The Vancouver Canucks will be holding their 2021-22 rookie camp at Rogers Arena this Friday, Sept 17th. The rookie camp will kick off the team’s 2021-22 season. On Monday, the club released the roster for the rookie camp.
The camp will include multiple rookies from a first-round draft pick to late-round draft picks and even players on AHL contracts. There will be quite a few players for Canucks fans to watch out for this Friday.
The biggest name on the list is the 2019 first-round pick, Vasili Podkolzin. Fans have been looking forward to watching the team’s top prospect suit up in a Canucks jersey over the past two years. Since being drafted, he has spent the last two seasons playing with SKA St. Petersburg. Although he’s played limited minutes in the 65 games with the club, which led to him registering seven goals and 19 points over two seasons, he was impressive in the 2020-21 KHL playoffs. Podkolzin scored six goals and posted 11 points in 16 games in the postseason. He also captained Russia at the 2021 World Junior Championships, receiving praise from head coach Igor Larionov.
“I thought [Vasili Podkolzin] played outstanding for the entire tournament, battling hard, taking pucks to the net, and playing hard. I like Vasili. I think we need more players like him.”Russian head coach Igor Larionov said as reported by J.D. Burke
Podkolzin has shown off his two-way skill and his leadership ability, which makes him a potential linemate of captain Bo Horvat. He will likely have some competition for the second-line slot, as the team added Conor Garland this offseason, while Nils Hoglander and Tanner Pearson spent most of last season playing with Horvat.
Podkolzin’s appearance at rookie camp will offer fans a glimpse of what is to come for the 2019 10th overall pick. Rookie camp should be the start of a long and hopefully impressive rookie season for Podkolzin. He will be at training camp later this month and should be featured on the club’s top-nine throughout the 2021-22 season.
After trading away their first-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft to the Arizona Coyotes in a package for Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Garland, the next highest draft pick the Canucks had was the 41st pick in the second round. General manager Jim Benning took a big swing on Danila Klimovich. The second-round selection has spent most of his life playing in Belarus, which led to most scouts scrambling to find out more about him during the 2021 U18 World Championship. He scored six goals in five games, which led to him being named one of Team Belarus’ best players of the tournament. The Hockey Writers’ Matthew Zator ranks him seventh in the Top 10 Canucks prospects heading into next season.
He has many strengths as scouts have praised his speed, shot, compete level, creativity, leadership and hockey IQ. Klimovich needs to develop physically and mentally, and he will get an opportunity to do so starting this season. He will likely make the jump from playing in the Belarusian second division to the QMJHL. Benning has stated, the plan is for Klimovich to attend Rouyn’s camp then join the team at training camp. Rookie camp will be the first opportunity Canucks fans will have to get a closer look at the second-round pick.
The Canucks drafted Viktor Persson with the 191st overall pick in the seventh round of the 2020 NHL Draft. He was a potential steal for the Canucks, as TSN’s Craig Button had him ranked at number 42 in the 2020 NHL Draft class. The skilled defenceman has had a rough six months, as he was one of the last cuts for Sweden’s World Junior team. He played in 16 games with the Brynas Jr. in the Sweded J20 SuperElit league. Additionally, the Swedish Junior league was cancelled, which led to him only playing in four games and only seeing 1:20 of ice time. He was originally supposed to play with Kamloops Blazers, but the WHL cancelled its season.
Persson is a skilled defenceman who has great skating ability and jumps into the rush and recovers well, which means he never gets caught out of position. The only glaring weakness he has is his positional awareness in the defensive zone. He will be joining the Blazers this fall as long as the season is not postponed or cancelled (from ‘Canucks top 10 prospects: Viktor Persson’s puck play makes for an intriguing late pick.’ The Province, July 8, 2021). This will be his first time attending any Canucks camp since being drafted last year.
The last player to watch for on Friday is Jett Woo. The Canucks drafted Woo with the 37th overall pick in the second round of the 2018 NHL Draft. Since being drafted, he spent the following two seasons with the Moose Jaw Warriors in the 2018-19 season and the Calgary Hitmen in the 2019-20 season. He played in the AHL last season with the Utica Comets. Though 28 games, he scored three goals and posted five points. He was a solid d-partner for Jack Rathbone in Utica through the shortened season. He is a physical and smart defensive player, something the Canucks could use on their main roster. He ranks at nine in Zator’s top 10 list.
Woo will likely play with the Abbotsford Canucks next season. He will be one of the top defencemen on the AHL team and could be a player who could be called up to the main roster in case of an injury. Vancouver needs a right-handed shutdown defenceman more than anything on the blueline, and Woo fits the description. If he proves he needs a bigger look at rookie camp, he will likely be a player to watch at training camp as well.
Rookies Attending Camp Are Important
Three of the Canucks’ top 10 rookies should be graduating to the NHL in Podkolzin, Rathbone and Olli Juolevi. The remaining three rookies on this list will have an opportunity to show what they bring to the table, as the club and its fans will now need new rookies to be excited about. Klimovich will give the organization a closer look at his skill, while Woo can show if he is ready to be a potential main roster call-up during the 2021-22 season in case of an injury. Meanwhile, it will be a good opportunity to see how Persson has been affected by not being able to play competitive hockey over the past six months.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.