In a 2015 NHL draft overshadowed by the huge publicity drawn by the top two picks — Connor McDavid of the Oilers and Jack Eichel of the Sabres — it’s easy to dismiss everybody else taken as a mere afterthought, even the rest of the first-rounders.
Brock Boeser, the Vancouver Canucks 2015 first-round selection, taken 23rd overall, knows he can’t command the crowds that have turned out this week for Edmonton’s and Buffalo’s rookie camps to watch McDavid and Eichel.
His goals at the Canucks development camp, which concluded Wednesday at Shawnigan Lake School, were much more modest.
“I want to make a good first impression as a two-way power forward,” said Boeser, a six-foot-one, 191-pound winger from Burnsville, Minnesota.
The Victoria Royals of the Western Hockey League have had a good player pipeline to Minnesota, but Boeser wasn’t interested in any WHL major-junior teams. He has a route in mind and is sticking to it, planning to play in the U.S. collegiate NCAA for North Dakota after scoring 35 goals with 33 assists last season for the Waterloo Black Hawks of the junior USHL.
“School is important for me,” said Boeser, who plans on majoring in business and marketing.
“College this year is a good step for me.”
So he felt right at home in the bucolic educational setting of the Canucks development camp on the Shawnigan Lake School campus.
“This is one of the nicest places I’ve seen,” Boeser said.
“The fans are great. It’s good to be part of a great organization and community.”
The idyllic surroundings give way to something more fast and furious once on the ice with the other Canucks prospects in Shawnigan Lake School’s new $8-million sprung-structure rink.
“This is a big step up,” Boeser said.
He immediately saw what needs to be worked on to make an impact in the pro game, something that will eventually be expected of him as a first-rounder: “Explosiveness . . . getting more explosive.”
Boeser and 2014 Vancouver first-round picks Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann could provide the young nucleus of the Canucks’ forward corps as the team looks to the future. Boeser goes into that future with a sense of perspective after four friends from Burnsville were involved in a car crash last year in which one died and another suffered serious head injuries.
So if you think the emotions are any less in the lower end of the first round of the NHL draft than they are up at the heady level of McDavid and Eichel, guess again.
“My mother almost tripped when we got up to hug as a family [after he was selected by the Canucks] . . . we were super-excited . . . a lot of hard work was put into it,” Boeser said.
He and the other skaters in the 29-player Canucks development camp at Shawnigan Lake were shooting at four goalies, the most glaringly obvious of whom was six-foot-nine project John McLean out of NCAA Div. III Gustavus Adolphus College.
It follows a trend to bigger goalies epitomized by the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Ben Bishop and six-foot-three Thatcher Demko, the Canucks’ 2014 second-round draft pick from Boston College, who didn’t dress at Shawnigan Lake because of injury.
But goalies without that kind of physical reach aren’t backing down.
Former BCHL Victoria Grizzlies goaltender Matt Ginn, in Shawnigan Lake as a free-agent Canucks invite, isn’t daunted.
“There’s nothing I can do about my size,” said the five-foot-11 graduate of NCAA Holy Cross, who got his first taste of pro last season in the ECHL.
“You play to your strengths, whatever they may be, and try not to let anything else be an obstacle. I’m going to take advantage of this opportunity to show I can play at this level.”
Jackson Whistle of the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets, well known to Victoria fans as a Royals killer, was another free-agent goalkeeper in the Canucks’ Shawnigan Lake camp. At six-foot-one, Whistle has decent size. But he knows the trend may be for even larger goalies.
“It would be nice to be that big, but there’s nothing I can do about it,” he said.
“I want to make a push for a spot. You do your best.”
The Vancouver main training camp is Sept. 17-20 in Prince George.
The Canucks will then fly down to the Island to open the pre-season in the nationally televised Kraft Hockeyville game Sept. 21 against the San Jose Sharks at the Q Centre in Colwood.