First of all, Abbotsford Canucks General Manager Ryan Johnson appears to live up to the praise heaped upon him by Vancouver Canucks President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford. That based partially on his performance this season with a first-year franchise under absurd injury and Covid cirumstances, and also on whether his season-ending media conference via zoom is any indication of his dedication.
“We are all very impressed with the work he does,” Rutherford said of Johnson on Tuesday, “and really respect him.”
Johnson is also the Vancouver Canucks Senior Director of Player Development.
During his detailed and honest assessment of his Abbotsford hockey club, he suggested two current AHL players would be Vancouver Canucks next season, both with the implied caveats of getting through a productive summer and having an excellent training camp.
“You could see it in his confidence in that first round of games that he was able to go up and start in Vancouver, I think you guys could see the poise and the confidence in his game, a great experience for him,” Johnson pointed out. “He came back and built on that here, which is often a struggle for guys when they come down, but again (he did it) with his attitude and work ethic.”
After going 1-0-and-2 with a .960 save percentage in his January stint with the Vancouver Canucks, Martin went down and finished with a 19-4-and-2 record and a .914 save %, helping rally the baby-Canucks to a Calder Cup playoff birth.
Johnson wasn’t happy with why Martin got to go back up to Vancouver at the end of the season, injuries to goalkeepers, but he was pleased with the results in the three games. Martin went 2-0-and-1 with a .940 save percentage. Yes, he remains unbeaten in regulation as a Vancouver Canucks netminder.
“I was really happy for him to get another chance to go up and play and really stamp, to our organization and our fanbase that he’s the real deal and that we expect him to come in — nothing is handed, we’re going to ask him to come in and perform at training camp — but very excited about his future ultimately with what he could help us with as an organization.”
Left-shot D prospect Jack Rathbone is the other stalwart expected to stick. He’s overcome a rash of injuries including being hauled off on a stretcher after a vicious hit along the end boards in Bakersfield back on February 16th. He returned March 12th.
“We could never get him to play more than a five or six game stretch together without facing some kind of injury,” RJ pointed out. “When you look at Jack in the actual number of pro games and where he is at this point, his (number of) games are a lot less than where we’d like. I think I’ve had him since 2017 and we only have him playing about 130 or so actual hockey games due to scheduling, pandemic, and these things.”
That’s not to suggest the former 4th-round pick of the Vancouver Canucks in 2017 isn’t ready for a permanent look in the big show. Rathbone picked up eight games of NHL experience in 2020-’21 and after an impressive training camp this past fall, he saw nine more games of NHL experience. He has a total of one goal and two assist at the NHL level before posting 40 points in 39 games this season in Abbotsford.
“Our coaching staff here has done a fantastic job of working with him, video, and really, some of the things we know we wanted to round out before he becomes an NHL player,” Johnson said. “Looking forward, finally at the end of this season to finally get him a stretch of games, to get a couple playoff games, I think he’s at a point where he’s gonna have to learn the NHL game.”
Johnson sees Rathbone’s skating and puck moving assets as definitely ready for the next level.
“It’s all of our intention to have him in our group in Vancouver and keep that progression and development going,” Johnson said.
Naturally there are other Abbotsford Canucks who can help at the NHL level when needed, but Martin and Rathbone are those who will be riding the expectations.