Most young adults are enjoying their summer basking in the sunshine, enjoying the lack of responsibilities during the year’s warmest months. For the young men in Vancouver this week for Canucks development camp, they’re beginning to learn that most adults don’t get the summer off.
Regardless, it’s an exciting week for the 30+ players that were invited to Vancouver this week. This is always a golden opportunity for these prospects to strut their stuff and show that they stand out among their peers.
Last year, it was Adam Gaudette who stole the show in Penticton. All eyes were on Elias Pettersson, who was electrifying in his own way. However, Gaudette showed a willingness to both throw the body around, and he also scored some timely goals.
It ended up being a predictor of his success this season, as the Braintree, Massechusettes native went on to win the Hobey Baker award. The year before, it was Troy Stecher who earned his praise from Trevor Linden, and he went on to be the Canucks best defenceman in 2016-17.
While the usual big names will make an appearance, there are some intriguing names that might get lost in the shuffle. Here are five guys worth keeping an eye on as the development camp progresses.
Liam Kindree, RW
The second-most prolific Kelowna Rocket to attend Canucks development camp, Liam Kindree comes in with an impressive offensive pedigree. The Rockets gave him a cup of coffee in the WHL during the 2016-17 campaign, but they sent him back to the B.C.Major Midget League as a 16-year-old.
That move wasn’t a poor one, as Kindree went on to lead the league in scoring. Kole Lind was actually put on a similar trajectory in Saskatchewan. He bounced back from the demotion and posted 41 points in 70 games during his rookie WHL season.
His 0.58 points-per-game is comparable to Kindree’s 0.54 points-per-game this past season in Kelowna. Kindree had 27 points in 50 games, but went undrafted during his first year of eligibility.
The North Vancouver native will get a chance to impress the Canucks brass at development camp, as he looks to prove 31 teams wrong after slipping through the draft.
Isaac Nurse, RW
The Canucks drafted a player in Tyler Madden with NHL bloodlines. They’re keeping up that trend by inviting Darnell Nurse’s cousin, Isaac, to development camp.
Nurse is another winger who didn’t impress enough to be drafted in Dallas last month, in his second year of eligibility. With 30 points in 68 games, he was going to be hard pressed to have his name called, especially in his second year of eligibility.
He did improve his game in his second OHL season. After only registering 8 points in 54 games during the 2016-17 season, Nurse scored with more regularity and earned a bigger tole while playing for his hometown Hamilton Bulldogs.
Despite standing at 5’10” and 165 pounds, Nurse is touted as a spark plug type player. At the very least, a strong showing at development camp should fill him with confidence heading into next season.
Tyler Soy, C
Arguably one of the most intriguing names at Canucks camp, Cloverdale, B.C. native Tyler Soy comes as an invitee with one of the best offensive pedigrees of all attendees.
Soy was originally a seventh-round pick of the Anaheim Ducks in 2016 in his second year of eligibility. Despite posting 1.08 primary-points per game (19th in the WHL) this season, Soy went unsigned by the Ducks, making him a UFA.
Injuries could have played a part in failing to earn an NHL contact. The Victoria Royals forward was hit by injuries in the 2016-17 campaign, and he only suited up for one playoff game against the Vancouver Giants in the playoffs this past season. He made that one game count however, posting a hat trick before leaving the contest.
Utica could have a stacked roster next season, but there is still a need for playmaking centres in the organization. With an impressive development camp, Soy could punch his ticket to Utica next season.
Although Matt Brassard is an actual draft pick and not an invitee, he’s certainly not a marquee name on a list that includes newly-drafted defencemen Quinn Hughes, Jett Woo and Toni Utunen. Regardless, Brassard had a fine season in a leadership role for the Oshawa Generals.
Brassard seems to have found a home in Oshawa following his 2016-17 midseason trade to the franchise. Since then, Brassard has posted 69 points in 100 regular season games. He became Oshawa’s bonafide numebr one defenceman this season after the trade of Riley Stillman to Hamilton, and was easily their most productive blueliner.
One could argue that you’d like to see more out of Brassard in a number one role, but for a seventh-round pick, he’s been more than adequate. It will be interesting to see whether Brassard can make the jump to Utica next season, since he’s eligible to join the squad. Oshawa could also bring him back as an overage player on the roster, which is a possibility considering the amount of youth on their team.
The MJHL has produced a number of good NHL players over the years, from guys such as Travis Zajac to Travis Hamonic. However, most guys ended up in BCHL or the CHL before being drafted, but that wasn’t the case for Matthew Thiessen.
As one of the youngest starting goalies in the MJHL, Thiessen went on a tear for the Steinbach Pistons. His .923 save percentage was third-best in the league, and his 2.06 GAA was best among all netminders.
Without seeing any of Thiessen’s footage, he’s certainly a guy I’m curious to watch during development camp. Thiessen is a long-term project, but he will get a chance to prove himself over the next couple of years with a gig in the USHL next season, followed by joining the University of Maine in 2019-20. It all starts for Thiessen at development camp this week.