VANCOUVER – When Geoff Courtnall broke in to the NHL many considered him a late bloomer. Now his 22-year-old son Justin is trying to follow in his father’s footsteps and leave a lasting impression on the Vancouver Canucks brass at their annual prospects camp.
“Geoff was more an offensive player,” said Canucks Director of Player Development, Dave Gagner. “At the same age who knows—Geoff came about undrafted, kind of a late bloomer so to speak, but he became a top NHL player.
“Who knows what can happen.”
The Victoria native is part of a group of 37 skaters trying to impress the Canucks during their week long camp in Vancouver.
Courtnall was a seventh-round selection by Tampa Bay in 2007, but never caught on with the Lightning having attended their prospects camps in the past.
After the draft the 6-2, 185-pound Courtnall returned to Victoria where he spent the next two seasons averaging nearly a point a game with the Victoria Grizzlies of the BCHL.
Unlike his father, who went from the BCHL to the WHL, Courtnall elected to go the NCAA route where he’s spent the past two seasons with the Boston University Terriers while working on his hospitality major and business minor.
“I think (my dad) was really focused on me getting my education and really making sure that after hockey I’d have something to fall back on,” Courtnall said. “That was really important to him.”
The forward has six points in 53 games with BU.
“He’s a college player with the potential to be a good pro,” said Gagner. “He’s got size, he can skate. Right now he’s a role player at BU, but he’s a big physical guy. Obviously with Geoff being his dad he’s got a lot of confidence that he could do the same thing that his dad did someday.
“I think when you have that lineage kids aren’t as intimidated coming to these camps.”
Some believe the reason Courtnall is at a Canucks camp at all is because of his dad; Geoff was a client of now Canucks GM Mike Gillis while Gillis was a player agent.
“(My dad) is a real hard worker and I’ve been able to learn a lot from him and learn how to really work and make it to this level,” Courtnall said. “Fortunately I’ve been able to get in pretty good shape, have a couple good seasons and be able to get here.”
Geoff Courtnall spent 17 seasons in the NHL with six different teams, including five with the Canucks from 1990-95. He was also a member of the Canucks team which fell one win shy of winning a Stanley Cup in 1994.
“I remember that ’94 cup run they went on and this year was a great reminder of it,” Justin Cournall said. “I’m sure he was hoping for a better outcome, but it was a great thing to watch and a great experience for him back when he did it.”
As for signing his first contract and turning pro in the fall, both the Canucks and Courtnall seem to be on the same page.
“I’d really like to go back to school and get my education,” said Courtnall. “There’s always that dream of playing pro so I just got to stick to myself, focus on me as a person and a player and just see how things come to me.”
Added Gagner, “Hopefully his role at BU increases. They started to progress him in his second year, he started to play more in his sophomore season. Hopefully that will continue.”
Notes: The Canucks signed a pair of free agents on Thursday inking goaltender Matt Climie and defenceman Alexander Sulzer to contracts. Climie spent last season with the San Antonio Rampage, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Phoenix Coyotes, where he had a 26-22-3 record. The 28-year-old dressed in one game with the Coyotes. Sulzer split the 2010-11 season with the Nashville Predators and Florida Panthers. The German native had a goal and five points in 40 games.