Just one day after Canucks GM Jim Benning said the team is looking at signing some college free agents to bolster depth on the blue line, they did just that.
And they got themselves a good one.
The Canucks put pen to paper with North Dakota defenceman Troy Stecher, a product of Richmond, BC, and teammate of 2015 first-rounder Brock Boeser.
Stecher is a 5-foot-11, 191-pound two-way defenceman that can handle the puck. He skates well, has good playmaking skills and an above average shot.
He also has some familiarity with the organization as he attended the Canucks Summer Development Camp at UBC in 2014.
Stecher just completed his third season with North Dakota, compiling 29 points (8-21-29) in 43 games while capturing the NCAA Championship.
In three seasons at the college level, the 22-year-old amassed 53 points (13-40-53) in 119 games.
Stecher’s recent National Championship wasn’t his first. Prior to joining North Dakota, he spent three seasons in the BCHL with the Penticton Vees, where he won the Royal Bank Cup (National Junior A Championship) in 2012.
He finished his BCHL career with 109 points (18-91-109) in 159 games.
“He gives you everything he has on a day-to-day basis and has a very professional attitude,” said Fred Harbinson, head coach of the Penticton Vees. “When the puck goes into the corner, he somehow comes out with it just about every time. He competes hard, blocks shots and does a little bit of everything. He is a well-rounded person and a guy that is going to be a great addition to the Canucks.”
Stecher was named the Top Defenceman at the 2012 Royal Bank Cup and co-Top Defenceman in the BCHL during the 2012-13 season. He also won a silver medal with Team Canada West at the 2012 World Junior A Challenge. Combine that with his recent NCAA Championship with North Dakota, Stecher has himself an impressive resume already.
“He’s a winner,” said Harbinson. “He is one of the most competitive players I have ever coached, no matter what position.
“When we won the Royal Bank Cup in 2012, we had one of the most dynamic defenceman in junior hockey with Mike Reilly, who played for the Minnesota Wild this season. Not taking anything away from Mike, who had 87 points that season, but when we got to the Royal Bank Cup, it was Troy Stecher who was named the Top Defenceman of the tournament. He elevated his game to another level.
“The following season we made it to the BCHL Finals again, and Troy separated his shoulder in Game 1, but somehow managed to play the next five games. He steps up in the key moments.”
Now the work really begins for Stecher. Critics may say his 5-foot-11 frame won’t allow him to transition his stellar play to the pro level. But after watching him, it’s clear that although he is listed at 5-foot-11, he certainly doesn’t play that way.
“He has the mindset that his size isn’t a problem,” said Harbinson. “He just knows there is a puck on the ice and that will be his puck. He finds a way to make sure the guy he goes against is going to have a hard night.
Stecher will most likely finish the school year at North Dakota before kicking off his first off-season as a professional. His focus will shift from studying for mid-terms, to whether or not he can make the Canucks right out of training camp.
“He is one of those guys, that if he gets an opportunity he is going to kick the door down,” said Harbinson, “He did it at North Dakota, he did it here. I spoke with him this morning and I know he has his eyes set on next year. When he gets that opportunity, it won’t surprise me one bit if he makes good with it.”
Regardless of where he ends up to start next season, Vancouver or Utica, the Canucks landed one of the most sought-after players on the college free agent market.