By: Trent Leith / May 12, 2021
How many times as a Canuck fan in the last two or three years, have you read that a rookie player has come in near the end of the season and has had a strong performance for his new club? ? While we haven’t had the likes of Brock Boeser, Elias Petterson or Quinn Hughes this season, we’ve had players like Nils Höglander and now Jack Rathbone, that have filled the void of the young Canucks talent to fawn over
Nils Höglander has played every game for the Canucks this season, where Jack Rathbone has played only five. But that hasn’t taken away from Jack Rathbone’s early accomplishments in the blue and green, so far he has three points in five games, but he had nine points in eight games at the AHL level. He has an offensive flair that anyone can get behind. Rathbone did not enter the lineup with the pedigree that Quinn Hughes did when he stepped in as another offensive blueliner. Additionally, while Rathbone’s ceiling may not be as high as Hughes’, fans are certainly very excited to see what he can do.
Before entering the NHL, Rathbone was the Canucks second-best prospect behind only Vasily Podkolzin. Now that Rathbone is in the lineup it begs the questions of where he will slot in and how he will fare on the team long term? While truly only time will tell, we here at StadiumChinatown.ca are ready to put some predictions on paper. Well, I’m ready anyway. Here are my four takes after five games on next season for Rathbone with the Canucks. So get ready to screenshot and put some tweets in your drafts because I’m handing out receipts.
Rathbone Will Play Every Game in 2021-22
This first prediction implies Rathbone will make the starting lineup out of training camp next year. Not only that but he will not get scratched for a single game in his full rookie year. We are starting the takes here with one that might not be so hot, but playing a full season with no healthy scratches is something to be proud of. Especially as a fourth-round draft pick playing in his first full pro season. Rathbone has been on the taxi squad and played a stint in the AHL this year, but has not played a true and proper full professional season.
I’m leaving myself a back door for this one with a caveat in the form of missing games due to injuries. Those will not count. I am predicting only based on healthy scratches due to the coach’s preference or cap restrictions. With that said though, after five games played Rathbone has done nothing to warrant a scratch. Within his first few games, Rathbone has already passed Olli Juolevi on the depth charts and seems to be taking this opportunity and running with it.
Rathbone Will be a Regular Top Four Defender
Again, this is not the highest bar to clear, but Rathbone will take a full-time position in the top four for the entire season next year. While the future of Alex Edler is still unclear, there is a very real chance he will be back next season. If Edler does come back it will likely be in a reduced role as a bottom pairing defenseman or maybe even a 7th. Edler is getting older, and it’s starting to show. His game is slowing down, his defence off the rush is poor and the more minutes he gets the sloppier his defence seems to get. That leaves only Juolevi in competition for the second top four left-side defence position, assuming no player is traded for or acquired.
While Juolevi hasn’t quite lived up to his draft expectations, he is still likely to be a serviceable player in the long term. But Rathbone has already outplayed him for chances higher up the lineup in a short amount of time. It isn’t a hot take to expect Rathbone to play in the top four next season, but I expect Rathbone to play in the top four for the entire season. In the limited sample size, we have been able to watch Rathbone, he has been defensively competent, offensively capable and very confident making plays and carrying the puck. Juolevi on the flip side cannot seem to find consistent offence, struggles defending off the rush, but does seem to be able to defend in zone comfortably. Rathbone’s skating ability, patience and offence, seem to be what is getting him more time in the lineup than Juolevi and I don’t see that changing over the summer.
Rathbone Will Play over 100 Power Play Minutes
This is where things might get a little spicier, in the last two games we have seen Rathbone get a chance in Pettersson’s spot on the first unit power play. Rathbone does not seem to be out of place on his offside along the half-wall, dishing passes and getting teed up for one-timers. Although this fun is likely to be short-lived because as soon as Pettersson is healthy again, he will surely take his place back on the first unit power play.
However, Rathbone will get to quarterback the second unit and be among the first to fill in on the first unit power play. We know how hesitant coach Green was to let Quinn Hughes take over the first power play in his rookie year, but with Rathbone, it only took three games to prove his worth and he was on the top unit in his fourth. Of course, I don’t think Rathbone is better or showing more promise than Hughes, but rather the circumstances allowed for a quicker path to the top unit than they did with Hughes. It does though still show what the coaching staff thinks of the young player, to see Rathbone with this opportunity so soon.
Rathbone Will Get 35 Points
Myers and Edler have done it three times, Schmidt has only done it once and Hamonic has never done it. But, Rathbone will do it in his pro rookie season. We have seen what Rathbone’s confidence and offensive talent has been able to do for him so far, and if he can continue at this rate, he should easily be able to break 35 points. At his current pace, in a full 82 Game season, Rathbone would score 65 points. Now that exact number is likely unattainable for the rookie through the full course of a season, but regardless, I predict that he will be not only second in point scoring for Canucks Defenders he will do it with at least 35 points in the 2021-22 season.
A large factor in Rathbone reaching this point total will be his role on the man advantage. If he can get some time on the first unit and quarterback on the second unit, it will drastically help him increase his chances of producing at such a high rate. What would further help solidify my prediction would be based on Rathbone’s partner next season. If he is paired with a player similar to Hamonic or someone who is comfortable staying home and being defensively responsible, it will allow Rathbone the freedom to play a style similar to Quinn Hughes.
Now, We Wait and See
Rathbone will be an important piece for his team in the years ahead and I expect next season to be a breakout season for the kid. With that said, he is still a rookie and he has a lot to learn about playing in the NHL. He does not have much of a physical game and will continue to need to work on defending. But his ceiling seems to be much higher than many would have expected from a fourth-round draft pick. We at StadiumChinatown.ca are very excited about watching Rathbone develop into a regular full-time NHLer. An added plus would be if he’s able to develop as soon as possible so that I can point back to this article with pride instead of getting people (Brayden mostly) sending me screenshots.