Canucks top 10 prospects: Hard-rock Jett Woo’s got underrated offensive talents, too


The soon-to-be 21-year-old defenceman will be handed a big role for the 2021-22 Abbotsford AHLers

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To transition from junior to professional hockey is a challenge for most young players.

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To do so during a pandemic, where your last season of junior was cut short and then your first season of pro hockey was abbreviated and your ability to train in between was distorted?

That’s nothing close to ideal.

And yet Vancouver Canucks prospect Jett Woo managed to make a smooth transition from one level to the next. The rock-solid blueliner sits at No. 5 on our 2021 edition of the Canucks’ top 10 prospects.

“Adapted very quickly,” Ryan Johnson, the Canucks’ senior director of player development and general manager of their American Hockey League team, said Tuesday of Woo’s efforts for the Utica Comets last season. (The Comets’ affiliation ended with Vancouver in May, and the Canucks have moved their minor league team to Abbotsford and will announce the team’s new name on Wednesday.)

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“Played with same aggression he did in the WHL. Saw some second-unit PP later in the year, but knows his identity is be physical, hard to play against, puck mover. I expect another big step this year in Abby,” said Johnson, who played two of his 13 NHL seasons for the Canucks.


JETT WOO

(Prospect No. 5 in daily countdown.)

Age: 20.

Height: 6-0. Weight: 205 pounds.

Shoots: Right. Position: Defenceman.

Draft year: 2018, second round.

Current team: Abbotsford (AHL).

Outlook: No. 4/5 defenceman


Woo’s solid season is especially notable as the shine had come off his star in 2019-20 when he missed out on selection for Canada’s world junior team.

That season, his final one in the Western Hockey League, as a whole was a disappointment. Traded to the Calgary Hitmen from the Moose Jaw Warriors, his scoring slumped and he just didn’t play with the same authority he had shown in his draft year and the first season after being snapped up by the Canucks in the second round of the 2018 entry draft.

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So it’s fair to see 2020-21, even in shortened form, as a solid course correction for the Winnipeg-born blueliner who turns 21 at the end of July. He didn’t score a lot but some of that was bad luck, as he showed a great deal of confidence with the puck on his stick.

He also defended well, winning the trust of the coaching staff.

In Utica, Woo played a lot with Jack Rathbone, the best defence prospect the Canucks have. But he also came to be leaned on as a Mr. Reliable figure — the words of Comets Harvest’s Cody Severtson — playing at one point or another with every defenceman the Comets dressed in 2020-21.

According to Severtson’s calculations, Woo posted strong shot-attempt numbers, confirming his status as one of the Comets’ most reliable players in 2020-21.

It was a good step forward for the stout blueliner and with the Canucks’ right side behind Tyler Myers looking pretty wide open in the long term, he’s got plenty of opportunity ahead of him.

Assuming Brogan Rafferty moves on, there are no other right-shot defencemen on the depth chart with Woo’s kind of two-way upside. He won’t be rushed to the NHL but if keeps progressing, he’ll be given a look sooner rather than later.

And do keep in mind that Woo moving up from the eighth spot on last year’s list to fifth this year is as much about Rafferty, Nils Höglander and Olli Juolevi all leaving the list as it is about his own improved play.

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But there’s no denying that in 2020-21 Woo played well against tougher opposition. That’s always a good sign for a player stepping up from only playing against his peers.

And it showed that he may be capable of seizing further opportunity going forward, because yes — it only gets harder from here.

Everything in pro hockey is bigger and faster than major junior. But it must be remembered that last year’s AHL was really a hybrid in quality — there were so many players who normally would have taken high-end AHL roster spots who were on taxi squads last season.

They’ll be back in the AHL next season. Woo mastered the transitional test in 2020-21, but how long will it take him to master a tougher AHL? And if he does that, it surely won’t be long before he’s handed an NHL test, where things are even faster, even bigger.

2021 TOP 10 CANUCKS PROSPECTS 

No. 10: Viktor Persson.

No. 9: Arvid Costmar.

No. 8: Aidan McDonough.

No. 7: Will Lockwood.

No. 6: Jonah Gadjovich.

No. 5: Jett Woo.

No. 4: Wednesday.

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