Trevor Linden excited about Canucks’ ‘formidable group’ of prospects

The Vancouver Canucks, Canada’s only team currently in a rebuild and the least likely to reach the playoffs, are all about the future these days. Sure, they picked up some veterans including Sam Gagner, Thomas Vanek and Alex Burmistrov over the summer, but there’s a chance some of those older guys are dealt by the trade deadline for picks and/or prospects.

This franchise is all about the future right now and is coming off a successful 2017 trade deadline in which it added promising forwards Jonathan Dahlen and Nikolay Goldobin (four goals in three AHL games so far). Neither of them cracked the opening night roster, but will instead begin the season in the AHL before making the jump.

Brock Boeser, one of many early league-wide candidates for the Calder Trophy, did make the team right away and is set to start the season on the third line with Burmistrov and Gagner. Virtanen, the sixth overall pick from 2014, made the cut too, though he may have to wait to make his season debut.

All told, team president Trevor Linden is excited about the direction in which the team is headed.

“There is a formidable group of young players within our system that is marching towards being contributing everyday NHL players,” he said Friday on Sportsnet 650’s Starting Lineup. “Some of those players are at different stages so it’s going to take some patience.

“I’m excited for (coach) Travis (Green). He’s assembled a great staff and I really like how he’s approached things. I’m excited to see where he can get some of those players in their development.”

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Sportsnet’s Starting Lineup
Originally aired October 06 2017

Linden pointed out that Green has done a good job of setting the tone as the new head coach in Vancouver, holding his players accountable, being firm with them, but also being fair. He agreed with the notion that Green is similar to former Canucks coach Alain Vigneault in the kind of culture he’s trying to plant — the biggest difference being that Vigneault had the Sedins, Ryan Kesler and Alex Edler (among others) in their primes, while Green is building this team from the ground up.

One prospect who won’t be in either Vancouver or AHL Utica this season is Olli Juolevi, who instead was returned to Finland to play in that country’s main professional league. After Green said Juolevi just wan’t NHL ready earlier, Linden agreed and pointed out that kind of decision-making by the coach is a good example of how this team will be grown.

“Travis is a big believer in they have to earn their stripes. They have to be accountable and be contributors and earn the trust of the coaching staff,” Linden said.

Linden went on to discuss a few of the younger players in the Canucks’ organization. Here are some of the highlights:

Jake Virtanen:
“I think he’s a young player that didn’t fully understand where he needed to be on a daily basis. I think Travis had a significant impact on him last year. I think Jake brings to our team something we desperately need and that’s that power, speed, physicality-type game.”

Brock Boeser:
“I think we still have to recognize these are young players. Even Brock, he’s a great kid, he’s a talented kid; he’s skilled. But we need to be patient with him and understand there will be growing pains along the way. I think it’s unfair to look at other players around the league and say ‘well this is where that player should be.'”

Jonathan Dahlen, who starts the season on IR in the AHL:
“He’s had a bout of mono and we’re getting him in for some assessment and tests and seeing where he’s at and trying to figure out what his future looks like.”

Brendan Gaunce:
“I’m hoping he’ll be cleared for contact next week so that would mean he’d start practicing with our guys, with the team without a medical jersey on. That would put him still a couple weeks away. We’d probably want to get him some games in Utica to get him up to speed. I’m still thinking he’s first of Novemberish.”