Sedins and Raty 2

“I’m not afraid to use a couple of those guys.” 

Vancouver Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet knows that any team on a long playoff run will likely have to rely on some of their American Hockey League players. 

As an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Tocchet saw first-hand what these AHL players can bring to a lineup and support an NHL club on a long playoff run. 

2015-16 saw Conor Sheary spend 44 games in the NHL while playing 30 in the AHL before finishing 9th in scoring for the Penguins in their 2016 cup run. He scored the game-winning goal in overtime of game two against the San Jose Sharks. 

Carter Rowney played in 27 regular season games during the 2016-17 season and in 20 playoff games for the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Stanley Cup-winning team. He was their AHL team’s leading scorer the year prior (2015-16).

This year, the Canucks made the call to have a boatload of names join their Black Aces squad and Canucks General Manager Patrik Allvin explained why.

“Those first 13 players deserve to be with the team based on their performances this year in Abbotsford,” said Allvin. “I also think it’s especially important for the younger players to see what playoff hockey is all about. To see the preparation, to see a player like Vasily Podkolzin start in the Black Aces work his way to be playing games for us and showing the importance of depth that you need.”

The playoffs are a grind and Allvin sees the Black Aces as a group that can help provide a spark at times throughout the playoffs.

“At certain parts, you need some juice and some energy, and all of those guys are capable of coming in and helping us,” said Allvin. “I also thought it was a great opportunity for the staff to work with the young players so they can see what a practice in Vancouver is all about.”

Allvin wants his young players to soak up as much as possible during the playoffs.

He wants them to see the passion in the fan base, the electricity in the crowd, the pressure of a game like game five and the preparation the players must have at this time of the year.

The Black Aces are primarily working with Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Yogi Svejkovský, Jeff Ulmer and Gary Agnew. Marko Torenius is also there to work with the goaltenders.

“We’re making sure that the twins are involved because they have been around the Abbotsford group during the whole year,” said Allvin.

Tocchet likes having the group around and trusts what Allvin and Abbotsford General Manager Ryan Johnson have done to prepare the Black Aces for this time of the year.

“Well, it's good for them,” said head coach Rick Tocchet. “They get to practice, [and] Yogi is out there to put them through some NHL kind of pace. Some guys got to be ready. You could be in the lineup very quickly. From my experience, teams that go far, you sometimes go deep into your American League team and I'm not afraid to use a couple of those guys.”

As much as the practices are good for the group, Allvin also sees this as a key learning experience for the players who have not been able to experience much playoff hockey in the pro ranks.

“Some of them might think their game is close to playing in an NHL playoff game and then they saw the game yesterday and it's a different animal. I think they're all capable but I'm also sure they got energized from watching,” Allvin said.