The Vancouver Canucks’ young players and top prospects are getting quality attention now that they are the only ones from the team playing organized hockey. On September 14, the Vancouver Canucks sent 23 players to the Chicago Wolves, their affiliate AHL team; four of these players played in the NHL last season. Among the 23 players were Chris Tanev, Zack Kassian and Eddie Lack, three players who are bound to make a splash in the Canucks’ future.
This decision has been one of the Canucks’ management’s best. As no one is sure of the outcome of the rest of the NHL season, the team is dedicated to improving their young and up-and-coming players. Sending these players to play with Chicago is good for their development, as they will remain conditioned and will be more ready to play in the NHL when the time comes then if the season started today.
“It’s obvious that if we play again at the NHL level, that all our players are operating at peak efficiency as soon as possible,” Assistant General Manager Laurence Gilman told canucks.com. “The fact that these players are in a unique situation where they’re able to play and hone their games at a very high level, obviously it works to the benefit of our team.”
Tanev, the cool, calm and collected defenseman, has a very high chance of consistently breaking into the Canucks’ lineup when the season resumes. Sami Salo and Aaron Rome are both gone, and while the top four defensemen have been established, Tanev could beat Andrew Alberts or Keith Ballard to a spot on the roster.
Signed as an undrafted free agent on May 31, 2010, Tanev played 25 games for the Canucks last season, with two assists and a plus-10 rating. The Canucks showed their faith in him when he played for them in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, which he states to be his favourite hockey moment.
Kassian is the opposite of Tanev. A rough and rugged forward whose big body has proven to be more prominent than his scoring ability, Kassian was part of the Cody Hodgson trade with Buffalo. He played 17 games for the Canucks last season in which he had one goal, three points and 31 penalty minutes. Canucks’ management really want to develop Kassian into a key player, but he has yet to show that he has the qualities needed to remain part of the team’s core for several years.
As for Lack, as soon as Roberto Luongo moves on, he will virtually be guaranteed a job as the Canucks’ backup goaltender. The 24 year old Swede has not yet played a regular season NHL game, but after two season with the Canucks’ farm team, looks ready to give it a shot.
“He’s 6-foot-5, can play deep in the net because of his size, and has great reflexes. There are some games when you’re watching you’re just like, they’re not scoring on him,” Dave Gagner told NHL.com. “He has that Pekka Rinne-like confidence that he brings to the team.”
The Wolves started their nine day training camp on September 28, and open their 19th season on October 13 against the Rockford IceHogs. The addition of Tanev and Kassian and the assurance of having Lack for at least a little while longer is beneficial for the Wolves. And while the Canucks may not be in the best situation, they are looking at the positives of having these players continue to play in the AHL.
“The silver lining of our present situation is that we have the time to go watch and participate in Chicago Wolves training camp,” said Gilman. “And depending upon how long we aren’t playing at the NHL level, the ability to go scout games and spend some meaningful time with them.”