Mike Gillis announced the first round of training camp cuts today, reducing the prospect camp roster by nine players. Seven of those nine were unsigned invitees, who I briefly introduced you to at the beginning of September. The other two are signed to contracts.
Dan Gendur has been assigned to the Moose, where he will hope to stick with the club after spending last season in Victoria with the Salmon Kings. Gendur has yet to really impress at a prospect camp and is on the last year of his entry-level contract. He'll need to step up this season if he wants to earn another contract with the Canucks.
Kellan Tochkin heads back to the WHL for another year with the Everett Silvertips. Tochkin was undrafted but caught the Canucks attention with 74 points in 72 games as a rookie in the WHL in 2008-09. He wasn't able to build on those totals in his second year and will need to prove that he has the talent to overcome his small size. Since he's been sent down to his junior team, he no longer counts against the Canucks' 50-contract limit, which allows Gillis the freedom to sign one of the invitees to the prospects camp or main camp, such as Pierre-Olivier Morin, Matt Fraser, Brendan Morrison, or Peter Schaefer.
The other players cut were all invitees. Michael Houser will be starting for the London Knights in the OHL and is still draft-eligible. It will be interesting to see if the Canucks look to draft him next year as their depth in goal is looking pretty good with Eddie Lack and Jonathan Iilahti now in the system. Kevin Clark will play for the Moose and it's likely that the other invitees that were cut today, David Fischer, Kris Fredheim, James Henry, Tayler Jordan, and Brad Smith, will get a tryout with Manitoba as well. James Henry is young enough that he will likely return to the Vancouver Giants in the WHL instead and Brad Smith may return to Saint Mary's University in the CIS after a reasonably successful rookie year. David Fischer, a former first round draft pick, is looking more and more like a bust. Canucks prospects like Kevin Connauton and Chris Tanev outshone him.
What this means, of course, is that two of the prospect camp invitees did not get cut. Matt Fraser and Pierre-Olivier Morin were standouts and, as Jason Botchford suggested, are the most likely candidates to earn a contract out of camp. I'm especially happy for Fraser who is by all accounts an outstanding kid. He was named the WHL's Humanitarian of the Year for 2009-10 for his charity work. Also, he's pretty good at hockey. Morin showed a nose for the net during the young stars tournament and managed to score one goal by being in the right place at the right time and roofing the puck. He showed more finish than Steve Bernier on that goal and it will be interesting to see how he matches up with NHL talent in the pre-season. He's young enough that he could be signed and then sent back to the Lewiston MAINEiacs without counting against Vancouver's 50-contract limit.