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2017 Canucks Young Stars preview: Defence

by Ryan Biech @ryanbiech / Canucks freelance writer

Yesterday we profiled the forwards that will be representing the Canucks at the 2017 Young Stars Classic in Penticton. Today, we turn our attention to the defence and goaltenders.

This year's group of defensive prospects are headlined again by 2016 1st round pick Olli Juolevi, but have some depth to the group, while the goaltenders are both exciting prospects of the organization that are working to refine their game and technique with hopes of taking the net at Rogers Arena in the future.

Without further ado, let's dive in.

Matt Barberis - D (Vancouver Giants - WHL)

The 19-year-old defenceman is a puck rushing defencemen with some offensive upside. In 48 games for the Giants last year, Barberis posted 10 goals and 15 assists. Unfortunately, he has had to battle some injuries over the last couple of years, which is in part why he is an invite to the Canucks training camp rather than a draft pick.

Barberis is very adept at transitioning the puck with speed to create offence for his team. He hopes to show that the injuries are thing of the past and his puck moving skillset is something that can flourish with further development.

Matt Brassard - D (Oshawa Generals - OHL)

Taken in 7th round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, Matthew Brassard comes into camp as a two way defenceman who is good in his own zone. That doesn't mean he isn't able to put up offence as he ended last year with 12 goals and 20 assists in 62 OHL games split between the Barrie Colts and Oshawa Generals.

Brassard was in his second year of draft eligibility when the Canucks called his name this past June, but the organization recognized in 2016 as someone to keep an eye on.

Guillaume Brisebois - D (Charlottetown Islanders - QMJHL)

Guillaume Brisebois comes into camp looking to impress before he makes the jump to professional hockey this fall. The 6'3" and 190 lbs defenceman saw an explosion in offence this season, ending the year with 10 goals and 37 assists in 61 games for the Islanders.

Brisebois was also named captain of the Islanders during the season, which just reaffirmed his leadership qualities on and off the ice. The Longueuil, QC native is expected to make the jump to the Utica Comets this summer and this Young Stars is the first step in getting ready for that transition.

Cole Candella - D (Hamilton Bulldogs- OHL)

Cole Candella was drafted in the 5th round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft after a 2015-16 season that was cut short by injury. He returned to the OHL last season with hopes of taking on a bigger role. Unfortunately, the offence didn't manifest as he was limited to three goals and 17 assists in 65 games for Bulldogs.

Candella comes into camp looking to take that next step and round out his two-way game. There is a lot to like about his game and if he continues doing what he has been doing, the results could follow.

Jalen Chatfield - D (Windsor Spitfires- OHL)

Signed as an undrafted free agent by the Canucks near the end of last season, Jalen Chatfield was a rock for the Memorial Cup Champion Windsor Spitfires. The 6'1" and 190 lbs defenceman did everything for the Spitfires, eating up minutes with efficiency and high percentage plays.

His 28 points in 61 regular season games isn't a fair representation of the impact he makes on every game. Chatfield is expected to turn pro this upcoming season with hopes of securing a regular spot with the Utica Comets.

Michael DiPietro - G (Windsor Spitfires- OHL)

Selected with the 64th overall pick this past June, Michael DiPietro will make his first appearance in Canucks colours in Penticton. DiPietro is a technically sound goaltender, who rarely gives up on a play, and is constantly working to improve his technique.

Like Chatfield, DiPietro was a big part of Windsor's championship performance at the Memorial Cup. The 6'0" and 200 lbs netminder will head back to the OHL this upcoming season with hopes of grabbing a spot on Team Canada for the World Juniors this winter.

Thatcher Demko - G (Utica Comets - AHL)

Top goaltending prospect Thatcher Demko makes his second appearance at the Young Stars after a successful rookie season with the Utica Comets last season. The San Diego native had some struggles transitioning to professional hockey to start last year, but had some serious hot streaks and looked great to close out the Comets season.

Demko heads to camp looking to build off the momentum generated in the second half of his season and then ride that into his sophomore season in the AHL.

Michael Garteig - G (Alaska Aces - ECHL)

Closing out the goaltending group for this year is Michael Garteig, who spent the majority of last year with the Alaska Aces in the ECHL. Signed to an AHL deal for the upcoming season, Garteig hopes to show that he is ready to make the jump up to the AHL.

This is Garteig's second Young Stars Classic as he was signed to an entry level contract after leading his Quinnipiac team to the NCAA Finals in 2015-16.

Aaron Irving - D (Everett Silvertips - WHL)

Closing out the invite group for defenceman is Everett Silvertips defenceman Aaron Irving. The 6'1" and 185 lbs defenceman was a long time member of the Edmonton Oil Kings before being moved to the Silvertips to close out last season.

He ended last season with 18 goals and 40 assists in 71 games split between Edmonton and Everett.

Irving attended Canucks development camp in July where he showed well using his feisty play to shut down opposing forwards. He is expected to attend the University of Calgary in the fall.

Olli Juolevi - D (London Knights - OHL)

2016 5th overall pick Olli Juolevi makes his second trip to Penticton for the Young Stars Classic. Known for his smart, high percentage and calm play, Juolevi has his eyes on a roster spot with the Canucks this fall. This is after being a huge part of the London Knights team for the last two years.

The young Finnish defenceman matched his point total from year before with 10 goals and 32 assists in 58 OHL games.

He is a complete defenceman with no glaring weaknesses and has that knack for make the subtle 'right' play more often than not. Canucks fans are rightfully excited about Juolevi.

MacKenze Stewart - D (Alaska Aces - ECHL)

The 22-year-old defenceman who has played left wing at times had a successful rookie season in the ECHL. He is known for hard nosed play in his own zone but flashed some offence with 6 goals and 7 assists in 70 games for the Alaska Aces.

Stewart hopes to make the leap up to the AHL next season and earn a full time spot with the Utica Comets.

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