The Vancouver Canucks have amassed a bevy of options to fill out their defensive depth chart.
Jack Rathbone is on that list — and he knows he’s got work to do to climb that chart and solidify the NHL dream he’s had since he was drafted by the Canucks in 2017.
Rathbone has made the opening roster two seasons in a row, only to see himself quickly become a spare part and reassigned to the minors.
In 2021-22, he thrived in Abbotsford, scoring at a point-per-game pace and making the AHL’s All-Rookie team.
Last season, after a miserable month in the NHL in which he didn’t play, Rathbone was reassigned to the AHL again and things didn’t go well for quite a while.
But late in the season, Rathbone rediscovered himself and again became a key defenceman for the AHL squad. So he was ready when a rash of injuries hit the NHL squad late in the year, leading to a five-game recall and a chance to show new coach Rick Tocchet and lead assistant Adam Foote what he’s about.
His return to the NHL wasn’t perfect, but Rathbone believes he showed his coaches enough in that stretch. And then he got to demonstrate how he can perform in playoff hockey when he was reassigned to Abbotsford to close the season.
The AHL Canucks made the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs. Rathbone had two goals and an assist in six games.
“I think you always take something from a previous year. Whether you personally thought you had a good year or a bad year, I think always you’re learning something,” he said this week at the University of B.C., where the bulk of the Canucks’ roster has been preparing for training camp later this month.
Rathbone, a former Harvard University captain who turned pro before the 2020-21 season, said “it may be silly not be aware” of the long list of names of players competing to make the team. Christian Wolanin, Matt Irwin, Guillaume Brisebois and Akito Hirose will be also battling for likely one, maybe two, roster spots.
“But at the same time, you just put the work in the off-season. Everyone expects to come in here and put their best foot forward in trying to make the big club and it’s still the same,” he said.
Nothing is given, everything is earned. Rathbone knows this after suiting up for 28 NHL games for the Canucks over the past three seasons.
He was glad he got a chance to show Tocchet and Foote what he can do at the end of last season.
“Especially with them being new here and me being new to what we’re doing,” he said.
At the end of the day, he believes he’s prepared himself as best he can. He looks as fit and chiselled as he’s ever been. He’s around 190 pounds or so, right where he wants to be.
“You’re going to lose some weight during camp anyways, but yeah try to stick around there,” he said.
BRO CHAT: Rathbone’s is always happy when his little brother, Teddy, is brought up, and he was especially delighted to talk about his brother this time around, since it was his 15th birthday on Sept. 5. Just before Jack left Boston for Vancouver, he’d helped his brother get fitted for some Rollerblades. “That was a big birthday gift he wanted,” Jack said. Teddy, who is on the autism spectrum, was getting read to start Grade 8, his big brother added.
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