a deep prospect pool. Rathbone certainly has a future in the NHL, the only question is when.
In my opinion, Canucks fans will have to wait until 2022 to see the 2017 fourt- round pick in blue and green. As I have described already, opportunities to join the Canucks’ defensive corps on the right side will be quite limited beyond 2020.
Should Rathbone sign in Vancouver in the next couple years, he would very likely end up in Utica for the first couple seasons. Playing in the AHL is not inherently bad, but the alternative is to keep playing at Harvard, one of the top academic institutions. Should he stay in school, he can graduate with a very valuable and well-respected degree.
The NHL is never a guarantee, so a backup degree goes a long way, especially when it is obtained while playing top pairing minutes. We can never know the specifics of the decision-making process for Rathbone and his family, but I know what choice I would make in his position.