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Full speed ahead

by Ryan Biech / Vancouver Canucks
Canucks GM Jim Benning has been busy so far this off-season adding young talent that will hopefully add to an already impressive youth movement.

It started with signing University of North Dakota and Richmond, B.C. native Troy Stecher, who had a very impressive junior season with the Fighting Hawks. The 22-year-old set new career-highs in goals, assists, points and plus/minus on his way to capturing the NCAA championship with Canucks first round pick Brock Boeser.

Stecher is a mobile defenceman who can carry the puck with speed and ease through the neutral zone. He has the ability to hold onto the puck in the offensive zone while waiting for opportunities to thread the perfect pass to his teammates. Many times that was Boeser, who would bury the chance - will that be something we see in Vancouver soon?

Shortly after that, 2014 2nd round pick Thatcher Demko decided to forego his senior season at Boston College to sign his first professional contract with the Canucks. This comes after an outstanding season where he set the Boston College record for most shutouts in one season, which included two separate three-game shutout streaks.

The 21-year-old netminder will look to make the transition to professional game this fall and if his track record in the NCAA is any indication of things to come, then Canucks fans should keep tabs on Demko in Utica next season.

Canucks management wasn’t done there, signing NCAA unrestricted free agent and Prince George, B.C. native, Michael Garteig to a one-year entry-level contract. The 24-year-old netminder was fantastic all year for Quinnipiac University, posting new career marks in goals-against, save percentage and wins.

Being the last line of defence, sometimes it can be hard to get excited about goaltending, but adding Garteig and Demko gives the Canucks depth in the crease that now rivals any other organization in the league.

Still not finished, the Canucks signed QMJHL free agent and former Arizona Coyotes 2013 3rd round pick Yan-Pavel Laplante to an entry-level contract last week. The Chateauguay, Quebec, native set new benchmarks with 34 goals and 31 assists in 63 games with Gatineau. He is regarded as a hard-working player who can help in all three zones, that isn’t afraid to take the body and drop of the gloves if that’s what the team needs. Laplante plays a style that is successful in the NHL today.

All this is only just the beginning of what will be an exciting summer for Canucks fans.

Entering the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, the Canucks currently possess the 5th, 33rd, 63rd, 93rd, 153rd, 183rd and 193rd overall picks. All of them will give Benning and the Canucks scouting staff a chance to add to an already impressive prospect pool, one that is now bursting with players making an impact all over the hockey world.

The fifth overall pick is what Canucks fans should be particularly excited about. Whether they select one of the forwards available, or look to take a defenceman, the Canucks will get an impact player who could be wearing the blue and green for years to come and will be a player that the team can build around.

But the draft isn’t limited to just draft picks and young players putting on their teams sweaters for the first time, it is also a time for teams to wheel and deal and shape their teams for next season.

Two years ago, the Canucks completed four separate deals that brought in players like Jared McCann, Luca Sbisa and Linden Vey, while last year the Canucks completed two transactions that added more picks - which were used to take promising defensive prospects Guillaume Brisebois and Tate Olson.

Could the Canucks be active again in looking to add players through trade in Buffalo?

With players like Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi, Nikita Tryamkin, Ben Hutton and Jacob Markstrom already making an impact with the Canucks, the next wave of players will give the team more depth that will push them to the next level.

The Next Chapter is well underway.

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