While players like Bo Horvat, Jake Virtanen, Jared McCann and Ben Hutton are no longer “in the system” for Vancouver, a number of fellow young players, who could find themselves on the Canucks’ roster in the future, are playing impressive hockey in 2015-16.
The Canucks’ focus continues to be on the youth movement in their lineup, and while that focus includes making room for younger players, it also signifies how good a job the team has done to draft and develop players in recent seasons. The four players on this list are a notion of this feat by Vancouver.
Thatcher Demko – Boston College
It’s hard not to notice how dominant Thatcher Demko has been in the NCAA this season. The 20-year-old netminder has been pegged by some as the ‘goalie of the future’ in Vancouver, and Demko is strengthening this case with what has been a season for the ages with Boston College.
After having two impressive seasons as a freshman and sophomore, Demko has put up video-game numbers in his third year of NCAA hockey. Through 26 games, Demko is 19-4-3 with a 1.64 goals-against average and .940 save percentage. The Canucks’ second round pick in 2014 also recently recorded his ninth shutout of the season, breaking a Boston College record formerly held by Cory Schneider.
At his rate, it’s no surprise Demko is a favorite to win the Hobey Baker Award as the best college hockey player in the country. To measure the caliber of players who have won the award most recently: Jack Eichel was the Hobey Baker Award winner in 2015, and the year prior was Johnny Gaudreau. Not bad company for Demko to be in.
Brock Boeser – University of North Dakota
Many Canucks fans were wondering who Brock Boeser was when Vancouver drafted him 23rd overall last June, and it hasn’t taken long for Boeser to become a household name among prospects in that same circle. The 18-year-old Boeser leads all UND players with 18 goals through 26 games. Boeser also has 31 points in total and is an admirable plus-26 on the season.
Among NCAA freshmen this year, Boeser is in the top-three in points per-game, goals per-game, power-play goals, game-winners and shots on goal. He’s been named Rookie of the Week on four occasions this season, and was named Rookie of the Month in January.
In regards to his most recent honor, another well-known, American-born prospect had some praise for the Burnsville, Minnesota native.
Auston Matthews on Brock Boeser: “He’s a special player. He has a big shot & he’s a great guy as well. I’d be getting excited for him.”
— Canucks News Daily (@CanucksNow) February 3, 2016
Boeser’s 18 goals is the third-highest total among UND freshmen in team history, behind only T.J. Oshie (24) and Jonathan Toews (22). For what it’s worth, Boeser is averaging 0.69 goals per game overall this year, and in their respective freshman years, neither Oshie (0.55) or Toews (0.52) were anywhere close to Boeser’s average. It’s likely only a matter of time before Boeser tops that list.
Hunter Shinkaruk – Utica Comets
After a less-than-stellar rookie season in the AHL, 21-year-old Hunter Shinkaruk has found his stride in the league and has likely been the most valuable player on the Utica Comets over the course of the season.
Offensively, Shinkaruk leads the Comets with 19 goals and 36 points through 41 games. His point per-game average this season (0.88) is a drastic jump from 2014-15 (0.42), when he totaled only 31 points in 74 games. Shinkaruk also represented Utica at the AHL All-Star Game earlier this season, and has garnered a lot of attention in the Canucks’ organization along the way.
Still hopeful Hunter Shinkaruk gets a look but not holding my breath, asked W.D. about him and Coach didn’t know where/who he’d take out.
— JAY JANOWER (@DOUBLEJGLOBALBC) February 10, 2016
The Canucks’ 24th overall pick in 2013 has worked hard to improve all areas of his game over the past year, and as a result has shot his way up the list of Canucks’ top prospects. Shinkaruk’s overall development should earn him an opportunity to be called-up to the Canucks sooner than later. And with the demotion of wingers Chris Higgins and Brandon Prust, there likely will be a roster spot for Shinkaruk to fight for next season.
Nikita Tryamkin – Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg (KHL)
The 21-year-old Nikita Tryamkin is almost certainly the most surprising player on this list. Tryamkin is a major contributor on the blue line with his hometown team, Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg of the KHL.
Tryamkin, the Canucks’ third round draft pick in 2014, is averaging almost 18 minutes in ice time while having the best year statistically of his career in the KHL.
The 6-foot-7, 220 pound Russian has been playing in the league since he was 18, forcing him to play against much older players and more skilled competition compared to many teenage prospects who develop in college or the junior ranks.
The #Canucks are working on getting defenseman Nikita Tryamkin to North America after his KHL season ends later this month.
— NEWS 1130 Sports (@NEWS1130Sports) February 3, 2016
Tryamkin is already a solidifed top-four defenseman in a professional league, so it’s no wonder why the Canucks are trying get him under contract to join the Utica Comets this season, as he’s set to become a KHL free agent. With the impact Tryamkin has had overseas and the unique presence he offers, he stands to develop as a very employable NHL defenseman.
Canucks contributor for The Hockey Writers. Maple Ridge, BC native. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or @ColtonnDavies on Twitter.