What we learned from the first day of Vancouver Canucks prospect camp

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      There’s no Summer Showdown for Vancouver prospects this year, nor are there the exhibitions against other team’s hopefuls as there have been in years past.

      But there was still a buzz yesterday at Rogers Arena as Vancouver Canucks prospects took the ice under the direction of Utica Comets staff.

      In the stands were Canucks coaches and staff, keeping a watchful eye on the proceedings. Coach Travis Green looked relaxed as he joked with members of the media. General manager Jim Benning sat in a far corner and studied the players.

      It was hard to escape the feeling that meaningful games are right around the corner, because players were fighting to make impressions, marks that will someday (and for some, sooner than that) earn them jobs.

      Here’s what we learned from the first day of Vancouver Canucks prospect camp.

      Quinn Hughes put a number on his improvement

      “On the ice I got five percent better this summer,” said the promising rookie. Hughes—who is never lacking for confidence—skated through the on-ice portion of camp with ease. 

      And while he deferred questions on whether he’d be on the powerplay or whether 45 points is realistic in his first full NHL season, he did concede that he’ll be competing silently with his brother, fellow highly-touted rookie Jack.

      Michael DiPietro learned from his NHL nightmare

      The young ‘tender has apparently gained some good lessons from February’s disaster appearance against the San Jose Sharks. 

      “I think it helped me—looking back you want a better outcome, but it did a lot of good and really was an eye opener for things I need to work on, to really attack this summer,” said DiPietro about the debacle. “I feel I did a pretty job at just continuing to build on that.”

      Seems pretty clear that the affable DiPietro has a good head on his shoulders.

      Brogan Rafferty looks good out there 

      One of our favourite under-the-radar Canucks last year, the Quinnipiac University product impressed in two games last season and kept that going with a solid opening to camp. The defenceman battled hard in drills and looked every part the smooth skating player he was in his brief call-up.

      Jonah Gadjovich put on more muscle 

      The already hulking Gadjovich said that he put on more beef over the summer. Listed at 6’2, 209 lbs., the Whitby, Ontario native is hoping it helps him be more effective as a power forward in Utica.

      “I think the physicality side is one I want to be better on this year,” he said. “I think that consistency throughout the games is going to get me to the next level… I’m looking forward to throwing my weight around.”

      More like Jonah Jacked-jovich, am I right?

      Olli Juolevi looks healthy

      Probably the Canucks prospect with the most on the line right now, Juolevi looked over the lingering knee issues that derailed him last season and threatened the start of this one. That’s a huge relief for a player that is still trying to prove the Canucks didn’t make a mistake with the fifth overall pick in 2016.

      Jett Woo is hoping for a Memorial Cup this season

      The soft-spoken defenceman is one of the more physical players at camp, and was throwing his weight around in drills. His situation is a little unique in that he can’t be sent down to Utica of the AHL. So he either makes the big club (unlikely), or goes back to the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL. Woo acknowledged this. 

      “Taking it one step at a time depending on if I can make this team or not,” he said when asked about his goals this season. “But looking forward to going back to Calgary, being a leader there and I think they got a good team back there. Only goal for us back there is to win a Memorial Cup. That’s the only goal I should have this season.”

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