With Carson Soucy on injured reserve and Nikita Zadorov suspended, defenseman prospect Jett Wu was called up from the Abbotsford Canucks.
The development of prospects is rarely linear. Few players can prove that more than Jett Wu, who was called up by the Abbotsford Canucks on Monday.
It’s been six years since the 23-year-old defenseman was selected by the Canucks in the second round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, and those six years have been a roller coaster for Wu.
In his first season after being drafted, Wu exploded, scoring 66 points in 62 games, ranking fifth among WHL defensemen in points per game and matching top prospect Bowen Byrum. It became the number of points. Considering he was drafted as a physical defensive defenseman, that big jump in his offensive game was seen as a positive sign for his NHL potential.
Wu was clearly the best right-shot defenseman in the Canucks’ system and played an important role in the Canucks’ future. But that’s when things started to get weird.
In his final season in the WHL, Wu was traded to the Calgary Hitmen and regressed offensively, scoring just 46 points in 64 games. While his first season in the AHL during the coronavirus-shortened 2020-21 season wasn’t underwhelming, his second year in the AHL was a complete disaster.
Wu’s career completely stalled in the 2021-22 season. He was a frequent healthy scratch, and even when he did make it into the lineup, it was often as a fourth-line forward. Essentially, Abbotsford Canucks head coach Trent Cull stopped developing Wu as a defenseman, and that appeared to be the end of his NHL potential. This was a sign of serious developmental issues in the Canucks’ system.
Wu’s career may have been saved when Cal promoted him to assistant coach in Vancouver for the 2022-23 season. A new coach in Jeremy Colliton and an overhauled development department helped turn things around for the beleaguered defensemen.
Wu played a key role for Colliton’s Canucks, spending major minutes on defense and scoring seven goals and 21 points on offense in 68 games. He stepped up his physical game, not only making big hits in the open ice (although he did have that), but winning battles on the boards and in front of the net.
Thanks to Wu’s progress and right shot, he’s back in the conversation for playing in NHL games, even if his ceiling isn’t as high as it once was.
“The growth in his game this year was building his identity as a player, being a puck-moving, physical, heavy player.” [player]. He also contributed offensively, sometimes playing on the second-unit power play. Abbotsford Canucks General Manager Ryan Johnson said.. “He shot himself forward, that’s for sure.”
Wu currently plays on Abbotsford’s top pairing, albeit on the blue line, where Christian Wolanin, Akito Hirose and Filip Johansson are all out of the lineup with serious injuries. Wu, who already plays on the first penalty kill unit, also plays on the first power play unit without Wolanin. He has five goals and 16 points through 42 games, middling numbers, but his offensive ability wasn’t his calling.
Carson Soucy is now officially on the Injured Reserve, and Wu has been contacted by the Vancouver Canucks.
A call-up to the Canucks is a big vote of confidence for Wu. He may not actually play in an NHL game during this call-up — likely as injury insurance until Nikita Zadorov plays in the final game of his two-game suspension. But it’s a contract that would earn him a significant amount of NHL cash on two hands and practice time with NHL coaching staffs. The Abbotsford Canucks don’t play again until Saturday, so assuming Zadorov returns and gets ejected, Wu might not even miss a game.
Still, it’s a positive sign for a promising player who was close to being scrapped just two seasons ago. The Canucks may need Wu in the future as the playoffs continue to be tough.