The dominoes may finally be falling in the right direction for Jett Woo.
The defenceman has struggled to establish himself as an NHL defenceman and has yet to play a regular-season game for the Vancouver Canucks. However, on Monday, the club’s second-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft was recalled from the AHL affiliate in Abbotsford as the parent club addresses its back end.
By placing the rehabbing Carson Soucy on injured reserve — he has been out since Jan. 20 after blocking a Mitch Marner shot with his hand — the Canucks opened a roster spot. Nikita Zadorov will complete his two-game suspension on Tuesday. Mark Friedman filled in admirably on Sunday in a 3-2 overtime win at Washington. The Canucks were off Monday.
Friedman could face the Blackhawks in Chicago on Tuesday to complete a five-game road trip. Or, Woo could play, or take part in the morning game-day skate and then just sit in the United Center pressbox. He got the recall with Akito Hirose and Christian Wolanin injured.
Woo, 23, has 16 points (5-11) in 42 AHL games this season. Abbotsford general manager Ryan Johnson had often said that Woo needed to find out what kind of player he wanted to be, to find his identity. Under new Abbotsford coach Jeremy Colliton, that process started to take shape.
“I try to make goals that I know I can make and goals that are pretty far out there,” Woo told Postmedia after skating with his teammates at the University of B.C. ahead of the beginning of the Canucks’ NHL training camp in Victoria.
“I know I’m someone that strives toward things like that and I think if I make some high goals that makes puts me in a good spot. I’ve got to be smart. Move pucks. Be simple. And play hard. Even though I got some points last year, the staple of my game is playing hard D and being someone they can rely on in most situations.
“I grew up always playing defence-first. I know I’m someone that can impact the game making hits and playing smart. And I’m someone that, you know, guys don’t want to go up against in practice and in games. So I think just keep that up and try to make that into the NHL game too.”
As for Soucy, he logged 13:40 of ice time in a 6-4 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, but didn’t play in the third period. He was credited with one shot block, a fateful second-period attempt to negate a Mitch Marner shot. Soucy tried to shake it off to no avail.
“It’s a tough break for him, he can’t get a break,” Canucks coach Rick Tocchet said at the time.
“Soucy is a really good player and has been great for us,” added defenceman Ian Cole. “He’s had a really tough year in terms of injuries and has missed a ton of time. I know it’s really affecting him, as it would with anyone, but I can tell you for sure that he’ll be back and be great again.
The Canucks blueliner also suffered a foot injury on Nov. 12 in Montreal and missed 23 games. A Juraj Slafkovsky shot struck him in the back of the leg early in the second period of a 5-2 win.
Soucy wasn’t facing the Canadiens’ winger and was surprised by the wrist shot because he couldn’t adjust in time and was in obvious pain. He hobbled to the bench, rested for a moment and then went to the dressing room. He didn’t return.
“Deep down, I pretty much knew right away,” Soucy told Postmedia News.
Soucy also missed first two games of the regular season before finding his stride to be a consistent contributor. He’s been a big part of improving the penalty kill with 37:36 of total time and 1:47 per outing, which ranks fifth on the club. He has six points (2-4) in 21 games and is averaging 17:25 per outing.
— with a file from Patrick Johnson
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