Now that training camp finally has a date of July 10, we can start looking forward to hockey returning to our living rooms. When that happens, a number of Black Aces from the Vancouver Canucks farm team, the Utica Comets are going to be part of the festivities. There’s no guarantee that any of them will ultimately suit up for a game in the playoffs, but we all know injuries play a factor, so anything could happen. With that being said, here are three of them who could step out of the shadows and into the bright lights of the postseason to tip the scales in the Canucks’ favour.
Brogan Rafferty had a season to remember with the Utica Comets, as he led all defencemen in scoring with 7 goals and 45 points in 57 games. He was a dynamic presence on the blueline and rocketed up the depth chart to become a top-ten prospect for the Canucks. After a cup of tea in the NHL last season, he is poised to potentially lock down a spot on the roster next season. Until then, he is going to be an option for the team as one of the Black Aces for the 2020 playoffs.
Time will tell if Rafferty gets any time as part of the active roster, but he remains a legitimate option if injuries strike. Now Jordie Benn will probably get the first crack at a spot, but if a puck mover like Alex Edler, Tyler Myers or heaven forbid, Quinn Hughes goes down, he should be the first choice to replace them. He showed great poise running the power play in Utica, as he posted 20 of his 45 points with the man advantage. He also was a great puck mover and improved on his defensive play as the season wore on. If needed, he could be what the blueline needs to sustain itself through the grind of the playoffs.
After a rough season in 2019-20, Sven Baertschi could have a chance to become a difference-maker for the Canucks in the postseason. Predictably, he thrived after being demoted to the Comets finishing the season with 13 goals and 46 points in 43 games, but he, of course, wants to be in the NHL. Once a key forward in the top-six, and even at times on the top line, he looked to be on the way out this season. Now as the playoffs draw ever closer, redemption could be around the corner. If anything, he may be able to impress other teams and force a trade in the offseason. Regardless, if given the chance, he should take full advantage of it.
The fact that Baertschi has experience playing in the top-nine and familiarity with several of the players, including chemistry with third-line center Adam Gaudette should make it a no-brainer if an offensive forward goes down with an injury. Even if there are no injuries, and the Canucks need a different look, he could be the one to provide it. He has the offensive skills and proven body of work to potentially be an x-factor in the playoffs. Head coach Travis Green should look his way, especially if Josh Leivo and Micheal Ferland are unable to return to the lineup.
During an impressive rookie campaign with the Comets, Justin Bailey turned a lot of heads in Vancouver, so much so that he got a callup to the Canucks at the beginning of February. Not only that, but he also got into the lineup and showed everyone why he should still be a legitimate option for the team down the road, showing off his speed and forechecking abilities in the limited ice time he received.
The former 2015 second-round pick has the size and speed to become a very effective forward in the postseason. Bailey’s last experience came back in 2017-18 with the Rochester Americans where he scored two goals in three games. Prior to that, he was a force in his draft year with the Soo Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League, posting 7 goals and 14 points. So it seems he thrives under pressure. If given the chance, he could be a factor on an energy line that traditionally makes all the difference at this time of the year.
Canucks’ Black Aces Could Be Aces in the Hole
The Canucks’ Black Aces may never see a minute of ice in this unprecedented playoff season, but these three have the biggest chance of making a difference if given the opportunity. Baertschi is the only one with NHL experience, albeit only two games back when the Canucks last made the playoffs, but he has the pedigree to make an impact. Bailey and Rafferty are still young and have a lot of vigour to their games, which is perfect for the energy-filled atmosphere of the playoffs.
They all have something to bring to the table and add significant depth to a team that may need to use all the resources they have to make a deep run this playoff season. Regardless of the outcome, it will be interesting to see what happens when hockey finally returns to Vancouver.
Matthew Zator is the assistant managing editor at THW and a writer 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.