The certainty of the Vancouver Canucks 2015-2016 lineup is far from concrete. It seems as though some inconsistent moves were made over the summer and fans in Vancouver have been showing their discontent for what they feel was a lack of return for key parts of their franchise being shipped out. But with a recent endorsement from franchise staple Alexandre Burrows who in an interview on the Canucks own website said “I put my confidence in our management group of Jim Benning and Trevor Linden…they’re obviously intelligent people with a plan, and last season was the first year of their plan” it seems as though the roster is buying into the system – which as we all know can make all the difference.
Even with the ratification of the plan that Benning and Linden have for the club, there is absolutely no doubt that the team is leaving some roster spots up for grabs. With the obvious contenders being 2014 first round choice Jake Virtanen, there are some other names in the Canucks system that might just make an unexpected splash at training camp come September.
Alexandre Grenier (RW ~ 23 Years Old)
Grenier posted 43 points in 67 games for the Utica Comets this past season, and netted 17 goals for the second consecutive season. Now there is no denying that 17 goals in the American Hockey League does not translate to the same statistics in the National Hockey League, but Grenier proved more than his ability to produce depth scoring. Grenier was a reliable two-way player for the Comets this season and his plus-13 proves it. At 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds Grenier is no small body. If he can take his game from the American League level to the NHL, his size alone might earn him a spot on the roster.
It’s unsure of what Grenier’s role would be with the Canucks, but if the team is looking for some bottom six depth that can both produce and impose, Grenier would be a great option.
Ludwig Blomstrand (LW ~ 22 Years Old)
Definitely the darkest horse on here if that makes sense. Ludwig Blomstrand is a prospect that follows in Vancouver’s long and proven history of utilizing Scandinavian talent to bolster their roster. So often players from Scandinavia are drafter in the later rounds of the NHL draft (or not at all) and are so easily coached that they can be developed into impact players. With Blomstrand, he’s played two full seasons of professional hockey in North America and still hasn’t been able to break out of the East Coast Hockey League. Rough life? Not really.
Blomstrand went from producing just 27 points in 43 ECHL games in 2013-14 to netting 33 goals in 53 games this past year for a total of 45 points. More than likely Blomstrand will find himself with a fulltime role in Utica this year, but don’t be shocked if Blomstrand comes to camp and wows with his skill and development. If you’re a gambler, Blomstrand might be a good bet to see some NHL action this year should injuries plague the Canucks lineup.
Mackenze Stewart (D ~ 20 Years Old)
There isn’t much information out there on Mackenze Stewart. Realistically if the Canucks hadn’t of taken him 186th overall in 2014, Stewart may not have found himself an NHL team to work with. After watching some clips of the Canucks midsummer prospect camp Stewart looked like he might be a replacement for Todd Bertuzzi. At 6-foot-4 and 216 pounds, Stewart isn’t afraid to get physical. In fact, General Manager Jim Benning drafted him because he saw raw talent and a willingness to get dirty.
Although Stewart only put up eleven points this year with the Prince Albert Raiders of the Western Hockey League, he sure did make a point of displaying his offensive potential at prospect camp. He’s not going to break the roster this year, but Canucks fans might find themselves becoming a bit more aware of the name Mackenze Stewart in the years to come.
Cole Cassels (C ~ 20 Years Old)
At 85th overall no one imagines that you might find your next franchise second-line center, but Cole Cassels who was drafted at just that spot in the 2013 NHL draft might just be that guy. In 54 games with Oshawa this past season Cassels recorded 81 points. In the playoffs Cassels was touted as being the only reason that Erie’s Connor McDavid was held from being a factor in the game. Cassels brings the whole package of a true professional athlete, he just needs a bit more seasoning before he can be relied on as a legitimate NHL option.
There is no way Cassels will play in Vancouver this coming year, but he will surely see significant time in Utica and might just be a player that can develop in just a handful of years. Expect to see Cassels making big impacts during the pre-season and hanging on longer than anyone expects.