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2020 Canucks Top 25 Under 25: #8 Jack Rathbone

Can Rathbone emerge as a training camp dark horse by making the Canucks roster on opening night?

COLLEGE HOCKEY: FEB 04 Beanpot Tournament - Boston College v Harvard
Jack Rathbone has emerged as the Canucks most exciting young prospect on defence.
Getty Images

Welcome to the Canucks Top 25 Under 25 Rankings, the series that makes you wish you were under 25 again. The list includes all players born after January 1st, 1996. Five staff writers (Beggsy, Westy, CanucksAbbyFan2, Trevor Connors, Markus Meyer) and one former staff writer (Daniel Gee, Elite Prospects) cast votes for the project.

Heading into the Canucks 2021 training camp, there are two notable dark horses who could make this team.

The first is Nils Hoglander, and you’ll surely read more about him as we work our way towards number #1 on this list.

The other, is Jack Rathbone.

A Judd Brackett special, Rathbone was drafted after captaining the Dexter Southfield High School hockey team in Massachusetts. He spent his draft +1 season there before suiting up at Harvard University for the past two seasons.

At Harvard, Rathbone has seen his stock skyrocket.

The West Roxbury, Massachusetts native spent nearly the entire 2018-19 season on Harvard’s top pair with New York Rangers defenceman Adam Fox. The two defenders formed a spectacular duo, and Rathbone’s performance earned him a nod on the ECAC All-Rookie team.

This past season, with Fox graduating to the NHL, Rathbone proved that he wasn’t just a benefactor of his teammates.

Rathbone had a stellar sophomore season at Harvard, cresting the point-per-game mark with 31 points in 28 contests. His 1.11 points-per-game total was third among all defenders in college hockey.

His transitional play is exceptional, he has a heavy shot, and he’s an excellent skater. You can see in the package of Rathbone highlights below fairly quickly just how good he is at moving the puck up the ice.

However, his defensive play in his own end is touted as one area in his game that needs improvement.

“Harvard plays a very rigid structure in their own end where they pin one defenceman to the front of the net and you can see how Rathbone chomps at the bit to extend himself, which opens him up to trouble at times,” Elite Prospects Managing Editor J.D. Burke told The Province.

“But that’s a part of the game he can yet improve. And in the big picture, Rathbone’s likely to follow the path that Tyler Myers has tried to follow in his career: Make your puck-possession game so good that whatever defensive flaws you may have are hardly noticed because you’re spending so much time in the offensive zone.”

What’s Next for Rathbone?

In normal circumstances, he would start in the AHL, playing for the Utica Comets. While that’s still the most likely scenario for Rathbone, it’s far from a guarantee.

Because Rathbone spent an extra year playing high school hockey (a decision he made so that he could spend an extra year with his younger brother, who is on the autism spectrum), he’s already further ahead in his development than many might think. It’s conceivable that he could crack the Canucks blueline for the 2020-21 season, especially with some open slots on the bottom pair.

Now, the Canucks decision to sign Travis Hamonic to a Professional Tryout Contract does hurt Rathbone’s chances of making the team. While Hamonic does help add depth to the Canucks blueline, does Vancouver really want two-thirds of the blueline to be made up Alex Edler, Tyler Myers, Jordie Benn and Hamonic — all guys who are 30+ and don't skate very well?

That’s why it’s certainly conceivable that we see one of Olli Juolevi, Brogan Rafferty or Rathbone join the Canucks on opening night. And, on the first day of camp, Rathbone did not look out of place.

Keep an eye on him as training camp progresses, because regardless of whether he makes the team or not to start the season, he’s clearly Vancouver’s most exciting prospect on defence at the moment.