Vancouver Canucks prospects have been under the microscope all month long. Most of the media attention has been on first round picks Cody Hodsgon and Jordan Schroeder, but neither of these players have suited up for both pre-season games. Who has? Kevin Connauton.
Connauton should already be a familiar name to hockey fans in Vancouver, having been a dominant force on the Vancouver Giants last season. The 19-year-old played his first season with the WHL in 2009, and despite the more physical play than he was used to on his college team or in the CHL, he broke franchise scoring records in his rookie year.
Connauton was the Canucks third round draft pick in 2009. He attended Canucks training camp last summer but was an early cut, so he spent the season with the Giants. During his 69 regular season games he racked up 72 points, including 24 goals, and then picked up another 13 points in 16 playoff games. Pretty impressive stats for any player, but Connauton actually plays defense.
In January Connauton had already broken the franchise record for most goals in a season by a defenseman, and by March he did the same with the points record. Connauton also led the leagues in points among defensemen and among rookies. He was also named to the WHL First All-Star team, and was voted by his fellow WHLers as having the hardest shot in the league.
Following his record breaking season, Connauton signed a 3-year entry-level contract with the Canucks, and has so far impressed in training camp, playing hard every minute of ice time during the Young Stars Tournament.
So far he has only had a few hits and a couple of shots on nets in the pre-season, but he suited up for both games last week, and will be back on Saturday, playing with Evan Oberg, which is more than most potential Canucks can claim.
The Canucks defensive line will be a tough nut to crack this season, which may be the only thing not in the offensively talented D-man’s favor, but the kid is only 19, and whether it’s here or in Manitoba, Connauton will be one to watch this season.
TAMBELLINI GIVEN A CHANCE TO SHINE
Left winger Jeff Tambellini will have his shot to play on the coveted first line spot with the Sedin brothers in tomorrows game against the Ducks.
Tambellini was signed to a one year deal with the Canucks over the summer. For the son of former Canucks player and assistant GM. Steve Tambellini, the chance to play for the team was a dream come true.
“I am ecstatic,” Tambellini told Canucks.com in July. “For me having a chance to play professional hockey and having the chance to come to a cup contender in Vancouver is a best-case scenario so I’m absolutely thrilled.”
In 180 career games with the New York Islanders and Los Angeles Kings since being drafted by LA 27th overall in 2003, Tambellini has accumulated 46 points (18-28-46).
This is Tambellini’s first showing in the pre-season, and will likely be playing on the fourth line or for the Moose this year, but the opportunity to play with the Sedin twins gives Tamnellini a chance to shine.
GAME DAY PREVIEW
The Vancouver Canucks play the Anaheim Ducks at home tomorrow at 7:00 on CBC. It will be the forth preseason game for both teams, so far the Canucks have a winless record of 0-3-0 while the Duck have a 1-1-0 record going into tonight’s game against the San Jose Sharks.
The Canucks faced the Ducks twice in last years preseason, winning both games, the first by a shutout from Roberto Luongo, and the second in a 3-2 overtime win. During the regular season the Canucks had a 2-2-0 record over the Ducks. Vancouver went on to the second round of the playoffs while Anaheim finished 11th in the West, missing the playoffs.
Despite participating in a full practice on Wednesday, Cody Hodgson is not set to play in tomorrow’s game, if he is still not on the roster at game time his next opportunity to play is Sunday in Edmonton.
Hodgson missed most of last season due to a lingering back injury, but has been making significant progress over the summer.
Here’s the expected roster for tomorrow night:
D Sedin - H Sedin – Tambellini
Schaefer – Morrison - Schroeder
Glass - Bolduc – Desbiens
Hordichuk – Perrault – Hansen
Alberts – Edler
Connauton – Oberg
Ellington – Tanev
Ehrhoff – Hamhuis