Canucks prospects of week 25: DiPietro, MacEwen and Rathbone

Each and every week, I will be featuring the Vancouver Canucks’ top three prospects. Here’s a look at who stood out in week 25.

This week, the top prospects of the Vancouver Canucks feature a top-notch goaltending performance, a prospect who has emerged as a bona fide National Hockey League player, as well as a college defenceman who paced his team to an opening-round series victory in the NCAA playoffs.

1. Michael DiPietro

As the Utica Comets attempt to solidify a playoff spot in the North Division of the American Hockey League, they will need solid goaltending. The Comets indeed received that this week from rookie netminder Michael DiPietro. His superb puck-stopping in the two games he started proved to be the difference.

In the Wednesday night game, a 3-1 victory over the Rochester Americans, DiPietro kicked aside 36 of the 37 shots he faced. He followed that performance by stopping 33 of 34 shots in a 2-1 win versus the Charlotte Checkers. Dipietro earned the second star of the game honour in both of those starts with a combined save percentage of .972.

The Comets currently sit third in the division, two points back of the Americans and five points ahead of the Binghamton Devils.

2. Zack MacEwen

If Friday night’s game is any indication, the Utica Comets may have seen the last of Zack MacEwen.

The big-bodied forward made his presence felt for the Canucks early in the contest versus the Colorado Avalanche, with his aggressive forecheck.

He delivered a crunching blow, setting the tone in what turned out to be a fast-paced game throughout. Not only did MacEwen play physical, but he provided a pair of timely goals.

His first goal came unassisted, early in the second period, as he raced down the right boards and fired one past Avalanche goaltender Pavel Francouz, to put the Canucks ahead 3-1. He later scored the insurance marker with the Avs pressing for the equalizer at 16:43 of the third period.

MacEwen earned the first star of the game for his excellent performance in helping the Canucks get a much-needed victory.

3. Jack Rathbone

The Harvard University Crimson swept their best-of-three series versus St. Lawrence University and defenceman Jack Rathbone played a significant part. Rathbone provided the insurance marker in a 5-3 victory in game one of the series on a terrific goal, going coast-to-coast before unleashing a hard wrist shot that found the back of the net. He also led the team with ten shots on goal in the contest.

In game two, Rathbone added a pair of first-period assists to provide the Crimson with the early jump. They cruised to a 7-1 victory and now move on to play Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute next weekend in the ECAC quarterfinals.

Honourable mentions

SKA St. Petersburg swept their opening-round series versus Podolsk, with Vasili Podkolzin earning points in three of the four games. The final match of the series went to triple overtime, giving Podkolzin some valuable playoff experience.

Podkolzin played a very responsible game and provided his team with a few excellent scoring opportunities as well. His game is very mature, especially given his young age. When he arrives in Vancouver, it won’t take long for him to earn the coach’s trust. His ability to play up and down the lineup is also a feature that bodes well in making the jump to the NHL.

Two other Comets that deserve mentioning are goaltender Jake Kielly who earned his first AHL victory in a 3-2 overtime game versus the Charlotte Checkers on Saturday night, as well as Brogan Rafferty, who added a pair of assists in the win.

Next: Should Canucks extend Tanner Pearson in offseason?

Make sure to come back next week to see which of these outstanding young prospects are featured.

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