On Thursday, the Vancouver Canucks announced General Manager Jim Benning and defenceman Ashton Sautner agreed on a two-way, two-year contract extension.
Sautner, who is from Flaxcombe, has spent the past three seasons with Vancouver's AHL affiliate, the Utica Comets. This season, he has posted 11 points in 55 games with a +/- of 12.
In a press release from Benning and the Canucks, he said how Sautner has "shown continual growth" while playing for the Comets and was a big factor for why he offered the defenceman an extension.
"To have a two-year contract in my back pocket is obviously very nice for my wife and I," said Sautner. "To have it all done now so I can focus on the rest of this year and go into the summer with that extension is a great feeling."
The 23-year-old player mentioned how he was grateful for the opportunity from the Canucks as he continues building his game and contributing wherever he is asked to contribute.
Once the news broke out, he received a great amount of congratulations from the people closest to him. He received messages and calls from his immediate and extended families, friends from back home, and even former teammates from his junior days with the WHL's Edmonton Oil Kings.
"It's great to have that support from people around you who obviously mean a lot to you," he said. "When something special like that happens, to have people recognize and acknowledge you is a good feeling."
Right now, Sautner is invested in helping the Comets grab a postseason birth as they are in the mix of teams vying for a playoff spot. Utica is currently in 8th place in the Eastern Conference, two points above the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and a few over the Springfield Thunderbirds.
While it's an exciting time for Sautner and his teammates who are battling for playoff positioning, it has not been a season to remember for the Canucks.
Vancouver is sitting in the basement of the NHL standings. They are not mathematically eliminated from clinching a playoff appearance, but they would need a miracle to make it happen.
With a realistic possibility of missing the postseason once again, the team may consider bringing up some of their minor leaguers to gain experience towards the tail-end of the regular season schedule.
When asked about the chance to receive a call-up from the Canucks, Sautner explained how his main focus is to help the Comets reach the postseason. But, if he received the call, he would be honoured.
"If I am lucky enough to be one of those guys, it would be a great experience," said Sautner. "I've had a couple call-ups to my name and both times have been great. Even though I haven't gotten into an NHL game, being around NHL players and going about a player's day has been great for me."
The Comets have nine games left on their schedule in order to book their place in the playoffs.
Six of those games will be on the road against strong opponents in their conference such as the Toronto Marlies, Wilkes-Barres/Scranton Penguins and the Syracuse Crunch.