It came as a surprise to some Canucks fans at last June’s NHL draft when Jim Benning and company picked forward Brock Boeser 23rd overall, over some highly touted prospects.
But after Boeser’s freshman season at the University of North Dakota which featured 27 goals (more than any of UND alumni Zach Parise, Jonathan Toews or T.J. Oshie in their freshman year), 60 points and a plus-45 rating in 42 games, he’s glued the mouth’s shut of any critics on that decision by the organization.
And after UND’s National Championship win earlier this month, following the team’s 34-6-4 regular season, the music was a sweet tune when the Canucks signed Richmond, B.C. native Troy Stecher to an entry-level contract. The undrafted blueliner potted 8 goals, 29 points and a plus-26 rating in 43 games during his senior year with UND this season.
And now, with this pair’s teammate Drake Caggiula on the open waters of the NHL free agent pool, the Canucks could try and throw a line at the 21-year-old.
Sounds like front runners for Frozen Four MOP Drake Caggiula are (in no order): CHI, EDM, PHI, VAN and OTT. I think BUF is in the mix, too.
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) April 12, 2016
It makes sense for the Canucks to pursue Caggiula, and they may just have the bait which would be hook, line and sinker in acquiring him.
Bringing in Winners a Good Formula
Stats-wise, Caggiula has improved in each of his four seasons with UND; his respective points totals in those years are 16, 24, 36 and, this year, 51 (25 goals, 26 assists in 39 games). He’s also seemingly developed as a person, being noted as a leader ‘on and off the ice’, and was an assistant captain for UND this season.
Spending key development years at a school with a reputation of winning like few others in the NCAA. Sounds like a proficient combo for success. Plus, it doesn’t hurt when your linemates are Boeser and Nick Schmaltz – a 2014 first round draft pick to the Chicago Blackhawks. The trio was known as the ‘CBS’ line, and to many as the top line in college hockey in 2015-16.
— Jordie (@BarstoolJordie) April 8, 2016
While Caggiula has improved each year on the offensive side of his game, the 5’10”, 185-pound forward has grown to be equally as strong on the defensive side as well, and his outstanding plus-46 rating this year is a strong testament to that. He also is known as a gritty player despite his size, and led UND with 60 penalty minutes this season.
Caggiula also evidently isn’t phased when he’s taken out by a referee.
Opportunity, College Teammates in Vancouver Could Entice Caggiula
With a “retooling” group in the Canucks, and more than a handful of young players who look to have bright futures with the team, you have to think Caggiula is aware of the potential in Vancouver. Add on the familiarity with former UND teammates Boeser and Stecher in the fold, and it wouldn’t be out of left field to think contract talks there are brewing.
The 19-year-old Boeser won’t be turning pro next year (he could play on a line with newcomer Tyson Jost at UND), but the Canucks should have the best shot at signing him. Stecher, meanwhile, had aspirations of playing for his hometown team before signing. Caggiula was a significant contributor with this cast, en route to one of the winningest seasons in the prestigious school’s history. The thought of bringing the competitive nature and high skill level of all these players to the same organization is an intriguing one.
With the Canucks, an NHL opportunity would be just as wide open for Caggiula as it is for some players in the system. In Vancouver, there’s proven veteran forwards and a posse of young players up front making their way – with Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi and Jake Virtanen in the forefront of development. There’s lots to learn from the experienced players, and just as much room to grow for a player with a strong pedigree like Caggiula.
The Pickering, Ont. native reportedly wants hold off on deciding where to sign for the next couple weeks – likely to map out his best option and to enjoy his National Championship victory. Caggiula has a problem that most 21-year-old’s would love to have. The Canucks could find out soon if they have the best option.
Canucks contributor for The Hockey Writers. Maple Ridge, BC native. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or @ColtonnDavies on Twitter.