VANCOUVER, B.C. – Right-handed defensemen are a highly sought-after commodity in the NHL. For the Vancouver Canucks, it’s an aspect of the team that they would love to develop from within. Young with upside on a cheap contract? That would be ideal.
Right now, the best shot they have is Jett Woo. The 6-foot defender was a former second-round pick back in 2018 and for the most part, there’s not a lot of chatter surrounding him. After a promising junior career, it hasn’t exactly been all sunshine and rainbows. However, there have been some encouraging signs in his time in Abbotsford. Here’s how Woo is looking through the inaugural season of the Abbotsford Canucks.
An Up and Down Start
Like most on the Canucks roster to start the year, Woo didn’t have the greatest first few months in Abbotsford. Starting the year off on the first pairing with Ashton Sautner, Woo struggled to click into place. It’s understandable considering that the Abbotsford lineup had been built from the ground up just a couple months prior. For a player that has ambitions of making it to the NHL however, it was a little concerning to see.
There were flashes of his talent, the physicality and motor translating from his previous stint with Utica. Woo generally didn’t make any glaring lapses of judgment and was very rarely caught out of position. The points weren’t there at the start but Woo played a solid, dependable defensive game, something sorely needed in Abbotsford during the early going.
Consistency was something Woo struggled with early on. In some games he would be on top of his game, making excellent reads and disrupting plays in his own zone. In other games, there would be moments where Sautner had to bail him out or he would be parading to the penalty box. Chemistry probably played a big role in this, with the entire team getting bearings for playing with each other. That being said, it was a lot of growing and learning moments for Woo with Abbotsford.
The lack of points was another point of concern. Remember, Woo posted an impressive 66 points in 62 games in his draft+1 year. This is a defenseman who is capable of playing a two-way style. That seems to have been hard to translate to the AHL level. The shot, the passing ability is still there, but it feels as if Woo is not quite yet at a high enough level when it comes to his offensive game.
— Abbotsford Canucks (@abbycanucks) January 7, 2022
Again, while Woo generally played solid, it gets to the point where solid in the AHL just isn’t enough. There weren’t many games where he stood heads and shoulders above the competition, akin to a Scott Perunovich or a Sean Durzi. If Woo is to become an impact player at the NHL level, there have to be more expectations than just someone who is putting in alright performances. There are certainly things to be said about doing the little things right, but there also needs to be some more. With some tepid performances, Woo was a healthy scratch a couple of times and lost his spot on the top pairing.
On December 11th, Woo was hurt after a 5-1 Canucks win over the San Jose Barracuda. That would be the start of an entire month where the defender sat out rehabbing the nagging injury. It came just as Abbotsford began to struggle with injury problems of their own – with the Omicron variant running rampant just for some added chaos.
At the worst point, Abbotsford dressed three forward lines and two defensive pairs. They were also signing a goalie to an ATO every other game as a backup. Woo did return in the new year, suiting up in a January 6th contest where he returned to his old ways.
— Cody Severtson (@CodySevertson) January 7, 2022
But just as fast as he came back, Woo got placed on the AHL COVID protocol. That saw him miss a full week, returning to the lineup on January 14th. After just two games in the lineup, Woo got placed back on the injured list again. This time, he was out until March 9th, meaning that the defender missed 19 games. Out of 53 games this year, Woo’s only played in 27.
It’s been a ton of bad luck thus far for Woo. Luckily, none of the injuries seem to be anything serious, however, the lack of game time is surely something that is hurting his development. Woo was getting the ice time he needed even in a slightly sheltered role and for him to have been out for as much as he has is unfortunate.
Like the rest of the Abbotsford Canucks, Woo’s been very good since he returned against the Marlies. He needed a little time to get reacclimatized, but since then he’s been good each and every game. Woo has finally begun to stand out just that little more compared to his peers.
The fine attention to detail on the defensive end is being paired up with his physicality. Woo has been good at forcing opposing players into uncomfortable positions before eliminating any threat. It’s helped by the team in front gelling together, the young defenceman able to understand how his forwards will defend and adjust accordingly.
— Michael Liu (@FPHCanucks) March 16, 2022
Woo’s also been showing his inclination to jump up in the rush. Currently stuck on seven points through his 27 games, the defender has been getting a bit unlucky. But, that hasn’t stopped him from trying to make a difference on the offensive end.
#MBvsABB | Probably one of the best games for Woo in a Canucks jersey. Good positioning and active stick to disrupt a Manitoba chance, then hustles for a 2-on-1 to draw a penalty. #AbbyCanucks #Canucks pic.twitter.com/9Fz2HC5xgb
— Michael Liu (@FPHCanucks) March 16, 2022
The Abbotsford Canucks will want Woo to continue with this sort of play, especially as they continue to push for better seeding going into the Calder Cup Playoffs. If he’s confident, it allows the rest of the team to worry about putting pucks in the net. Woo is going to be a key barometer of the success of the team, and Canucks fans will want to see their prospect playing well in the AHL.
At the end of the day, Woo is 21 years old. There’s time for him to grow and he has shown promise. While many pegged this season as the one where he would break out, that hasn’t exactly happened. While it’s perfectly reasonable to be concerned, Woo hasn’t been out of his depth at all. What he needs now is just more game time, more experience, and better luck with injuries. The points will come as Woo improves and finds more consistency.
Is he ready for the NHL right now? Absolutely not. But give it time, and possibly in a year, Jett Woo can make the leap to become a full-time NHL contributor.
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