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.
Carson Focht definitely improved his stock within the Canucks organization over the past season — even if it was a bizarre year.
When the 2019-20 WHL season was halted due to the pandemic, things weren’t looking as promising for Focht. After being drafted as an overager in 2019, his production with the Calgary Hitmen stagnated.
The Canucks must have seen enough that they liked in his game with the Hitmen, so they signed him to an entry-level deal in January, 2021 — right before AHL training camps began.
Focht ended up playing for the Comets in a bizarre season where Utica played 28 games against just four different opponents. Although the competition was somewhat watered down, Focht held his own and posted four goals and 12 points in 28 games.
Back in February of the 2020-21 AHL season, head coach Trent Cull had liked what he’d seen from Focht.
“He’s got such great tools, his feet and his head is up when he’s making plays,” Cull told Ben Birnell of the Utica Observer-Dispatch. “He does some good things inside and in traffic areas. I think he has done a really good job. We’re going to keep throwing different situations — power play, penalty kill — at him. There’s going to be times when it works for him, and there are some nights where it doesn’t. We’ll find a happy medium, but he’s done a good job.”
Cody Severtson of Comets Harvest did a thorough review of Focht’s performance with the Comets in 2020-21. He notes that while Focht did a good of registering shot attempts (he was third on the Comets in that area in all situations), shooting luck was not on his side. The 21-year-old also registered eight of his 12 points on the power play, where Cull seemed to give him a lot of opportunities.
Focht also performed well on the penalty kill, although he wasn’t one of the team’s regular shorthanded forwards. That shouldn’t be a huge surprise considering that he’s a rookie.
What’s Next for Focht?
The Regina native is slated to return to the Canucks’ AHL affiliate for the 2021-22 season, although competition for AHL minutes will surely be tougher this time around.
Over the course of the offseason, the Canucks signed four veteran players with experience at centre in Justin Dowling, Sheldon Dries, Nic Petan and John Stevens. All four players will likely end up playing for the Comets. On top of that, the Canucks recently signed former Vancouver Giants centre Tristan Neilsen to a two-year AHL contract. Suffice to say, competition for playing time down the middle in Abbotsford will be stiff in 2021-22.
However, considering the lack of depth that the Canucks have at centre in their organization, it would be a surprise if Focht wasn’t one of the 12 forwards who dressed for the Comets on opening night. He’s should be slotted in as a bottom-six centre for Abbotsford, and one who should receive a bump in penalty killing time.
If he is to play for the Canucks someday, it would surely be as a fourth-line, penalty-killing centre. The ‘21-22 campaign should be about Focht improving in that department, in hopes that he could earn a recall in 2022 or 2023.