It’s Monday, so that means it’s time for another edition of the Vancouver Canucks prospects report. This week saw more standout performances as top prospect Jack Rathbone finally made his AHL debut much to the delight of Canucks fans everywhere. The Utica Comets are on a roll with two straight wins against the Rochester Americans and Syracuse Crunch thanks to him and Jonah Gadjovich, who also put together a multi-point week.
Overseas saw Vasili Podkolzin return from a concussion and Joni Jurmo score two goals, while Jack Malone continued his strong start to the season in the NCAA with the Youngstown Phantoms. That and a whole lot more as we continue to recap and analyze the performances of all the prospects throughout the Canucks pipeline.
Jack Rathbone Lights the AHL on Fire
Up until last week, Rathbone was with the Canucks practicing with the taxi squad, devoid of game action and proper development. Yes, he was skating with NHL players and receiving pointers from NHL coaches, but practice is never the same as getting into an actual game. So when he was officially sent down to the Comets to prepare for his first pro game, it must have been music to his ears.
From the minute Rathbone stepped onto the ice with the Comets, he didn’t look out of place. In fact, he looked absolutely amazing, skating miles and using his creativity and hockey IQ to create chances from the blueline. His efforts did not go unrewarded either, as he recorded his first three points (all assists) in his debut against the Americans. Paired almost exclusively with fellow rookie Jett Woo, he made everything look easy like he had been playing in the league for years.
In a somewhat surprising turn of events, Rathbone also drew praise for his defensive game as his head coach Trent Cull was impressed with what he saw out of the young defenceman in his own zone.
[H]e’ll be a guy that we can’t wait to coach more of. I mean he’s such a good student, he wants to learn and he’s just a really good kid. Then you see how he snaps pucks and has that ability to move it and do it at a really good level. It’s something that’s a blessing. Every coach loves that, you love when a guy can snap and move pucks because that means you’re not spending time in your D zone.
In addition to his work defensively, he also moved the puck around like it was on a string both at five-on-five and on the power play. Cull again praised him, this time for his ability to walk the line, as he compared his skills to that of an NHL defenceman.
Jack walks the line in the o-zone as good as anybody I’ve seen in this league…His head is always up when he has the puck, and he snaps pucks like an NHLer, you can see that immediately.
Rathbone has basically picked up where he left off in the NCAA with the Harvard Crimson. Last season he was all-world as he took over from Adam Fox who is now skating with the New York Rangers. In only 28 games he posted seven goals and 31 points and showed everyone why he should have been taken sooner than the fourth round in 2017. All the skills that he displayed with the Crimson were on center stage with the Comets, and he’s only going to get better.
Rathbone continued his hot start to the season against the Crunch with another assist, bringing his total to four points in his first two games. He will look to continue his first professional point streak on Wednesday when they meet the Americans for the fourth time already this season.
Jonah Gadjovich & Kole Lind
Gadjovich continued his hot start to the season with another two goals and three points this week as he was a big part of the 7-2 dismantling of the Americans on Friday night. He once again used his big body to create chances on the forecheck and his deadly wrist shot to up his season’s total to six goals in seven games. We are finally seeing flashes of the player that put together a 46-goal season in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with the Owen Sound Attack and was eventually drafted in the second round by the Canucks.
Fellow second-round pick, Kole Lind also had a good week recording a goal and three points. He now has five goals in seven games as he trails Gadjovich for the team lead.
Lukas Jasek & Jett Woo
Jasek had another strong week with the Comets, as he continued to transform from a winger to a dependable two-way centerman. He played on the top-line with Lind and Sven Baertschi on Saturday against the Crunch and recorded two more assists to bring his total to six on the season. He is now only one back of Sam Anas who leads the team with seven helpers in five games.
If Jasek can keep developing into a versatile forward who can play effectively at the center ice position and on the wing, the Canucks could have another option for the fourth line in the future. Jay Beagle is not getting any younger, and the only other centerman ahead of him is Marc Michaelis who is currently on the taxi squad. If he plays his cards right, he could be the team’s next fixture in the bottom-six, and if he plays the same way as Jannik Hansen there, the sky’s the limit for the 23-year-old Trinec native.
