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Canucks Top 10 Prospects: Jack Rathbone’s on an upward trajectory


The 2020 NHL Entry Draft is less than a week away.

The Vancouver Canucks don’t have a pick until the third round this year. As they prepare for the draft, we’re evaluating the top 10 prospects in their system. Today, at No. 3, is Jack Rathbone.

The Canucks have hit home runs in the draft’s first round in recent years. You have to find NHLers with your top pick, but the true gauge of a system’s depth is how your team drafts after the first round.

Rathbone could be the latest case of the Canucks finding a gem outside the first round.

His best asset is his most visible one: He’s a wonderful skater and puck handler.

Rathbone’s not Quinn Hughes — no one is — but there’s little doubt that if he pans out, he’ll be yet another defenceman who will help the Canucks play at the end of the ice they want to be at: the offensive end.

After two years at Harvard University, Rathbone took his chance to sign with the Canucks this summer, setting course for the professional ranks.

In the year ahead of the 2017 draft, his play for Dexter Southfield School in suburban Boston was the talk of the New England prep hockey circuit. Because he was still playing high school hockey, he wasn’t seen as a first-round talent, but many thought he’d go in the second round.

And then he had a concussion.

And then teams realized he wasn’t going to Harvard right away, that he was going to stay for an extra year at the elite boys’ school so he could spend more time at home with his brother Teddy, who is 10 years younger and on the autism spectrum.

That made for concerns in some quarters that it would hurt Rathbone’s development.


JACK RATHBONE

(Prospect No. 3)

Age: 21.

Height: 5-11. Weight: 190 pounds.

Draft year: Fourth round, 2017.

Current team: Utica Comets (AHL).

Outlook : Second-pairing defenceman.


“As many as 20 teams talked to Rathbone but just one didn’t try to talk him out of the extra year in prep school and that was the Canucks. That was very important to him,” J.D. Burke, editor in chief of Elite Prospects Rinkside , said.

The Canucks instead viewed his family dedication as a positive.

And Rathbone was a player the Canucks’ scouting staff knew well. Former amateur scouting director Judd Brackett knew him well from coaching him in summer hockey.

So did New England area scout Vincent Montalbano, who also coached him in his younger years.

Character has been a regular theme in the Canucks’ draft board over the past three drafts: They want players who can play but who also have an understanding of work ethic and how to work effectively to make themselves better players.

There wasn’t much left for Rathbone to prove by playing another year of high school hockey for Dexter, but he still found a way to push himself to get better during that season.

It meant he arrived at Harvard as a 19-year-old freshman, ready to contribute right off the bat. He tallied 22 points in 31 games in 2018-19.

And then in 2019-20, Rathbone posted 31 points in 28 games for the Crimson, continuing to push his abilities on an upwards curve. He arrived in collegiate hockey already an elite skater and attacking threat, but under the tutelage of head coach Ted Donato and his staff vastly improved his defensive game.

“I think the really interesting thing about Rathbone is he’s kind of like a quarterback in the pocket in how he scans the entire ice,” Burke said. As a skater, his stride is powerful and uses great mechanics, he added.

He also has an underrated shot, though it’s his creativity with the puck that’s his real selling point.

“He does his damage by activating off the point and working the outside,” Burke explained. “He then funnels play to the centre of the ice that way.”

The one real flaw in Rathbone’s game is his defensive play. He’s pretty decent defending through the neutral zone, Burke said, but when the play moves into his own end the young blueliner sometimes runs into problems.

“Harvard play a very rigid structure in their own end where they pin one defenceman to the front of the net and you can see how Rathbone chomps at the bit to extend himself, which opens him up to trouble at times,” he said.

But that’s a part of the game he can yet improve. And in the big picture, Rathbone’s likely to follow the path that Tyler Myers has tried to follow in his career: Make your puck-possession game so good that whatever defensive flaws you may have are hardly noticed because you’re spending so much time in the offensive zone.

“The selling point for Rathbone is the way he’ll defend is by constantly having the puck,” Burke said.

“I think he could compete for a spot on the third pair this season. Long term he’s second-pair. He’s a player who’s not going to change the complexion of your lineup but absolutely a piece who has value all the same.”

pjohnston@postmedia.com

twitter.com/risingaction

2020 TOP 10 CANUCKS PROSPECTS

No. 10: Toni Utunen

No. 9: Aidan McDonough

No. 8: Jett Woo

No. 7: Kole Lind

No. 6: Brogan Rafferty

No. 5: Mike DiPietro

No. 4: Olli Juolevi

No. 3: Jack Rathbone

No. 2: Tomorrow

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