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Canucks 2005-06 rookie review

Written by: Matt MacInnis on 04/29/2006 Subscribe to HF's RSS Feed

Ryan Kesler, C (Age 21) -

The Vancouver Canucks received meaningful contributions to their team from three prospects or rookies in Ryan Kesler, Kevin Bieksa and Alexandre Burrows. Kesler and Burrows played physical roles on the bottom six forwards for the team while Bieksa played half the season helping the team out in front of its own net. While Bieksa and Burrows’ contributions were pleasant surprises, Kesler’s lack of offense throughout the season was disappointing, although his play improved throughout the season. Several other rookies also made brief appearances in the NHL for the Canucks.

 

 

 

Pos.

GP

G

A

Pts

+/-

PIM

ATOI

Shots

Kesler

C

82

10

13

23

+1

79

14:03

119

Bieksa

D

39

0

6

6

-1

77

16:06

38

Burrows

RW

43

7

5

12

+5

61

10:24

49

Rypien

C

5

1

0

1

+1

4

6:19

6

Balej

RW

1

0

1

1

+1

0

7:56

3

Smith

C

1

0

0

0

0

0

10:52

2

 

 

 

Ryan Kesler, C (Age 21) – Although technically not a rookie due to the 28 games he played for the Canucks during the 2003-04 NHL season, this season was his first full season in the big show. Kesler played on a wide variety of lines during the course of the season in a number of different roles. However, he spent most of his team on the bottom two lines in a checking-line role and getting some penalty kill minutes. Later in the season, when it became clear that the “West Coast Express” line of Todd Bertuzzi, Brendan Morrison and Markus Naslund was not playing to the best of their abilities, Kesler got some minutes playing with both Bertuzzi and Naslund, mostly apart, but occasionally together.

 

Despite scoring 30 goals in 2004-05 in the AHL, Kesler failed to show impressive offensive prowess this season, scoring just 10 goals and 23 total points. His shot was weak and inaccurate and his offensive instincts did not shine through. As the season went on his overall play improved. He became increasingly physical and drops the gloves several times, including a fight with Flames star Jarome Iginla. Overall Kesler’s play left a lot to be desired and there is no question that he needs to demonstrate greater offensive flair if he hopes to be more than a third liner and penalty killer. The outlook for Kesler is not clear at this point. It is clear he is an NHL-caliber player and will play in the league for a long time. However, it is up to him to determine if his role with the Canucks will be as a checker or a scorer. With the Canucks failing to make the playoffs, Kesler will join Team USA at the World Hockey Championships.

 

Kevin Bieksa, D (Age 24) – Bieksa went into training camp with mixed expectations from observers and a clearly uncertain spot within the organization. After his outstanding professional rookie season in the AHL during the lockout, Bieksa established himself as a bona fide prospect. The Canucks had several positions available on their blue line when the year began and it was speculated that Bieksa could take one of them with a strong camp. Unfortunately for him he never got the chance as a leg injury kept him out of most of camp and the start of the season. Bieksa eventually broke into the line-up on Dec. 19 and stuck with the team for the rest of the season, although he did not appear in a game after April 3. Bieksa played on the second and third pairings during the season depending on how injuries were affecting the team’s defensive corps.

 

Bieksa played solidly all season, providing reliable defensive zone coverage and physicality in his own zone. His north-south speed proved to be better than expected, although his turning could use some refinements to make him slightly more mobile. In fairness to Bieksa, the same could be said of 90 percent of the defensemen in the NHL. Bieksa showed a willingness to jump up in the play at times and also demonstrated good judgement in doing so. His efforts did not yield great result, however, as he managed to earn just six assists in 39 games played. Bieksa is all but guaranteed a spot on the Canucks third pairing next season thanks to his strong play when he was in the line-up.

 

Alexandre Burrows, LW (Age 25) – Burrows got the call to join the Canucks on Jan. 2 and stuck with the team for the rest of the year, appearing in 43 games, scoring seven goals and five assists for 12 points. He also received 61 minutes in penalties. Burrows has good speed and demonstrated an aggressive and intense style of play. After scoring four goals in his first 12 games in the NHL, he scored in only one of his remaining 31 games (the exception being a notable one, a hat trick in a 7-4 win over the Kings). The third goal never actually touched Burrows, but was not changed.

 

To be effective, Burrows has to play at a high level of intensity that is nearly impossible to maintain over the course of a full season. Because he is not particularly big at 5’11, 190 lbs, he also runs the risk of accruing injuries due to his frenetic and physical style of play. And there is the problem of Burrows having poor hockey sense and very limited offensive talent at this level. Burrows has been a 30-goal scorer in junior and the ECHL, but clearly is not able to put out anything resembling those stats at the NHL level.

 

Rick Rypien, C (Age 21) – Rypien appeared in just five games with the Canucks between Dec. 21 and Dec. 31, a stretch where the Canucks went 1-4, losing every game by just one goal. His stint in the NHL came to a crashing halt when he slammed into the boards and broke his ankle. He was out of action until his return to the AHL on March 12 but did not return to the Canucks line-up. Rypien scored a goal in his first-ever NHL game, but his style of play is to be an aggressive and relentless forechecker. He tallied one point in five NHL games, as well as four penalty minutes. Undersized at 5’11, 170 lbs, Rypien relies on speed and heart, much like fellow Canucks rookie Burrows. Due to his size and limited skill set, Rypien faces a significant uphill battle to get back to the NHL. His ceiling is limited to playing limited minutes on the fourth line.

 

Jozef Balej, RW (Age 24) – Balej played his first, and only, game as a Canuck this season on Dec. 4, registering an assist on a Kesler goal early in the third period. While in the AHL, he suffered a freak accident when the end of his stick was driven into his body causing him to miss the rest of the season with internal injuries. His future is uncertain.

 

Nathan Smith, C (Age 24) – Smith played just one game this season, a 3-1 win over Chicago on Nov. 22. A number of other depth players within the organization saw longer stints in the NHL than him this season which likely signifies that he will be unable to reach the NHL on a full-time basis with the Canucks.

 

Rob McVicar, G (Age 24) – McVicar played two minutes during a 5-3 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Dec. 1. McVicar does not show signs of NHL potential and will likely struggle to more than an ECHL goalie.

 

Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.


Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.


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