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Abbotsford Canucks

Hockey Night in Abbotsford, Proud Canucks Lacking Prospects

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Abbotsford Canucks
Abbotsford Canucks home game on January 7th.

What I observed when I attended the Abbotsford Canucks game on Friday night.

The Vancouver Canucks affiliate played its heart out with only 15 skaters and lost in overtime 4-3 to the Bakersfield Condors in front of a pretty hearty and boisterous 50% capacity crowd. The club played an entertaining match that featured a thrilling third period after being tied 1-1 after forty minutes. Those first two periods weren’t too shabby either for the paying customers, featuring breakaway saves by Canucks goalie Spencer Martin, plenty of hits, and lots of special teams action. The Canucks John Stevens scored a shorthanded goal at 1:15 of the first period going hard to the net.

Defenceman Madison Bowey, who seemed out of place in his two games with the Vancouver Canucks this season, appeared to play with permanent brain cramp while trying to do a bit too much. At other times not enough. Dude just needs to simplify and take care of business.

Former Nanaimo Clipper (BCHL) Sheldon Rempal is a confident and legitimate AHL-level scorer and an entertaining offensive threat. The undrafted 26-year-old Calgary native finds open spaces and has a sneaky quick first step. He’s pointless in 10 NHL games in his career between the Los Angeles Kings and the Carolina Hurricanes.

The acoustics at the Abbotsford Centre make for a noisy barn and the crowd reactions to hits and scoring chances are accentuated. It’s the 2nd-highest level of hockey in North America in an intimate setting with great sight lines. (The attendance ended up at 3,499.)

Justin Bailey is simply quicker/faster than most everyone else here, and I can see why veteran defenceman Ashton Sautner would make sense for the Vancouver Canucks taxi squad.

What I learned when I attended the Abbotsford Canucks game on Friday night:

Decimated by injury and Covid-protocols the team had to offer up three Professional Try-out (PTO) contracts to ECHL level players and likely will have to offer up three more for Sunday’s home game.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who attended Canucks training camp in September that forward Will Lockwood has been the most impressive Abbotsford Canuck so far this season. Unfortunately he’s one of the guys missing due to Covid protocols at the moment, but he brings leadership, work ethic and other invaluable “intangibles” to the table. The 23-year-old forward out of the USA National Development Program and the University of Michigan was the Canucks 3rd-round draft pick in 2016 and offers up a consistent level of physicality and intelligence.

At this point the Vancouver Canucks highest draft pick this past summer Danila Klimovich, taken in the 2nd round at 41st overall, is simply an 18-year-old playing in the AHL. That’s not easy. The “it-is-what-it-is” quote fits in this case as there’s a list of things he needs to learn and develop. Nothing leaps out at you at the moment. Klimovich actually turns 19 on Monday.

(Klimovich took a puck to the face late in the first period, went to the dressing room in pain, but was back to start the second)

Prior to the Covid restrictions the team was drawing regular weekend crowds of up to six-thousand patrons who appeared to embrace the presence of the first year franchise and relish the give-and-take in the community.

Something else that will come as no surprise to anyone who’s been around the clubs, Abbotsford Canucks General Manager and Senior Director of Player Development Ryan Johnson is a class act. He’s in his fifth season running things for the franchise at the AHL level.

VHN Managing Editor Rob Simpson has been covering the NHL for three decades on live TV, radio, and as a journalist. He worked his first ever game getting postgame sound as a teenager; it was Vancouver vs. Detroit.

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