Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning announced today that a trio of players has been sent down to the Utica Comets of the AHL. Center Joseph Labate and defenseman Andrey Pedan, both recent promotions, will head back to upstate New York. For Labate, it was the first NHL call-up of his career. In three games, Labate failed to register a point, but was an effective physical presence on the ice. A 2011 fourth-round pick, Labate had a successful four-year career at the University of Wisconsin before joining Utica last year for his first full pro season. Pedan, a native of Lithuania, played in 13 games with the Canucks in 2015-16, but was held scoreless and fell victim to some noticeable defensive mistakes. He did not get into a game on this most recent call-up. The hulking blue liner had his best pro season with Utica last year, but still has yet to hit his stride at the pro level. His physical dominance with the OHL’s Guelph Storm led to him being selected by the New York Islanders in the third round in 2011, but has not been as noticeable at the next level.
Meanwhile, the third demotion is Anton Rodin, who heads to Utica for a conditioning stint. The reigning MVP of the Swedish Elite League, Rodin is still making his way back from the injury that shortened his season in Sweden last year. In a strange change of direction, Rodin, who looked healthy (and promising) in the preseason, was suddenly unable to play and placed on IR to start the regular season. The shifty, skilled winger now hopes to make his NHL debut soon, as the conditioning stint is the last stop on his road to recovery. It has been a long time coming for a player that Vancouver drafted in 2009. In need of a boost, the Canucks can only hope that Rodin immediately fits in at the NHL level, much like when Carl Soderberg finally made the trip across the Atlantic to join the Boston Bruins in 2013.
In other minor moves:
- In an identical series of moves, the Nashville Predators assigned two players to the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals today and sent a third along as well on a conditioning stint. Forward Frederick Gaudreau, recently-signed defenseman Adam Pardy, and recently-claimed forward Reid Boucher are headed north to join the Admirals. The 23-year-old rookie Gaudreau (no relation) was recalled two weeks ago, but in eight games since he has just one point. In need of further seasoning, the Predators have sent down the former minor league free agent. Not quite a rookie, the 32-year-old Pardy was signed last month to provide some veteran depth on the blue line for a Nashville squad that prides themselves off of solid defensive play. Pardy has skated in just one NHL game thus far in 2016-17, but will continue to be the next man up for the Predators. In a much-maligned move, the New Jersey Devils placed Boucher on waiver on December 3rd, and Nashville GM David Poile was happy to scoop him up. In and out of the Devils lineup for years, the team decided to move on from the 23-year-old despite the fact that 2015-16 was his first real NHL chance and he scored 19 points in 39 games. Boucher has played in just one game for Nashville so far as he deals with lingering injury concerns, but expect him back with the squad shortly.
- Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Vladimir Bobylyov has left the KHL and returned to the WHL, his junior team revealed. The 19-year-old winger, a fifth-round pick by the Leafs this past June, had originally decided to leave the Victoria Royals and return home to Russia to play pro. However, after little production with the KHL’s Spartak Moskva and even a demotion to their minor league affiliate, Bobylyov decided that he preferred Canadian juniors. He now heads back to Victoria, where he scored 67 points in 72 games and was an astounding +45 last season. Showing a commitment to North American hockey is never a bad idea for a young Russian player like Bobylyov, and the move is likely preferable for Toronto. The Royals are surely happy to have him back too.
- The Providence Journal’s Mark Divver reports that the time limit on the tryout agreements for Matt Bartkowski and Peter Mueller has run out, but that the Providence Bruins have extended contract offers to both and they are expected to accept. Mueller has been a top six forward for the AHL team, with 14 points in 19 games while playing key roles on both the power play and penalty kill. His presence has also helped with the development of youngsters Jake DeBrusk, Peter Cehlarik, and Danton Heinen. Bartkowski has been less impressive, with seven points, a -2 rating, and 23 penalty minutes. He has been outplayed by another veteran looking to stay relevant in Alex Grant, as well as rookie Matt Grzelcyk. The Providence Bruins are currently on a league-best 12-game point streak.