With the ‘youth movement’ in full swing here for the Vancouver Canucks, there aren’t any players more excited than the guys who are benefiting from it. Guys like Sven Baertschi, Bo Horvat, Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann. Throw Ben Hutton, Jacob Markstrom and Emerson Etem in there, and the Canucks are not even recognizable from the teams that was last coached by John Tortorella and even prior to him, Alain Vigneault. Canucks kids are looking to make their marks with their veteran teammates and with their coaches and fans.
When Trevor Linden and Jim Benning took over after the firing of Mike Gillis, they said there would be change. However, contracts given out by the previous regime, loss of draft picks in trades, and fan loyalty were some impediments to have to deal with in moving forward as a team and an organization. Despite some questionable moves Benning and Linden have made along the way, they are sticking to their plan and building up the empty cupboards by giving opportunities to young players of the organization.
Let’s have a look at the young men of this organization. See what they offer currently, what they can improve in their game and what we can expect from them in the future.
Stats: 5’11, 190 lbs
Birthplace: Bern, Switzerand
Position: Left Wing
Baertschi was traded from Calgary last season for a 2nd round pick. At the beginning of the season, Sven still had to be stronger on the puck, work harder along the boards, but since that seven game road trip, Baertschi started to show us, just what he can do. What he can do is finish. Baertschi has the natural talent of a goal scorer and ability to find the play. With not impressing Calgary, they were ready to part ways with him and has been given a second chance here in Vancouver. When he first was acquired by the Canucks organization, he was sent to Utica to work with Travis Green. He’s found himself a roster spot on the big team and playing along side Bo Horvat and Radim Vrbata. Sven has found chemistry with Horvat. If this continues in the near future we could be seeing parts of a line that will eventually replace the Sedin’s production.
Stats: 6’1”, 212 lbs
Birthplace: Long Beach, CA, USA
Position: Right Wing
Emerson Etem came to us via trade with the New York Rangers. A young, fast winger with the potential to crash and bang with the best of them. He brings, speed, size, youth and some grit with him. Alain Vigneault doesn’t see him in his coaching plans, but the Canucks can see what he could offer here. Although we’ve only seen one game from Etem, I liked what I saw. He drew three of the four penalties against Florida, including the OT on Jagr, which lead to the Daniel Sedin powerplay goal. I’m looking forward to seeing more for Etem on this road trip.
Stats: 6’0”, 202 lbs
Birthplace: London, ON, Canada
With a very good rookie season behind him, Bo Horvat hit what some called a sophomore slump. He went 27 games between goals. A very long drought in the eyes of the public, media, and even Bo Horvat. Through his point production slump, Horvat has had to take on more responsibility when Brandon Sutter went down with injury. He’s had to take on the No.2 centre position and increased his minutes tremendously. He was still playing a good defensive game and did many of the little things right. Eventually, although he was in a big goal drought, with taking care of all the little things, Bo has been rewarded with some goals as of late. He’s also developed some good chemistry with Sven Baertschi. I’d like to have that play out for as long as we can have it in Vancouver.
Stats: 6’0”, 179 lbs
Birthplace: Stratford, ON, Canada
McCann came in to the season guns blazing. Some quick goals and some great moves. He’s fast, he’s got the instinct to go to the net. He has some scoring prowess. As a centre, you can see his game in how he sees the ice. However, as a centre, he also needs to learn how to win face-offs. He’s got all the tools to be a very good 2nd line centre. Although in terms of points, McCann has slowed down, if he keeps doing the right things, you can see McCann really blossom in the next couple of years. Horvat and McCann as 1 and 2 after the Sedins retire looks more promising than not.
Stats: 6’1”, 208 lbs
Birthplace: New Westminster, BC, Canada
Position: Right Wing
Jake Virtanen didn’t quite figure out the NHL as quickly as his draft mate, McCann did . However, what you get from Jake is a hard hitting player with some scoring ability. Virtanen doesn’t quite have the size of a typical power forward, but he has the skill set to play that game if he wants. What we saw in the World Junior tournament was a Virtanen that was already used to playing with the level of intensity it takes to play the NHL game. I can see Jake being an impact player for this team. People are joking around calling him the next “Jannik Hansen” and I like it, but I think he’s more a Martin Gelinas type of player. That’s just the vibe I get from Virtanen when he plays.
Stats: 6’2”, 183 lbs
Birthplace: Brockville, ON, Canada
Hutton came out of camp with no expectations, but clearly was the stand out defenceman out of the class who had little to no NHL experience. He played so well, he ended up taking the spot of one Frank Corrado, who was subsequently waived (although I thought I was a bad move) to make room for Hutton on the blue-line. What Hutton brings is the smooth skating ability much like Mattias Ohlund, with some offensive creativity of Jyrki Lumme. He looks calm and relaxed out there and with him back, he’s made Weber play a little better recently. Hutton, along with Tanev and Sbisa will be part of the blue line for a while to come.
With such drastic moves towards getting the team younger, we as fans, have to know it’s going to be a process. Growing pains are expected and we, as a fanbase, should be more patient with the changes.