5 Takeaways from the Vancouver Canucks 2024 Development Camp

A look at this year's Vancouver Canucks development camp, which began on Monday at UBC with new Abbotsford Canucks coach Manny Malhotra.
Edmonton Oilers v Vancouver Canucks - Game Five
Edmonton Oilers v Vancouver Canucks - Game Five / Derek Cain/GettyImages

Almost lost within the frenzy of activity that comes with the beginning of NHL free agency, Monday also saw the start of this year's development camp for the Vancouver Canucks. Here are some takeaways from the annual camp, which concludes on Thursday with an intra-squad game at Father Bauer Arena:

1) Quality over quantity

What stood out right away, was the size of the group of club invitees this year. Whereas previously as many as 50 players could be in attendance at the camp, this time around it is just 28 (consisting of 24 skaters and four goalies).

This comes down to the Canucks organisation wanting to focus in more on the development and learning of individuals and just get to know each of them better in general. As much as this approach means less opportunities for young hopefuls to attend, it does also mean more attention and help for those who are invited.

2) Malhotra leads the way

Manny Malhorta was the ideal person to get things underway on Monday, leading the skate and flow drills. He previously joined the Canucks as a development coach back in 2016 shortly after he retired from playing, meaning he has the experience, understanding and empathy to help the young invitees through the various challenges they will face.

Malhorta left the organisation in 2020 to join the Toronto Maple Leafs coaching staff, but is now back with the Canucks as head coach for their AHL Abbotsford team. As per NHL.com's Lindsey Horsting, he said: "Obviously, the guys are a little bit nervous getting out there for the first time ... (they’ve got) new gear, ice gets chopped up real quick ... so there's a little bit of nerves out there, but for the most part, they had some really good pace to the practice and the execution was good."

3) Welcome to the show rookies

Of the 28 players in attendance, this year's batch of draft picks were always going to be one of the main areas of interest at development camp. These includes Melvin Fernström (third round), Riley Patterson (fourth round), Anthony Romani and Parker Alcos (both sixth round), and Basile Sansonnens.

Fernström is the standout, having ranked a lot higher pre-draft than his eventual landing spot at 93rd overall and with a genuine chance to become a long-term productive member of the bottom-six in the NHL, with his only real weakness being his skating. He appreciates the advantage of the development camp as almost a type of initiation so soon after being drafted, saying he's already learned plenty from the experience.

4) Learning from a couple of Canucks legends

If the invitees are going to have any hope of making in to the NHL, they can do worse than learn what it takes from two legends who are also hockey Hall of Famers. We are of course talking about Henrik and Daniel Sedin, who both enjoyed fiercely successful playing careers in Vancouver.

General manager Patrik Allvin confirmed last month that the Sedin twins, who were both already involved in player development for the organisation at both the NHL and AHL level, would become more heavily involved in the day-to-day coaching activities. For development camp specifically this means instructing smaller group drills and one-on-one assessments, which will undoubtedly prove invaluable for the invitees.

Next. 4 takeaways from the beginning of free agency for the Canucks. 4 takeaways from the beginning of free agency for the Canucks. dark

5) Last year's big hope

Arguably the main focus of attention this year is blue-liner Tom Willander, who is attending his second development camp with the Canucks organisation. Selected 11th overall in last year's NHL entry draft, he is a strong, mobile skater who defends well and is also a threat at the other end of the ice.

Willander had a fine 2023-24 season at Boston University, including producing 25 points and a +28 rating in 38 games, but is the first to acknowledge he still has plenty to learn in his development. Along these lines, as per Horsting on Monday, he said: "I just think as usual, be a sponge. Try to just get as much information from the coaches as possible. Just try to replicate stuff I see (and) stuff I hear."

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