Canucks Prospect Cassels Conquering McDavid In OHL Finals

Cassels Giving A Glimpse Of The Future For Canucks

Cole Cassels, Oshawa Generals
Cole Cassels caught the eye of Canucks scouts with his versatile style of play, prior to drafting him in the 3rd round, 85th overall in 2013.

You can bet Jim Benning and company are watching the OHL Championship Series and Canucks top prospect Cole Cassels of the Oshawa Generals very closely. You can also bet the Canucks organization should be thrilled with Cassels’ development and what he’s doing right now in the OHL. Cassels is a big reason why the Generals jumped out to a 2-0 series lead over Connor McDavid’s Erie Otters, outscoring them 9-1 in the process, and his developing versatile game is a glimpse of the near future for every optimistic Canucks fan.

How Cassels Is Besting McDavid

McDavid came into the OHL Finals with 42 points in 15 games, and his point-per-game average has dropped off remarkably in the OHL Finals while being matched mostly against Cassels. Oshawa has worked to take away McDavid’s time and space and crowd up the neutral zone and limit his possession time. Cassels has been the focal point of their success thus far in doing this, and his skill in the faceoff circle while matched against McDavid has been crucial in keeping the puck off of Otters’ sticks.

McDavid was on pace to set franchise records and OHL records in playoff scoring, which has tailed off in this series. Through two games McDavid had one assist and was a minus-4, while his counterpart Cassels had a goal, two assists and was a plus-4.

Cassels, who ranked 4th in the OHL playoffs heading into game 3 of the finals with 22 points in 18 games, is best known for his versatile play. At 6-foot, 180 pounds, you’d think he’s much bigger on the ice by his often intimidating physical presence. He’s responsible defensively and has proven to be an offensive threat in the OHL, with a pass-first mentality much like his father, Andrew Cassels.

But with 54 regular season goals over the last two seasons, Cassels is pretty effective at putting pucks in the net.

What This Means For The Canucks

20 year old Cassels will take part in his second Canucks training camp, and the experience and success he’s had in his overage major junior year will only benefit him and the Canucks organization. Cassels likely isn’t ready to jump into an NHL role like fellow 20 year-old center Bo Horvat. However, his hard working, two way style of play – which at times is rugged and other times graceful, suggests that he may be ready sooner than you think, as he offers different assets than other up and coming players in the Canucks’ system.

One thing that’s for sure is Cassels should be in good shape come training camp, playing hockey this late into the spring. And it looks like the Columbus, Ohio native has some good training connections.

The Vancouver Canucks are looking to add more youth to their lineup moving forward, and Cassels is proving that he should be an important piece to the puzzle for the future of the organization, based on his character and versatile skill set. Cassels isn’t the most prolific Canucks prospect, but he can be effective in all areas of the ice and for that reason, he may have the largest impact.

Connor McDavid
Game 2 in the OHL Finals was the first time Connor McDavid was held without a point since March 11th – a span of almost two months. (OHL Images)

The entire season we’ve heard of the hype of Connor McDavid, and rightfully so. But seeing just how well Cassels has played his role and matched up against McDavid should not be overlooked. Cassels success during his encore year in the OHL has undoubtedly been noticed by the Canucks. And with Vancouver’s short playoff run, and the end of the season for a number of Canucks prospects, Cassels is on center stage and garnering attention from not only Vancouver, but much of the hockey world.

Cassels accomplishments in his encore OHL season in Oshawa have become noteworthy at this point in the season, and at this rate his Generals may be marching towards an OHL Championship and a spot in the Memorial Cup.