Jack Rathbone is off to the Utica Comets to play his first games in almost a year.
Jack Rathbone’s time on the Vancouver Canucks’ taxi squad is over.
The defence prospect has been on the team’s six-man depth unit since the 2020-21 season started more than a month ago, but the time has come to get him some games. The former Harvard player and 2017 draft pick was re-assigned by the Canucks to the Utica Comets on Thursday.
The Comets’ are now four games into their season. They play Thursday night but then not again until Feb. 26, so Rathbone would be able to play in that game, provided he tests negative for COVID-19 following a New York State-mandated three-day quarantine.
It’s likely Rathbone will slot straight into the Utica lineup, since he’ll be just the third left-shot defenceman on the roster.
Rathbone could have been sent to the Manitoba Moose, who the Canucks have a loan agreement with for this season, but the fact the Comets’ staff are contracted to the Canucks is obviously a big difference maker.
The team has high hopes for Rathbone and under normal conditions, he might even have been a candidate to play some NHL games later in the season. Now that he’s been re-assigned to the U.S., he’d have to serve a two-week quarantine under current protocols if the Canucks wanted to bring him back north, so it seems very unlikely he’ll be back this season.
“Jack’s assignment is about getting him some game experience and preparation in the event we add him to our roster,” Canucks general manager Jim Benning said in an email. “We’ll evaluate doing this with other players as well over the course of the season.”
Rathbone signed with the Canucks last summer after two strong years playing NCAA hockey for Harvard University. He hasn’t played a hockey game since Harvard’s season, like everyone else’s, came to an abrupt halt last March.
To take Rathbone’s spot on the taxi squad, the Canucks recalled Ashton Sautner from Manitoba, where he skated in the Moose’s first two games of the season.
Sautner, 26, has played in 23 games for the Canucks over the past three seasons.
Before he can skate with the taxi squad in Vancouver, he’ll have to serve a league-mandated week-long quarantine. This is the third time he’s had to quarantine in a calendar year, as he served quarantine periods before last summer’s return-to-play training camp and again before the 2020-21 season.