Monday, August 20, 2012

One To Watch: Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks haven't seen a lot of positive results from their drafting over the last seven years. Part of that may be the quality of the NHL roster has kept some worthy prospects on the farm longer than they would be with other franchises.  Another reasons may be that they've been picking late in round 1 for most of that time as well although that doesn't necessarily mean you can't find an impact player. 

The blueline is a bit thin when it comes to prospects; Yann Sauve, Patrick McNally and Kevin Connauton highlight the group. 

Up front the team has made nice value picks in Brendan Gaunce and Nicklas Jensen the last two years. It will be interesting to see how Jensen progresses this season as the Dane has chosen to return to Europe after two years in the OHL. 

It's been four seasons since Jordan Schroeder was taken 22nd overall. The Minnesota native is coming off a career year in the AHL with 44 points but fans have had to be more patient than they probably had expected they would need to be. Is this the year or is Schroeder nearing "more suspect than prospect" territory?

There is depth in goal for sure. Cory Schneider's play has won over the fan base and it seems just a matter of time before Roberto Luongo is dealt. That will clear room for Swede Eddie Lack to join the big club after two years spent in the minors. 

There is also another goalie worth mentioning, less heralded than Schneider and Lack but he's the guy I've chosen for this series. 

Photo: Dennis Pause
Joe Cannata (G)
Merrimack College Warriors
6'1, 200 lbs
Drafted 173rd Overall in 2009

Like Schneider, Joe Cannata is a Massachusetts guy and, like Schneider, he was a member of the US-NTDP and then played his college hockey in Hockey East. I don't want to get crazy with comparisons between the two guys because that might be where they end but thought those were worth mentioning. 

Cannata played at Merrimack College which was until recently, an also-ran when it came to the standings in the conference; not on par with Boston College, Boston University, New Hampshire, Maine, etc.

That began to change under coach Mark Dennehy and specificaly in 2009-10, coincidentally Cannata's freshman season with the Warriors.  The team posted a just under .500 record which doesn't sound great but it was an improvement from what they had been doing for years. Merrimack became a tough team to beat at home but unfortunately, they couldn't buy a win on the road. 

2010-11 was the team's best year under Dennehy and put the team on the map in the conference and on a national level. Merrimack qualified for the National tournament and ended the year with a more than respectable 25-10-4 record. 

Photo: Dennis Pause
Cannata started all 39 games that year and came away with a .911 sv% and 2.48 GAA.

That's a tough act to follow but the Warriors had another strong season this past year which included a week ranked at the #1 team in NCAA hockey. It didn't last and although their record finished a bit worse than the year previous, it was still a strong campaign. 

In fact, it was a career year for Cannata who played in 36 contests and held a very impressive .925 sv% and miniscule 2.18 GAA both career bests.  He ended his college career as Merrimack's all-time winningest goalie with 59 victories although he'd held the record after his junior season. 

Photo: Hockey East Online
I don't know what the future holds for Cannata but that's why he's in this series; I'm intrigued to see where he goes from Merrimack. 

He played one game for the AHL Chicago Wolves at the end of last season and earned a win. Is that where we should expect him to be this coming year?  

If the Canucks deal Luongo and a goalie comes back in that trade, does Lack get pushed back down to the farm sending Cannata all the way down to the ECHL? 

His numbers have steadily improved over the last 5 years but moving up to the pro ranks, will he transition quickly or will his adjustment take longer? At 22 years of age, Cannata still has formative years ahead of him. 

For these reasons I have picked Joe Cannata as "One to Watch" in 2012-13.

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