According to multiple reports, Vancouver Canucks’ general manager Jim Benning is attempting to sign several players.
The salary cap uncertainty that teams now face due to the lost revenue brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic is making these signings more precarious, and it’s a good thing that Vancouver Canucks general managar Jim Benning was ableto get NCAA free agent forwards Marc Michaelis and Will Lockwood under contract in March.
He is said to be exploring a reunion with defenceman Nikita Tryamkin, while additionally trying to lock up drafted prospects Nils Hoglander and Jack Rathbone (per Rick Dhaliwal of TSN 1040) The Canucks have also been linked to and said to be a front-runner for Swedish free agent Mathias Brome. Let’s look at each of the players they are attempting to get under contract and what they have to offer the organization should their signings come to fruition.
The possible return of the mammoth 6-foot-7 defender has been met with mixed emotions by Canuck fans. Some are questioning his unwillingness to want anything to do with spending time in the American Hockey League should it be required. Others allude to his declining production and ice-time, seeing it as a regression.
As someone who spends numerous hours watching Vancouver prospects play, including Tryamkin, I don’t share any of those concerns. He is an above-average skater, particularly for someone his size, and his transition game is well-suited for the up-tempo game that head coach Travis Green prefers.
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Labelled unfairly as ” The Friendly Giant,” Tryamkin led his Kontinental Hockey League club Yekaterinburg Avtomobilist in both hits with 110 and penalty minutes with 61.
His ability to clear the front of the net and overall physicality are characteristics currently lacking from Vancouver’s back end. Tryamkin also offers versatility, as he can play both the right and left side.
The negativity towards his diminishing ice time is likewise an unwarranted criticism. Tryamkin averaged 19:51 of playing time per game during the regular season, which was second on the team.
However, during the playoffs, his TOI increased to a club best 22:48. Tryamkin also led the defencemen in hits with 18 and shots on goal with 17. Avtomobilist were eliminated 4-1 in their opening-round playoff series.
If the Canucks manage to re-sign the big-bodied defender, he, like all those before him, will need to earn the trust of coach Green. He won’t be gifted ice time and will need to earn it. In my opinion, he is likely to start as a bottom pairing defencemen with the opportunity to garner top-four minutes as the season progresses.
The makeup of the blueline for next season is likely to be much different than the 2019-2020 roster. Both Chris Tanev and Oscar Fantenburg will become unrestricted free agents, and Troy Stecher is a pending restricted free agent with arbitration rights. Their returns are questionable. In my opinion, re-signing Tryamkin and the intangibles he brings — on a cost-friendly contract — make a lot of sense.
When the Canucks used the 95th overall selection in the fourth round of the 2017 NHL entry draft to select Dexter-Southfield High School defenceman Jack Rathbone, I knew nothing about him. Rathbone attended the Canucks’ Summer Development Camp that season, and I remember reading about him and seeing a few clips and became intrigued.
Rathbone returned to Dexter-Southfield for the 2017-2018 season rather than attending Harvard University, to remain with his younger brother Terry, who has autism. When I became aware that Hockey TV streamed U.S. high school hockey, and that some of Dexter-Southfield’s games were available, I quickly subscribed.
My first impression when I saw him play was, “Wow, can this kid ever skate.” Never having watched high school hockey before I wasn’t sure if it was just the level of competition or was he really as good as he appeared?
I watched half a dozen or so of the 17 games he played that season, each time impressed and excited by what I witnessed. Rathbone registered 11 goals and 19 assists in those 17 games and named to the USHS All-USA Hockey Second Team.
When the high school hockey season had finished, Rathbone rejoined the Cape Cod Whalers midget team, for which he had previously played, in their bid for a national championship. Those games were also available on Hockey TV. The Whalers fell short, but Rathbone recorded four goals in the eight games played.
His transition to the Harvard Crimson and NCAA hockey seemed rather smooth. Rathbone slid in on the top pairing with Adam Fox for the 2018-2019 season, before Fox went on to sign with the New York Rangers. It was a bit of a role change for Rathbone, as he was now the stay-at-home defender in that pairing, although he still managed to join the rush occasionally.
Harvard coach Ted Donato knew precisely the type of player he was getting in Rathbone, as his brother Danny Donato is the coach at Dexter-Southfield. In his first season at Harvard, Rathbone managed seven goals and 22 points in 33 games earning NCAA (ECAC) All-Rookie Team honours.
His second season with the Crimson saw Rathbone play a more significant role. He helped the Crimson power play to a 31.2 percent success rate, which led the nation while being a fixture on the penalty kill as well. Rathbone produced at a 1.11 points-per-game clip recording seven goals and 31 points in 28 games played. He earned NCAA (All-USCHO) Second-Team, NCAA (ECAC) First-Team and NCAA All-Ivy League First Team recognition for his efforts.
Rathbone is both an elite skater and passer, which makes for an exceptional transition game. His ability to execute tape-to-tape stretch passes makes for high-quality zone exits. This aspect of his game is already better than any current Canuck defender not named Quinn Hughes. He also can throw open ice body checks and exercise tight gap control due to how well he skates. Rathbone is still in the process of deciding whether or not to turn pro or return to Harvard for another year. When he does finally sign, the team will have added another young player to excite the fans.