Related: Canucks Prospect Spotlight: Jett Woo
Woo might still be searching for his first professional point, but he did have his strongest game of the season on Friday paired with Rathbone. He was all over the ice creating chances and firing the puck whenever he could. He also stood up for his new teammate after a big hit knocked Rathbone to the ice. He ended up finishing the week with no points and five shots on goal.
Arturs Silovs & Jake Kielly
After making his way over from Latvia, goaltender Arturs Silovs made his professional debut with the Manitoba Moose on the weekend. He had a strong game between the pipes, only allowing two goals in a 2-1 defeat to the Laval Rocket. He is probably the Canucks’ number three goaltender right now just slightly ahead of Jake Kielly, who is splitting duties with Jon Gillies in the Comets’ crease.
Speaking of Kielly, who has somewhat been forgotten as a Canucks prospect, was a rock on Saturday against the Americans, only allowing two goals on 30 shots. Throughout the game, he made several acrobatic stops and helped secure his team a 4-2 victory over their North Division rival, the Crunch. He now has a record of 2-1-0 to go along with a 4.22 goals-against average (GAA) and .863 save percentage (SV%).
Comets Next Game: Mar 3 vs. Rochester Americans
Moose Next Games: Mar 1/3 vs. Toronto Marlies, Mar 5/6 vs. Belleville Senators
Joni Jurmo, Vasili Podkolzin & Linus Karlsson
For the first time this season, 2020 third-round pick Joni Jurmo is part of the prospects report. After 24 games in the U20 SM-sarja and Liiga with the JYP U20 and JYP teams respectively, he was loaned to Kiekko-Espoo of the Mestis and almost immediately started putting up points. He scored two goals on Saturday against Tuto Hockey and now has two goals and three points in four games. He is also playing an average of 20 minutes a night, after seeing less than 15 minutes in both the Liiga and U20 SM-sarja.
Next Games: Mar 4 vs. Koovie, Mar 6 vs. FPS
Meanwhile, in the KHL, Podkolzin returned from his lengthy absence with a concussion on Saturday against Dinamo Minsk where he played 13:08 and failed to record a point or a shot on goal. Hopefully, the concussion does not have any lingering effects and he can finish his KHL career without spending any more time on the sidelines. The Canucks would dearly like to have him in North America sooner rather than later. His stats remain unchanged with five goals and 11 points in 35 games, as his team gets ready to play in the playoffs which start on Mar 2 against Dinamo Minsk.
Next Games: Mar 2/4/6 vs Dinamo Minsk
Linus Karlsson played in two games this week, and only recorded a single assist. He now has 16 goals and 43 points in 46 games as he continues his career season in the HockeyAllsvenskan with BIK Karlskoga.
Next Games: Mar 3 vs. Almtuna, Mar 5 vs. Vasteras, Mar 7 vs. Tingsryds
Jack Malone, Jackson Kunz, & Jacob Truscott
Malone played in both games this week for the Phantoms, recording a goal and an assist in Saturday’s bout against the Muskegon Lumberjacks. He now has four goals and 21 points in 24 games.
Next Games: Mar 5/6/7 vs. Green Bay Gamblers
Jackson Kunz didn’t feature in any of the scoring in two matches against Team USA this week. However, he did score an absolute beauty against the Des Moines Buccaneers on Sunday when he used his power and speed to cut to the net for his 15th of the season. His team lost their third straight, but he continued his scorching hot play with his seventh goal in ten games.
Next Games: Mar 5/6/7 vs. Youngstown Phantoms
Jacob Truscott finally broke out of his nine-game point drought with an assist on Friday against Arizona State University. He continues to play on a stacked Michigan Wolverines team which features 2021 draft hopefuls Owen Power, Matt Beniers, and Kent Johnson who all could be selected in the top-five in this year’s event. After the single assist, he has one goal and five points in 22 games played.
Next Games: Mar 5/6 vs. Minnesota Gophers
That does it for another edition of the Canucks prospects report. Stay tuned for more next week as we continue to bring you all the updates from here and overseas!
Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, editor, part-time journalist, and scout who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.