Welcome to the 2021 Edition of the Vancouver Canucks Top 25 Under 25 Rankings. The list includes all players born after January 1st, 1997. Seven staff writers (Beggsy, Westy, Kent Basky, CanucksAbbyFan2, Markus Meyer, Noah Strang, Harsunder Singh H) and two outside writers (Daniel Gee & Cam Robinson) cast votes for the project.
When it comes to roster dark horses, Will Lockwood is an easy guy to cheer for.
For years in Vancouver, Troy Stecher was the diminutive, under-the-radar fan favourite to cheer for. With the Pride of Richmond long departed, you have to wonder if Lockwood could step into that role.
First, he’d have to crack the Canucks roster. That’s a tall, but not impossible task for the 23-year-old.
After spending four seasons after the 2016 draft with the University of Michigan, Lockwood finally got his feet wet in professional hockey with the Utica Comets last season. Cody Severtson did a great job here of reviewing Lockwood’s season, but the article passage below highlights why the former Michigan Wolverines captain struggled at the beginning of the season.
“Truth be told, Lockwood was all over the place in his first nine games,” Severtson writes.
That indecisiveness and rocky acclimatization showed on the scoresheet, where Lockwood registered just four assists in his first 15 games. Mixed into those games was the Comets’ month-long COVID-19 layoff, which happened in games 10-15 of the season for Lockwood.
However, the winger’s season turned around once he scored in Game 16. From there, he never looked back.
In his last nine games for the Comets, Lockwood posted four goals and seven points, which was good enough to earn a callup to the Canucks for two games. In those contests, Lockwood looked like he possessed enough speed and physicality to earn a longer look at NHL playing time. And, surprisingly enough, he looked more effective than prospects with more cache in Kole Lind and Jonah Gadjovich.
That’s reflected in our rankings, where Lockwood narrowly finished ahead of Gadjovich, despite the latter posting far superior numbers in the AHL.
What’s Next for Lockwood?
Best case scenario? A spot in the opening night lineup for the Canucks.
With Brandon Sutter and Tyler Motte out for the start of the regular season, there are at least four forward spots (including the 13th guy) up for grabs at Canucks training camp.
Based on Lockwood’s usage in the Canucks last preseason game (he played on the fourth line with Carson Focht and Vasily Podkolzin), he’s probably on the outside looking in past the midway point of the preseason. However, he’s one Canuck who’s been noticeable in every contest, and he may have bumped his way up the pecking order for a call-up.
The most likely landing spot for Lockwood is with the Abbotsford Canucks, likely in a penalty-killing/match-up role. Travis Green will likely want Lockwood killing penalties once he becomes an NHLer, something he did get experience with down in Utica last season.
Lockwood remains a roster dark horse at the moment, but there’s a good chance that he bulldozes his way onto the roster at some point during the 2021-22 campaign.