Teams have been active in bringing aboard new players for the stretch run of their seasons and their affiliates, and that has included the Vancouver Canucks. This week the Canucks brought on two new players to assist at the end of the season.
Their first signing was a defenseman out of the Western Hockey Association. Ashton Saunter is 20 years old and has been playing with the Edmonton Oil Kings. Saunter had been eligible in the past three drafts and was passed over every single time, but now he has finally found a club to cling onto with the Canucks.
Saunter is 12th overall in scoring for defenseman in the WHL despite the Oil Kings struggling for most of the season. He has 48 points this season which is his career high. The Oil Kings won the Memorial Cup last season, and Saunter’s two-way defensive style was a big reason why.
Saunter is six feet tall and 192 lbs. He could be considered a sleeper prospect after being passed on so many times despite showing some solid skills on the blueline.
Meanwhile, the Canucks have also signed defenseman prospect Ben Hutton from the Maine Black Bears from the NCAA. The Ontario native was a Second Team All-American last season and he slowed down a bit in 2014-2015 with just 21 points as Maine struggled to compete in the strong Hockey East conference.
Hutton is a big guy at 6’3 but he is still a quick skater and he fits into the same kind of mold as Saunter being an offensive minded defenseman who can also get back and stop the opposition.
In the fall, Hockey’s Future ranked Hutton as the 16th defensive prospect in the NCAA.
Maine has seen two prospects sign now after forward Devin Shore signed with the Dallas Stars this week, and the third Hockey East player after Boston Bruins prospect Frank Vatrano signed from the UMass Minutemen.
Apparently the Canucks are going with an offensive defenseman approach when it comes to developing blueliners out of their system. Both Saunter and Hutton are a few years away if they are to make the NHL. Hutton might be a little more developed, and he’s a better prospect, while Saunter has a while to go.
The Canucks farm system has lacked these kind of puck moving and explosive defensemen, so it appears the signings they are going after is with the approach of filling this need.
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