Canucks Prospect Review #1: Fab 5 on Defence

Discussion in 'HFNHL Talk' started by Hossa, May 19, 2011.

  1. Hossa

    Hossa Registered User

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    In the Canucks’ end of season press conference, General Manager Sean Keogh was asked about the club’s so-called ‘Fab Five’, a quintet of big, mobile and skilled blueliners all on the cusp of becoming NHLers. Jeff Petry, Justin Braun, David Rundblad, Alexander Urbom and Mattias Ekholm all have a legitimate chance to not only play next year but contribute significantly within a few years.

    For a club that has graduated few rookies in recent years, the prospect of having five defencemen all break into the league at the same time is exciting. Although the club still boasts four NHL blueliners in their early to mid 20s, the club’s payroll has been in effect subsidized by the entry-level contract restrictions, almost all of which have expired now. In short, a franchise without emerging players to replace those purged by financial constraints will not maintain their elite status long-term.

    Although there are points of commonality between the five blueliners, each has taken a significantly different path to the cusp of the NHL. While all stand between 6’2†and 6’4â€, and all but Ekholm shoot right-handed, each was selected in a different round of the draft. Coincidentally Ekholm is also the only one actually drafted by the HFNHL Canucks; Petry, Rundblad and Urbom were all acquired via trade, and Braun was signed.

    The headliner of the group is arguably Rundblad. A true riverboat gambler with an offensive style similar to Drew Doughty, the 20-year old was named Swedish Elite League Defenceman of the Year this past season after putting up one of the best seasons in league history. Although his defensive game remains a work in progress, Rundblad’s skill level and confidence is so advanced that the best place for him to learn is likely with the NHL Senators.

    After Rundblad, the remaining four can be grouped into two categories. Petry and Braun are at a similar point in their careers. With three and four seasons of college under their belt respectively, both had highly successful rookie professional campaigns last year, splitting time between the AHL and the NHL, with most of the second half being spent with the big club for both players. Whereas Petry’s raw skill has always been evident, Braun is a late bloomer who went undrafted in the HFNHL and thankfully opted to sign with Vancouver last summer as a free agent. With good size, smooth skating and smart decision-making, both players appear to be in the NHL to stay provided that their defensive game continues to progress.

    The other duo is Mattias Ekholm and Alexander Urbom, two very intriguing players with a similar profile but who have taken very different paths. Urbom was drafted in 2009 both in the HFNHL and NHL, and for the 2009-10 season moved to the WHL, where he saw his stock rise as he transitioned smoothly to the North American game. With great, outstanding mobility and a raw all-round game, Urbom actually broke camp with NHL Devils last year but spent most of the year in the AHL, where he progressed steadily.

    Perhaps most intriguing is Ekholm, the reigning SEL Rookie of the Year who was actually drafted in the HFNHL in 2008, despite being passed over that year in the NHL. Selected by the NHL Predators in 2009, Ekholm has risen from obscurity become one of the most underrated and intriguing blueline prospects. At 6’4â€, Ekholm long profiled as a stay-at-home type, but his offensive game has improved dramatically at each higher level, a true testament to his hockey sense. As further evidence to that, at two mid-season tournaments with the Swedish National Team, Ekholm was named the top blueliner. Although competition for an NHL spot will be fierce in Nashville, there are job openings with the Predators, and Ekholm continues to exceed expectations.

    In all likelihood each of the Fab Five will see NHL action next year, and Rundblad, Petry and Braun will almost certainly be regulars unless things go sideways. With Urbom and Ekholm there are a greater range of scenarios, however it is hard to bet against two blueliners with size and mobility who have moved up a level each of the last three years.

    Beyond the Fab Five, the Canucks will actually have another half-dozen blueliners at the AHL level next year, each of whom could push for attention as well. Drew Schiestel was an AHL All-Star last year and if not for a mid-season injury, may have been called-up by the NHL Sabres down the stretch. His AHL teammate Nick Crawford broke the 30 point barrier as a 20-year old rookie and is emerging as a legitimate puck-moving prospect. Also returning to the AHL is the undersized Brent Regner, who will enter his third AHL season in the NHL Bluejackets organization.

    Three other players will formally begin their rookie seasons in the AHL after each receiving a late season taste after signing entry-level contracts. Justin Faulk is only 19 but after leading the University of Minnesota-Duluth to an NCAA Championship as a freshman, he will likely be the youngest AHLer next year. Over the past few weeks he has played a regular shift for the Charlotte Checkers who are in the Calder Cup semi-finals.

    Pint-sized David Warsofsky played a handful of games for Providence after leaving Boston University after three seasons and one national championship. With quick hands and feet, Warsofsky is a wild card because of his skill level and diminutive size.

    Finally, Brenden Dillon was a mid-season signing who ended the year with Texas of the AHL and drew praise from long-term NHLer and teammate Brad Lukowich. Passed over three times in the NHL draft, Dillon was playing top minutes in the AHL only a couple of weeks after his WHL overage season ended.
     
  2. RedWingsLegacy

    RedWingsLegacy Registered User

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    Runblad makes ne furious he looked like a bust then he follows up a horrid year with the best for an offenseive dman ever :s meanwhille erixon hasn't been spectacular
     
  3. Hossa

    Hossa Registered User

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    Erixon actually had an outstanding year as well, it was just over-shadowed by Rundblad and Larsson. I followed Skelleftea closely and Erixon will be a good one too, and remains a safer bet.
     

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