Jett Woo has the coolest name at camp. But he’s not quite yet a jet with a second “t”, he’s a 21-year-old defenceman actually looking to work on his skating and continue his improvement at Vancouver Canucks rookie camp. The somewhat offensive defenceman at the Western Hockey League level in Moose Jaw and Calgary grew his game at the AHL pro’ level last season in Utica.
“Being able to play with the older guys, playing a pro’ game, with the help of the coaching staff, made it a lot easier to go into that pro lifestyle and game,” Woo shared with the media Friday morning. “I know all of the young guys had a great experience there.”
Woo had 66 points in 62 games played in Moose Jaw his next to last season in the WHL. After moving to Calgary for his final junior season, he chipped in 46 points in 64 games. He’s been a consistent plus player who plays bigger than his size, albeit he’s no slouch at 6-feet, 205 pounds. Last season in Utica he finished with five points in 18 games and was again a plus player for a team that finished five games above .500 in a shortened season. He’s excited to bring that experience to this camp.
“I kind of want to focus on what the team talked to me about at the end of they year,” Woo said. “Just getting a little bit quicker and faster, because moving into that pro game, it’s just that much faster, so I think that, as well as (building) my strength are the biggest things. I know on the ice it was going back and getting pucks and moving them quick, kind of the staples of that. Nothing changed that much, just be able to do a little bit more is what we wanted to do.”
The Vancouver Canucks Senior Director of Player Development and the General Manager of the American League’s new Abbotsford Canucks is Ryan Johnson.
“He’s a resilient kid,” Johnson stated. “He bounces right back from mistakes, he learns from them, applies them, so I think with that under his belt he’ll have more confidence. I also think that with that year experience, guys, whether it’s from Europe or college or junior, a lot of adapting to pro is finding out what your identity is, and I think that Jett really has a clear idea of what that is now and what he needs to do day-in and day-out, and how that looks at the NHL level. I expect him to be more consistent within what his identity is as a defenceman at this level.”
Woo, a right-handed D-man who can play both sides of the ice, had versatility instilled in his game at an early age. His dad Larry Woo played two seasons in the Western League.
“I know growing up my dad coached me through a few years of hockey, so one of the biggest things he wanted me to do was to be able to play both sides and be confident on both sides with the puck,” Jett said. “I did it a few times in junior as well and I was very confident with it in Utica. Once we got to the point where some of the defenceman were hurt and we were low on numbers, I wanted to make it clear to the coaching staff that I was able and very confident to play both sides and I think that’s where it kind of showed up.”
The other element son brings from dad to the Canucks is Chinese heritage, a prominent part of the cultural diversity in Vancouver.
“I didn’t really think about it much until I was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks and thinking about the diversity here,” Woo said. “It’s real exciting for me and my family. We’ve gotten a lot of love from the community here and everyone else, so I’m looking forward to work with that and continue on this road that I’m on.”
Another important part of that hockey path is making it clear that he’s not going to be pushed around. He had 88 penalty minutes his final year of junior and he’s already established a reputation for sticking up for his pro teammates.
“I’m definitely not gonna let anyone push around one of my players or do anything like that,” Woo stated. “I’m not a player that’s gonna shy away from that. I think that’s always been part of my game whether it’s pro or not.”
Johnson succinctly summarized Woo’s situation and his opportunity.
Jett is a mature kid, he jumped in and was assertive right from day one, which is hard for a young defenceman,” Johnson pointed out. “I think for players like himself and even Carson Focht, a little bit of a watered down American League, with every (NHL) team having a taxi squad, the American League was not quite at the level it normally is. But I think these guys benefited from that, it allowed them to jump in, to play key minutes.
“The coaches did an outstanding job of giving them responsibility early and Jett played both sides, he earned his way through the year, getting second unit power play time. He really adapted his game from junior. He’s a scrappy, physical guy who can defend, kill penalties, move pucks, skates well, and jumped into the pro game and did that, and improved immensely. I expect him this year to take another big step. He’s gonna have a big camp for us here and if he ends up in Abbotsford, I expect him to be a very key piece to that defensive corps.”
Barring a small miracle he will be in Abbotsford. Beyond that, the next step in the process is actually quite simple to Woo.
“Get rep’s and game experience.”
Rookie camp rep’s begin Friday afternoon at Rogers Arena.