Person of Interest: The 411 on Vancouver’s Troy Stecher

Dan Murphy, Garry Valk and Iain MacIntyre talk about Troy Stecher being called up by the Vancouver Canucks.

Troy Stecher was a largely unknown player heading into training camp for the Vancouver Canucks. It was assumed he’d be a relatively easy player to cut at least towards the end of camp, so that he could season and develop in the AHL. As it turned out, Stecher was a tremendous surprise and forced the Canucks management team into a tough spot.

Stecher was still sent down to the AHL before the start of the NHL season, mostly because he didn’t have to clear waivers like other players would. But with a few Canucks players dealing with injuries, the team called up the 22-year-old for his first NHL game Tuesday night.

So who is this quickly rising prospect?

Age: 22
Position: Defence
Height: 5-foot-10
Weight: 190 pounds
From: Richmond, B.C.
Team before Canucks: University of North Dakota

You may have already guessed that by his 5-foot-10, 190-pound frame, but Stecher has had to be a strong skater and swift puck-mover to make it this far.

He played three seasons for the University of North Dakota before signing with the Canucks as a free agent, and he improved his point total each year. As a freshman, he scored 11 points in 42 games, then upped that total to 13 in 34 games in his second year and, finally, he led all North Dakota defencemen with eight goals and 29 points in 43 games last season. That total put him fourth on his team overall, behind two first-round picks (Brock Boeser, Nick Schmaltz) and Oilers prospect Drake Caggiula.

Prior to that, Stecher was shining in the BCHL with the Penticton Vees, where in three seasons he scored 20, 42 and 47 points. In 2012, Stecher’s second BCHL season, his Vees won the league title and the Jr. A Championship RBC Cup, in which he was named the top defenceman. The next season, Stecher’s 39 assists led all defencemen in the league and he was named best at his position in the Interior Division.

This goes as far as we know anyway. According to the Vancouver Province:

The Richmond News ran a story on Nov. 17, 2006, on speed skater Catriona Le May Doan telling a group of students from Dixon elementary about the obstacles she endured en route to becoming an Olympic champion. The piece quoted a then-12-year-old Stecher as saying, “she’s amazing and I will never give up on my dream,” which included winning Olympic gold and a Stanley Cup.

Naturally with his size, Stecher has had to battle for every each he’s earned in hockey, beginning at the early stages.

According to the Province, Stecher played on a spring team out of the North Shore Winter Club that included, at various times, Morgan Rielly, Seth Jones and Griffin Reinhart. Stecher was a good enough player to join those kinds of teams at a young age, but even his coach looks back and admits he wasn’t someone you’d have guessed would one day make the NHL.

“If you were asking people which one of our guys was going to go on to play for the Vancouver Canucks, Troy Stecher back then would have been probably the 16th name. He didn’t care. He always believed in himself. He always loved the game.”

Just like other undersized defencemen such as Tyson Barrie (third round pick) and Jared Spurgeon (sixth round pick), Stecher has had to play from behind through his career to make his way up the ladder to the NHL. Except he wasn’t even drafted, so it took a couple great years in the NCAA and an eye-opening training camp for him to get his first taste of the NHL at 22.

Stecher replaced injured Chris Tanev in the lineup for his first game Tuesday night and was paired with Alex Edler, whom he clicked so well with in pre-season. The result? He logged 22:35 of ice time, second-most on the team and two seconds behind Edler.

“Playing with Edler, certainly he’s going to get some hard match-ups,” said coach Willie Desjardins.

Again this bodes well for how the Canucks, a team that has relied on its surprisingly effective blue line for its strong start, view Stecher. Prior to the game, Elliotte Friedman made mention of Stecher’s debut in his 30 Thoughts column and hoped they would give him this kind of opportunity.

Troy Stecher makes his NHL debut Tuesday against Ottawa. Hopefully, he’s allowed to breathe, make his mistakes, and grow. There’s so much hype, so fast. The best attribute he’s shown in the AHL? He knows his physical limitations and is smart enough to understand how to defend despite them. Very competitive and very intelligent.

And as Iain MacIntyre said in the first intermission of Sportsnet’s broadcast of Stecher’s debut:

“If the Canucks were being completely honest, Troy Stecher was one of their six best defencemen out of training camp. There’s a variety of reasons they sent him to Utica. But it’s a clear indication of how highly they think of him that first opportunity he’s not only back here with this club but he’s in the lineup.”

Stecher recorded one point in four games with the AHL’s Utica Comets

I hope someone loves you like Canucks fans are loving Stecher…

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