The upside of last Friday's announcement about Jim Benning's contract extension is that we've all had the weekend to digest the news and can move on to other topics as we drift into the last two weeks of summer vacation.
A couple of interesting tidbits from Iain MacIntyre's piece for Sportsnet, which ran over the weekend:
• MacIntyre says Benning's extension is indeed for three years—and adds that if he completes that term, he'll be the second longest-tenured GM in team history, only behind Pat Quinn. But as I mentioned in the last blog, there's no assurance that he will see that contract through. Benning has proven to be adept at managing up, as they say, but will now need to deliver better on-ice results if he hopes to stay in charge.
To build on that point a bit—Benning is heading into his sixth season in charge. If he makes it to the end of this year, he'll surpass Mike Gillis on the longevity scale—Gillis was fired just before the end of his sixth campaign. Brian Burke lasted six full seasons between 1998-99 and 2003-04, while Jake Milford was at the helm for five years and David Nonis was in charge for four.
• MacIntyre also mentions that the official announcement of Benning's new deal will come sometime this week.
Now, back to the offseason scouting reports. Today, Ethan Keppen—arguably the most excited to have been drafted by the Canucks this year.
Listed at 6'2" and 212 pounds by Central Scouting, Keppen's a left winger who climbed from 110 in the mid-term rankings to No. 74 among North American skaters by the end of the year. He was chosen in the fourth round by the Canucks, 122nd overall.
Looking at wingers who were ranked near him, perhaps the Canucks made a bit of a reach. The two closest are both recognizable names, from the U.S. National Team Development Program. Patrick Moynihan, who'd climbed from 102 to 73, was selected 158th by New Jersey while Judd Caulfield, who'd fallen from 50 to 67, went to Pittsburgh at No. 154.
Personally, I'm really curious to see how those bottom-six guys from this year's NTDP class pan out when so much of their team's prime ice time over the past two years was eaten up by the stars like Jack Hughes, Turcotte, Zegras, Boldy, Caufield et al.
One thing Keppen had in common with those players was his home state for the last two seasons. The native of Whitby, Ontario has also been playing in Michigan, with the OHL's Flint Firebirds.
In Keppen's first OHL season, he had 18 points in 63 games. Last year, he tied for second in team scoring with 30 goals and 59 points in 68 games, as well as putting up a team-high 67 penalty minutes.
With a 16-46-6 record, the Firebirds finished last in the OHL's Western Conference last season and second-last in the league—ahead of only the Kingston Frontenacs. But Keppen did have the opportunity to play with centre Ty Dellandrea, who was picked 13th overall by the Dallas Stars in 2018 and played 11 games with the Texas Stars at the end of last season.
In the blog he wrote during Development Camp, Keppen mentions that he knew the Canucks were interested in him after being scouted by Chris MacDonald—the scout that we learned last week has now moved on to become Arizona's head of European scouting.
Maybe that good vibe is part of the reason why Keppen and his family decided to make the trek to Vancouver for the draft.
Like Nils Hoglander, Keppen seems to have a motor that revs high. He's said to be aggressive offensively, and a puck hound on the forecheck. At his size, he'll also need to work hard on his skating if he hopes to make the jump to the next level.
At the end of this month, Keppen is expected to spend a couple of weeks in Flint as their training camp kicks into gear, then come back out to Vancouver for the Canucks' camp in Victoria. With no prospects tournament this year, kids like Keppen will be thrust straight into the main camp.
The biggest thing I learned was to compete no matter what. I wanted to show the Vancouver Canucks what I can do and I just give it my all. My dream is to play in the NHL, so I tried to compete as much as possible out there and make a great first impression. Everyone else is hungry to impress too, so the compete level always has to be high. Always.
Sounds like he went home with a renewed commitment to hard work, too.
If you're looking for me for the rest of the summer, I'll be in the gym five days a week and on the ice five days a week, while improving my cardio. Then I'll come back here in the fall and be grinding for main camp.
Keppen also shouted out a number of fellow camp attendees, which was nice to see, and said he formed a particularly strong bond with Mikey DiPietro, who he'd played against for the last two seasons in the OHL and finally got a chance to get to know on a personal level. While he was in Vancouver, he was roommates with recent Summer Showcase participant Carson Focht.
Typically, as we go deeper into the draft, it gets harder to find good information. But if you want to go really deep on Keppen, you can dig into this 13-plus minute video take from Will Scouch, based on seven games of scouting the Firebirds.