Canucks of Tomorrow is assessing every prospect in the Vancouver Canucks system and what they are projecting to be in the future. We’ll be looking at the strengths and weaknesses of their game, as well as what the future holds for them if and when they advance through the Vancouver organization. Today, we feature Jack Rathbone.
Position: Left-shot defenceman
How Acquired: Drafted, 4th-round, 95th-overall, 2017
2021-22 Stats: (GP-G-A-PTS) 39-10-30-40, 15 PIM (Abbotsford, AHL)
Contract Status: A two-season, one-way NHL deal that pays him an average of $850,000 per season.
Anticipated 2022-23 Team: Vancouver Canucks
This may be the most poignant of our “Vancouver Canucks of the Future” series. Or maybe the most pressing? How about urgent?
Just above here, Rathbone’s anticipated team is listed as the Vancouver Canucks. That’s not being overly optimistic, that’s just because we only allow ourselves one choice, and Vancouver seems the logical option. There would be more than a few disappointed hockey folks if Rathbone’s fulltime NHL dream doesn’t become a reality, obviously no one more so than the player himself.
If top lefty D-man Quinn Hughes is capable and ultimately willing to move to the right side for this season, then the likelihood of Rathbone’s life in the big show increases.
If Hughes moves over, Oliver Ekman-Larsson would move up and slot into the top pair on the left side, leaving plenty of room for Rathbone to work his way into one of the next four. The 23-year-old former 4th-round draft pick of the Canucks in 2017 would otherwise be facing ‘do or die’ territory as it relates to his Vancouver future. If he’s not ready this season, head scratching would ensue.
Optimism stems from the fact Rathbone showed his mettle towards the end of last season after returning from injury and leading the Abbotsford Canucks to the AHL Calder Cup playoffs. He was sterling after missing a month and a half due to a cheap shot check by Colton Sceviour of Bakersfield in an American Hockey League game back on February 16th. Rathbone ended up a point-a-game D-man in the AHL.
He’s been a standout at every level he’s played, including at Harvard where he spent the 2018-’19 college hockey season with partner Adam Fox, the eventual 2021 Norris Trophy winner for the New York Rangers.
“He’s an extremely talented player,” Canucks General Manager Patrik Allvin said of Rathbone in early July. “Nothing is for granted here, and I expect Jack to come in and compete for a spot on our team. We want to make sure we create internal competition. We’re excited for younger players to be pushing for ice time.”
Rathbone has already played 17 career games at hockey’s highest level. He got his first NHL goal out of the way back in the spring of 2021 against Mikko Koskinen of the Edmonton Oilers. He’s shown excellent skating ability, manoeuvrability, and creativity. Added strength and maturity will come.
The door’s wide open and Rathbone is expected to confidently walk through it.