VANCOUVER, BC — The term foundational player is met with rolled eyes and unpleasant memories in Vancouver. However, that’s exactly how I would describe Chase Wouters, the very first signing in Abbotsford Canucks history.
Announced July 22nd, it has been a busy period for Ryan Johnson and the crew on the farm team. It’s easy to be lost in everything that’s happened just over this past month. With the barrage of signings and additions to this roster slowing down a bit though, I want to take the time to really look at Wouters and what he brings to this team.
Chippy Net-Front Presence
One thing that you couldn’t say about Wouters’ game is that he’s a perimeter player. The 6-foot center is practically a fixture in front of the net, pouncing on any loose pucks or rebounds and putting them home.
— Saskatoon Blades (@BladesHockey) April 27, 2021
Here Wouters establishes a good solid position in front of the goalie, screening him and forcing him to commit to the one-timer from the right side. He then positions himself to box out any opposing defenders and has his stick in the perfect position to pot the loose puck in the goal.
— Saskatoon Blades (@BladesHockey) April 12, 2021
We again see Wouters in his natural habitat here, screening the goalie. What I like about this play is that even after the initial shot, you can see Wouters following up by bodying out the player next to him. It helped create space in front of the goal, and while the tip may have been a bit fortunate, there was nothing lucky about the effort that led up to the finish.
From the highlights and footage I’ve been able to get my hands on, Wouters seems like the perfect glue guy on any line, finishing whatever is given to him and making chances happen for his teammates. It’s the little things that he does in front of the net which sets him apart. And it’s not just the scrappy goals he scores.
Tic. Tac. Toe.
— Saskatoon Blades (@BladesHockey) March 29, 2021
I think this will look very familiar to Vancouver fans.
Driving The Net
Though Wouters has a penchant for cleaning up any spills in the crease, he’s shown that his game is a lot more than that. He possesses good skating ability, a wicked release, and combines the two for a deadly effect.
— Saskatoon Blades (@BladesHockey) March 27, 2021
In this clip, Wouters fakes the cycle before picking up speed as he rounds the corner. Thanks to his excellent body position, he’s easily able to shield the puck from the defender that’s already a couple of steps behind him. As a result, he is able to avoid the forward covering the left point and drives hard to the net, putting the puck to his forehand and wristing it by the glove side.
Daley ➡️ Wouters ➡️ Lisowsky ➡️ 2-0 ?
A thing of beauty, folks. pic.twitter.com/FBi2TuPjPC
— Saskatoon Blades (@BladesHockey) April 28, 2021
The benefit of having someone like Wouters on your line is that he’ll be creating quite a lot of chances. As he drives to the net, Wouters is hounded by the defender who has to respect his shot. Though he’s forced outside, by virtue of going hard to the net Wouters is able to slip it over to his teammate wide-open cross-crease. It’s something that should translate over to the AHL, a nose for the net never goes away.
Another small tidbit that I’ve noticed is that Wouters wins a ton of faceoffs. This should be an asset that the Canucks take advantage of, having someone who’s not only willing to take the punishment of being in front of the goalie, but also take it hard to the net after winning possession off the draw.
A History of Leadership
Even before Wouters was drafted into the WHL, he was leading his bantam teams to success. The native of Lloydminster, Alberta, tore through his opposition in triple-A. His first season saw him post 37 points in 33 games, and the next season was named captain of the Lloydminster Heat. Wouters backed that up with 57 points in 32 games, romping their way to an Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League championship.
Wouters again claimed another AMBHL title, this time at the U16 level. These results coupled with his stellar play resulted in a first-round selection in the 2015 WHL draft by the Saskatoon Blades. This was a team that hadn’t made the playoffs since 2013. Wouters came in ready to change that.
He has said before that he had fun and enjoyed his rookie season. It was the first time that he had moved away from home and faced challenges like any other first-timer in the WHL. However, his veteran teammates were there to help him through anything, and Wouters’ mindset never wavered.
His maturation came quickly as well, whether by circumstance or necessity. Wouters paid attention to how the leaders handled themselves in different situations and clearly took those lessons to heart. With injuries plaguing the roster, a 16-year-old Wouters found himself in a bigger and bigger role.
He didn’t just rise to the occasion. He thrived.
21 points in 54 games may not seem like a lot, but this was his rookie year, playing against opposition as old as 21. His experience in bantam may have come in handy too, stepping in to fill that familiar leadership role.
It’s not a surprise then that Wouters was named as the 59th captain in Saskatoon Blades history in 2019. As an 18 year old, he was on the younger side for a captain, and his own individual play suffered a little statistically with added responsibility. But for Wouters, the team success was what mattered.
Rookie ➡️ Captain
— Saskatoon Blades (@BladesHockey) May 7, 2020
This was Saskatoon’s best season since 2010-11, finishing with 98 points and second in the Eastern Conference. It was a return to the playoffs that this success-starved franchise needed. And in a Blades side that featured Kirby Dach, Wouters carved out his own niche, tallying 39 points in 51 games.
Dear Chase Wouters,
The honour was all ours.
— Saskatoon Blades (@BladesHockey) May 16, 2021
While the longest-serving Blades captain in history may have become more experienced, he never stopped thinking about the team. Wouters would always be there to help out the rookies and young guys, putting himself back in their skates. Wouters’ team-first approach endeared him to the Saskatoon faithful, and for the tight-knit hockey community there, they’ll be with him in each step he takes.
A rapidly emerging theme in Abbotsford is the premium put on leadership. Whether it’s returning faces in Ashton Sautner, or community champions in Brady Keeper and Tristen Nielsen, or former captains like Alex Kannok-Leipert and Wouters, this is a group that knows the value of team cohesiveness and work ethic.
The term foundational player has been thrown around in this market before, but I truly believe that Wouters exemplifies the best aspects of it. A community at his back when he’s giving it his all out there, he represents the cultural foundations that you build a team on.
Saskatoon, Abbotsford thanks you for giving them your pride and joy. They’ll take care of him.
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