📝 by Patrick Williams
A second-year professional captain?
Abbotsford Canucks defenseman Christian Wolanin admitted to shock when he heard the information going into the membership’s season-opening weekend again in October. New to the Vancouver Canucks group after signing as a free agent final summer time, Wolanin had barely even gotten to know Chase Wouters, now his new captain with the AHL membership.
What’s so particular about this Wouters man anyway?
“I feel he’s simply as pure a pacesetter because it will get,” Wolanin stated. “After simply being round him on our first street journey of the yr, you see why he’s a pacesetter. Simply his play type and the way in which he approaches on daily basis.”
Wouters, 22, got here to Abbotsford as the primary participant to signal an AHL contract with the membership again in July 2021, shortly after Vancouver had introduced its AHL affiliation west from Utica. Final season as an AHL rookie, Wouters performed 60 video games and completed with 18 factors (5 targets, 13 assists). He made a rapid impression on the Vancouver group with diligent, hard-nosed play and was signed to a brand new two-year extension on an AHL deal final June.
Establishing an AHL affiliation an hour from downtown Vancouver had glad a serious organizational goal for the Canucks. The geographical comfort made conserving tabs on prospects with Abbotsford a lot simpler, and it simplified the motion of these prospects to and from the NHL roster. Serving to to anchor the roster with character gamers like Wouters rapidly gave the Abbotsford operation stability, and the membership ended up going 39-23-5-1 in a aggressive Pacific Division.
Jeremy Colliton, who additionally got here aboard final summer time as Abbotsford’s new head coach, rapidly noticed what the group appreciated a lot about Wouters.
“He units such a typical for our group along with his work ethic and his competitiveness,” Colliton stated. “He’s prepared to do something to win. He actually cares about his teammates. He desires them to do properly.”
Added Colliton: “He brings vitality on daily basis.” And that’s no small factor for a membership like Abbotsford that offers with powerful Western Convention journey and prolonged street journeys.
Wouters already had ample expertise dealing with a captaincy from his days within the Western Hockey League with the Saskatoon Blades. Named a captain at age 18, Wouters held the distinction for 3 seasons, turning into the longest-tenured captain in that membership’s intensive historical past. The Blades additionally match to retire his quantity 44 after his WHL profession wrapped up after the 2020-21 season.
“One factor in junior I all the time centered on was displaying up on the rink on daily basis and bringing a constructive perspective,” Wouters recalled. “There’s loads of ups and downs all through the season, and I feel if I can present up on daily basis with a smile on my face, and that’s sort of who I’m, it wears off on guys.
“Simply making an attempt to maintain issues constructive across the rink and across the room and be an excellent teammate.”
Nonetheless, captaining an expert membership is a a lot completely different job than what Wouters confronted within the WHL. Junior life is a world wherein getting drafted by a Nationwide Hockey League membership, schoolwork, and different teenage worries dominate. A professional dressing room options gamers with years of expertise, households, contract considerations, and different concerns.
Wouters has needed to be taught after which navigate that professional world with only a season-plus of time inside it. Luckily for him, he isn’t alone. The group has additionally surrounded Wouters with a powerful veteran help base in Abbotsford that features Wolanin, Guillaume Brisebois, Justin Dowling, Phil Di Giuseppe and Noah Juulsen amongst others.
“There are loads of good guys within the room,” stated Wouters.
Abbotsford holds down fourth place within the Pacific Division at 22-12-2-2, and is coming off a spirited three-game set with the Calgary Wranglers that was highlighted by Saturday’s contest in entrance of a capability crowd of seven,081 followers, the most important ever for a recreation at Abbotsford Centre. Up subsequent for the Canucks is one other troublesome take a look at with the North Division-leading Toronto Marlies on the town for video games Tuesday and Wednesday.
Mired in a 7-7-1-1 begin to the season, Colliton and the Abbotsford dressing room anticipated extra as November got here to an in depth.
They’re 15-5-1-1 since then.
“We had been beginning to do the best issues in apply,” Wouters stated, “and it was actually displaying in our recreation. I feel our apply habits are one thing that we’re maintaining on and ensuring that everybody’s doing the best issues across the rink.
“All of that stuff comes again in good methods.”
Over the primary half of the season, Wouters has set that commonplace each in apply and video games, and his teammates have observed.
“There’s not a man that’s extra deserving of that accountability in that function,” Wolanin stated. “He’s carried out a tremendous job of actually main this group in his actions each single day. To be on a workforce that’s led by any individual like Chase, it’s a extremely cool factor.”
Patrick Williams has been on the American Hockey League beat for almost 20 years for retailers together with NHL.com, Sportsnet, TSN, The Hockey Information, SiriusXM NHL Community Radio and SLAM! Sports activities, and is at present the co-host of The Hockey News On The ‘A’ podcast. He was the recipient of the AHL’s James H. Ellery Memorial Award for his excellent protection of the league in 2016.