Saturday, December 27, 2014

Bure, Ohlund and Sedin: The World Junior's All-Canucks Team

Mattias Ohlund, Pavel Bure and Daniel Sedin have all
starred in the World Juniors as Canucks prospects.

Until they actually make it to the NHL, the World Juniors is far and away the most closely-scrutinized and highly-celebrated stage for the league's best prospects. And when the average hockey fan is reduced to reading the same cliche scouting reports on their team's draft picks over and over and over, there's nothing like actually watching a player like Jake Virtanen or Thatcher Demko perform at the highest level among their peers.

And every so often, you'll be lucky enough to not only see your team's best prospects play internationally, but watch them absolutely dominate the tournament. A couple of years ago, we highlighted the very best Canadian Junior performances by Canucks prospects of all-time. Cody Hodgson's 16 points in 2008 was there. As was Luc Bourdon's All-Star Team performance at GM Place in 2006.

See also: The All-Time List of Canucks Prospects to Play for Team Canada at the WJC (up to 2013) 

But while Canadian prospects will always get more exposure at this tournament, Vancouver have a long history of drafting top flight international prospects. This year, Canucks fans are spoiled with a United Nations showing of Virtanen (Canada), Demko (USA) and Gustav Forsling (Sweden) playing for their respective countries. (Not to mention Cole Cassels narrowly missing a roster spot with the States.) So with this year's international flavour in mind, we've highlighted the best World Junior performances by Canucks prospects -- Canadian or not -- in the history of the tournament:

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Cole Cassels dual citizenship: Is he competing for a spot on the "wrong" team?

I have no idea which one is Cassels -- but he's somewhere on this
bronze medal-winning Ontario team from the 2012 World U17s.
Image: Hockey Canada

There was considerable surprise when Cole Cassels was named to Team USA's preliminary roster for the 2015 World Juniors. USA Hockey made the announcement just a week after Cassels was handed a 10-game OHL suspension for a hit to the head of Damir Sharipzyanov. (Amazingly, the 18-year-old defenceman didn't miss a game and is currently on Russia's preliminary WJC roster.)

Because the IIHF (strangely) upholds CHL suspensions, Cassels would be ineligible to play the United States' first two games. But for those of you who have been following Cassels' progression this season, he has added to his two-way reputation an offensive upside that -- if not for his current suspension -- would put him among the OHL's top five scorers

It'll be interesting to see whether USA Hockey retains him on their roster. With the United States' second game coming against Germany, they'll only truly miss him for the opener against Finland. And he'll still be able to practice with the team and compete in exhibitions, so it's not as if he'll be coming into the tournament cold.

But the more interesting question is this: If not for his suspension, would the Ohio-born and Connecticut-raised Cassels be competing for a spot on Team Canada instead? Better yet, would he prefer to play for Team Canada?

Monday, December 08, 2014

Watch Radim Vrbata pull off the same ridiculous deke three years apart

Image credit: Canucks YouTube

Besides a point in the standings, if tonight's 4-3 meltdown against the Sens was worth anything, it was bearing witness to Radim Vrbata's outrageous behind-the-net tuck-in on Craig Anderson to open the scoring.

When you're a team whose two offensive stars are playmakers, the highlight reel goals you're used to seeing are typically some sort of tic-tac-toe, no-look-pass wizardry. Enter about every other goal that both Sedins are in on.

Then a natural goal-scorer like Vrbata comes along and for the first time in a long time, you see an individual effort with enough filth to make all the Miley Cyruses among us blush. Yes, Old 17 was also good for the odd solo effort, but his eventual insistence on doing it alone every single rush was so infuriating that the wonder was lost when it actually worked.

After the game, Vrbata told reporters it wasn't the first time he had used that move before.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Vancouver Canucks Top 5 Goals of the Month | November 2014

One of these months I'll actually post these videos in a timely manner. But nonetheless, the Canucks are another month and change into this blissfully surprising season and much like the first month-in-review, this past November was well worth documenting.

Going 9-4-1, the Canucks continued to duke it out with Team Giordano over in Calgary for surprise team of the year. And while the quick start of the first two lines, catalyzed by Vrbata and Bonino, was the story of October, the emergence of the team's bottom six have allowed Willie Desjardins to make good on his promise to roll all four units. It's one thing to do it, but with literally all six current members of the bottom two lines on a 30-plus-point pace, the Canucks have never looked so good in the process.

It makes sense then that in this November's edition of the Top 5 Goals of the Month, all four lines are well-represented. From Hank and Dank's continued dominance in overtime to Bo Horvat's first NHL goal, this one's full of talent, grit and sweet, sweet career milestones: