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October musings

by Tyson Giuriato / Vancouver Canucks
The 2014-15 season has so far been a promising one for prospects in the Vancouver Canucks system.

The Utica Comets are off to a 5-1-1 start thanks to some stellar play from their goaltenders. Canucks prospects playing junior are off to great starts, particularly over in the OHL, as are a handful of prospects in the ECHL.


October was quite the month for Canucks prospects and a handful of players were rewarded for their play. Jacob Markstrom was named the AHL Player of the Week on Monday. Cole Cassels was named the OHL and CHL Player of the Week for the week of October 13-19. Joe Cannata was named the ECHL Goaltender of the Week on October 21. Jared McCann and Jordan Subban were named to Team OHL for the CHL SUBWAY Super Series against Russia on November 17, while Jake Virtanen was named to Team WHL for games against Russia on November 10 and 11. All Super Series games will be broadcast on Sportsnet.


Comets goaltender Jacob Markstrom has been nothing short of spectacular so far this season. After giving up a goal to Toronto Marlies forward Trevor Smith 7:27 into the first period of the first game of the season back on October 11, the product of Gavle, Sweden has produced 232:13 of shutout hockey. Markstrom is just under 36 minutes shy of the all-time AHL record for consecutive minutes of shutout hockey, which is held by Barry Brust (268:17). Prior to Brust, the record was held for 55-years by Hall of Famer Johnny Bower.


Markstrom’s shutout streak has been drawing all the attention, but let’s not forget about the other Comets goaltender, Joacim Eriksson, who is 1-1-1 with a 1.94 GAA and a .939 SV% so far this season. That save-percentage ranks sixth in the AHL among goaltenders with at least three starts.


Jake Virtanen hadn’t seen any game action since April 27 when he and Team Canada won bronze at the 2014 World Under-18 Championship. The Canucks sixth overall pick back in June made his long-awaited debut last Friday night with the Calgary Hitmen, returning from off-season shoulder surgery. He picked up an assist in his first game, scored twice and added a helper on Saturday, and grabbed another assist on Sunday, giving him five points in three games.


Cole Cassels doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon for the Oshawa Generals. He is currently riding a seven-game point streak that has seen him collect two points or more in each of those games, totaling 16 points in that span. In total, he has 26 points (6-20-26) in 14 games so far this season, which ranks third in the OHL. It’s not just about points for Cassels (he had 73 in 61 games last season), it’s that all-around game he brings.

His coach, D.J. Smith, recently told a local Oshawa newspaper: “He’s arguably the best two-way centre in our league. He’ll hit you, he’ll fight you, he’ll score, he’ll block shots, he’s a nasty competitor. I’ve always thought he was a very good player, but he’s been through and through our best player every night.”


The Belleville Bulls weren’t a great team last year by any means, winning only 23 of their 68 games. It looked as though they weren’t going to be a good team again this season, prompting many to expect Jordan Subban to be dealt to a contender, which happens with most 19-year-old star players in junior (see Gaunce, Brendan). But the Bulls have surprised many as they have jumped out to a 9-3-0 start with Subban and Dallas Stars prospect Remi Elie leading the way. Subban has 15 points (6-9-15) in 12 games, which is second on the team, and eight points more than the next highest scoring defencemen on the Bulls. He is currently riding a five-game point streak that has seen him pick up five goals and four assists. He is second in the OHL in points among defencemen, and first in goals. He may be playing his way into an invite for the Canadian National Junior Team Camp in December.


The Canucks have a handful of prospects in Kalamazoo to start the season. The Wings are 3-1-1 out of the gates and have been getting some timely offence from Ludwig Blomstrand and Dane Fox, who both have seven points in five games. Alex Mallet has chipped in with four points in that span. Curtis Valk, who is not a Canucks prospect but did attend camp in Vancouver and is signed to an AHL deal by the Comets, leads the way with three goals and six assists so far this season, which is tops the entire league.

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