3 Canucks Prospects That Need Strong 2022-23 Seasons

A new hockey season is underway and that means elevated expectations for Vancouver Canucks prospects entering another year of development – especially for those who were drafted before 2020. It may be unfair, but if these players aren’t showing progression two or three seasons after their draft year, they are often labeled as a bust. Also, as new and shiny picks and free-agent signings enter the pipeline, they risk dropping off the depth chart entirely and ending up as trade bait. That is why it’s so important for the following trio of Canucks prospects to break through the proverbial wall this season and show management that they are still worth keeping around.

Jett Woo

Jett Woo hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire since being drafted 37th overall by the Canucks in 2018. Now 22 years old and in the early stages of his third season in the American Hockey League (AHL), he only has five goals and 13 points in 72 games and has yet to suit up for an NHL game. Profiled as a two-way monster that could influence a game with his puck movement and physicality, he’s been a little underwhelming so far at the AHL level.

Related: Canucks Need to See Woo & Klimovich in the NHL in 2022-23

Showing a lot of promise and potential out of junior where he finished with 33 goals and 160 points in 242 games split between the Moose Jaw Warriors and Calgary Hitmen, Woo definitely has the pedigree to become a good top-four defender in the NHL. The Canucks hope he can get there at some point because he holds an impressive skillset that is desperately needed on the roster right now. Unfortunately, he has yet to organize those tools into a toolbox that is good enough for a call-up ahead of veterans like Noah Juulsen, Christian Wolanin, and Wyatt Kalynuk.

Jett Woo Vancouver Canucks
Jett Woo, Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The 2022-23 season needs to be Woo’s breakout year where he establishes himself as a reliable and dominant defender in the AHL. Three games into the new season, he has yet to find the scoresheet and sports a minus-2 along with seven shots on goal. He has also taken some heat already for his work in the defensive zone from Corey Severtson, who covers the Abbotsford Canucks for Canucks Army. He called it “genuinely pathetic defending” in a Tweet during the 8-2 thrashing by the Ontario Reign on Oct. 14. If he hopes to impress management enough to get a call-up to the NHL this season, those types of shifts have to be few and far between, or he risks staying in the AHL for another full campaign – maybe even becoming trade bait at the deadline.

Carson Focht

Another prospect that will be under the microscope after an underwhelming 2021-22 season is 2019 fifth-round pick, Carson Focht. Now not a lot should be expected of a player that was selected that far down in the draft, but after an impressive stint in the Western Hockey League (WHL) with the Hitmen, I was hoping for a little more fireworks at the AHL level. Like Woo, he is in the midst of his third season of pro hockey and has struggled to produce much offensively with nine goals and 24 points in 71 games so far.

Focht was a prolific scorer with the Hitmen, hitting a career-high 32 goals in 2019-20, but has not found that type of a scoring touch in the AHL. With a goal in the Canucks’ overtime win against the Bakersfield Condors last week and another against the Coachella Valley Firebirds last night (Oct. 21), maybe this will be the year he turns it around and gets into double-digits in goals.

Described by former-general manager (GM) Jim Benning as “competitive and a hard worker [with a] good two-way game and speed on the forecheck to force plays”, Focht could still become a solid third or fourth-line player in the NHL, but he has to start finding some consistency in the AHL before that can happen (from ‘Ben Kuzma: Is hotshot Carson Focht another Canucks fifth-round find?’, The Province, 7/23/20). He needs to make it difficult for head coach Jeremy Colliton to take him out of the lineup, and that means scoring goals and being extremely tough to play against. So far, he’s doing just that with two goals in his first two games. Here’s hoping he can do it for a full season.

Arvid Costmar

Finally, there’s Arvid Costmar, a somewhat forgotten prospect since he scored two goals at the 2021 World Juniors for Team Sweden en route to being named a top-three player for his team. Not really known for his offensive exploits, it was surprising to see that type of production, so naturally, expectations were a little elevated at the start of the 2021-22 season. But like Focht, he struggled to produce and ended the season with only three goals and seven points in 48 games playing for Linköping HC in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL).

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Now 21 years old, and still looking for his first NHL contract, Costmar needs to stand out this season especially considering the Canucks’ GM is now Patrik Allvin and knows the SHL and its players very well. If he doesn’t believe Costmar is worth a contract, then he probably doesn’t have much of a chance at making the NHL one day. Although, stranger things have happened.

Fortunately, Costmar is off to a good start with one goal in 11 games so far. Though he has gone four games without a goal and saw his ice time drop to a season-low 8:21 on Oct. 18, only to see it increase to a high of 12:57 against Brynas IF on Oct. 20. He definitely has the tools to become a solid bottom-six center in the NHL – maybe even more so than Focht, as scouts have described him as a smart player with good defensive instincts. He also showed some grit and Brad Marchand-like qualities during the 2021 WJC, which as we all know are great qualities to have in the playoffs.

Costmar still has to work on his skating, but like Linus Karlsson, who is now finally in North America, the Canucks need to see him on the smaller ice to see how far his development has come. Hopefully, that will happen with an entry-level contract (ELC) at the end of the season and an AHL debut in 2023-24.

All in all, these three prospects need to find a way to have their biggest years yet and force the Canucks to keep them in the organization. For a pipeline that could use all the help it can get, they can’t afford to have even later-round picks fall through the cracks and become “forgotten prospects”. Hopefully next year I am talking about Woo, Focht, and Costmar as core players of the farm system rather than on the outside looking in.

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