Canucks First Round of Cuts Send 6 Back to Junior


Photo credit: Vancouver Canucks twitter (@canucks)

Canucks GM Jim Benning mentioned on the radio earlier today that the first round of roster cuts was forthcoming, and it has indeed arrived. The Canucks have sent six players back to their junior teams, with the intention of getting them into game action – the WHL, OHL, and QMJHL regular seasons are already underway. Read on to see who got the axe and who survived.

Read the Canucks press release here.

The Canucks have dropped all but one member of their 2016 draft class (no surprise that Olli Juolevi has stayed with the big club), as well as the two lowest present picks from their 2015 class. Here are the lost souls in all their glory:

Player Pos Draft Pos Jr. League Jr. Team
Jakob Stukel RW 2016 – 6th round – 154th overall WHL Calgary Hitmen
Rodrigo Abols C 2016 – 7th round – 184th overall WHL Portland Winterhawks
Brett McKenzie C 2016 – 7th round – 194th overall OHL North Bay Battalion
Cole Candella D 2016 – 5th round – 140th overall OHL Hamilton Bulldogs
Carl Neill D 2015 – 5th round – 144th overall QMJHL Sherbrooke Phoenix
Tate Olson D 2015 – 7th round – 210th overall WHL Prince George Cougars

None of these are particularly surprising. It’s fairly customary to give the new draft class the boot, aside from higher pedigreed picks. Juolevi will stay with the team for now, and Benning has already that he will get into a couple of NHL exhibition games – both for the sake of appeasing the fans and for seeing what the gifted Finnish blueliner is capable of handling.

Of minor note is the fact that two of the players on this list (Rodrigo Abols and Carl Neill) are old enough to play in the AHL. The fact that have received assignments to their junior clubs conclusively rules out any appearances with the Comets this season, at least until their respective junior seasons are over. Neill was signed to an ATO with the Comets late last season, but never got into a game, as the Canucks’ AHL affiliate was pushing for a playoff spot.

Some may find it surprising that Canucks management has decided to keep Abols and Neill out of professional hockey this season, but I think it’s something that we could have seen coming given the amount of players that the organization signed to play in the minors this year. With the goal of being deeper for the benefit of both the NHL and AHL clubs, management has loaded up on some serviceable AHL players, and kept the amount of AHL rookies to a minimum. While the team will receive a rookie netminder in Demko and a rookie defenceman in Stecher, there are already a number of sophomores (Jordan Subban, Cole Cassels, Ashton Sautner, Joe LaBate) looking to take the next step, and surrounding them with experienced players rather than more rookies seems like a wise move.

The players that survived the cuts also tell their own story. Recent signing Michael Carcone, as well as invitee Alexis D’Aoust were eligible to return to junior, but have been kept around instead. It seems likely that they’ll get into a pre-season game or two, possibly earning tickets to Utica training camp. The same fate may befall the other invitees that are too old for junior hockey: Marco Roy, Curtis Valk, and Danny Moynihan, as well as off-season signing Yan-Pavel Laplante.

It looks like the invitees will have to wait a little longer, as the first Canucks pre-season game goes tomorrow in San Jose, and the Canucks appear to be sending the following players to participate:

As a side note, Richard Bachman and Michael Garteig will be heading to San Jose, rather than the goalies listed there.

Once the pre-season gets underway, expect the cuts to start coming fast and furious. The Canucks still have a whopping 60 players on the roster, and their Swedish World Cup representatives will soon be returning – although they will get a bit of rest before heading into game action.