Canucks Cut Five More, Including Juolevi, Bringing Roster to 33

The Canucks announced today that five more roster hopefuls have gotten the axe, including 2016 fifth overall pick Olli Juolevi, bringing the number of players remaining down to 33.

The Canucks sent the following players back to their junior teams:

Player Pos Draft Jr. League Jr. Team
Olli Juolevi D 2016 – 1st Round – 5th overall OHL London Knights
Dmitry Zhukenov C 2015 – 4th Round – 114th overall QMJHL Chicoutimi Sagueneens

The Canucks also reassigned the following players to Utica:

Player Pos Contract Type
Joseph LaBate LW NHL ELC
Borna Rendulic RW NHL

Finally, the Canucks also released James Sheppard from his professional tryout contract.

Let’s work our way down.

First, Olli Juolevi wasn’t going to make the team, so this is okay! In fact, it’s great, because he get now get himself back to London and start playing big minutes. The Knights, which were an absolute powerhouse last season with the likes of Mitch Marner, Christian Dvorak, Matthew Tkachuk, Max Jones and of course, Juolevi, have been floundering just a bit to start the 2016-17 season, winning just two of their first four games. Juolevi will be a welcome addition, as none of the above four have played a game for the Knights this year – Tkachuk ia still with the Calgary Flames, while Jones and goaltender Tyler Parsons have been reassigned but haven’t gotten into a game yet. Meanwhile, Marner is unlikely to return and Dvorak is too old for junior.

There may be a little bit of trepidation in Vancouver due to the fact that two other top defensive draft picks, Mikhail Sergachev and Jakob Chychrun, look like they could break camp with their NHL teams, but I wouldn’t worry too much about that. I hate to evoke the “wait and see” approach here, but it’s sensible – Chychrun is an ideal candidate for professional hockey, as his strengths include good positioning, man-size and, well, strength. Similarly, Sergachev is a beast of a player, and while his game is more offensively oriented, he’s got the size and bite to his game to stick in pro hockey.

Juolevi simply isn’t built the same as the other two, but that’s not an indictment on him as a hockey player – it’s just the way he is at 18. Juolevi’s greatest strength is his mind, and some day it may help him be the best of the three defencemen, but right now he isn’t physically ready for the big leagues.

Moving on, we’ll touch briefly on the other junior cut, Dmitry Zhukenov. The Zhukenov reassignment might have caught a couple of people by surprise simply because they may have forgotten about him. The Russian pivot was injured in a practice prior to the Young Stars tournament in Penticton, which has kept him out of game action since. I don’t have the latest information on how the injury has progressed, so I don’t when when he’ll play his first game with Chicoutimi, but hopefully it’s sooner rather than later.

This is still my favourite Zhukenov goal:

On to the Comets reassignments, Joe LaBate had a heckuva preseason and surprised a lot of people – there was even some measured discussion about whether he could find his way on to the opening night roster. That may have been a pipe dream, but LaBate has endeared himself to the locals, as well as to Canucks management, and that’s the first step on the road to grabbing an NHL call up as an injury replacement.

LaBate had a 51.6 percent 5-on-5 Corsi-for percentage in four preseason games, according to Natural Stat Trick. He collected plenty of penalty minutes, including for the above hit on Matthew Tkachuk, as well as the subsequent fight with Michael Ferland. He also showed the offensive side of his game, with no better example than this sick sauce he served up for Tuomo Ruutu while on the PK.

Borna Rendulic, an offseason free agency pickup, also had a strong preseason. He turned heads early when he was placed on Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi’s wing in Whistler, and turned a few more when he didn’t look out of place. The first ever Croatian born NHLer will provide some scoring punch in Utica, and will be pretty high up on the list of call ups.

Finally, James Sheppard was easily the third most impressive of the three forwards on PTO’s at Canucks camp. While Jack Skille and Tuomo Ruutu have the locals contemplating which of them might be able to earn a contract, Sheppard has slowly fallen out of our memories. The former first round pick will have to look elsewhere to play professional hockey this season.

Once again, the list of players that are left is just as interesting as the list of those that aren’t. Here’s a full rundown of the remaining 33 hopefuls:

Canucks - 33 left

The Canucks still need to make ten more cuts over the next six days. Some, like the guys signed as AHL depth players, including Chaput, Megna and Bachman, are here to show that they can be good call ups, as is Mike Zalewski. Brendan Gaunce is legitimately fighting for a spot, as are PTO players Ruutu and Skille. Their strong performances up front could spell trouble for Jake Virtanen, who has been injured most of the preseason, and Emerson Etem, who has just been disappointing despite receiving plenty of favourable opportunities.

The strong play of Troy Stecher could force the Canucks to waive Andrey Pedan, or try to convince Nikita Tryamkin to start in the AHL (the 6-foot-7 Russian has an out clause to head back to the KHL if he gets cut). Finally, Alex Biega should be cut before the season starts, and that shouldn’t even be a discussion (but it is, unfortunately). Lastly, Tom Nilsson is dealing with some sort of injury as well, which has kept him out of the preseason games to this point.

Some good news: the Sedins and Eriksson are on the ice and practicing together in advance of the Canucks’ game tomorrow against the Flames.

With only two preseason games to go, and with the coaching staff wanting to get down to their true roster sooner rather than later, it shouldn’t be long before the next wave hits. If pressed, I’d guess that Megna, Chaput and Bachman will be on it, once the waiver really opens up.

  • SISMIM

    Even merely speculating about waiving Pedan should be enough to drive people mad, nonwithstanding the merits of doing exactly the same thing to Corrado last year (which was not a mistake). There’s a really good chance that he would slip through due to everyone’s rosters being full but why on earth would you risk it?

    This would be asinine asset management, there’s lots of room in Utica for Stetcher to develop with top line minutes (which suits him) and there’s an ideal spot on the Canucks for Pedan to develop with 3rd pairing minutes (which suits him). If we’re committed to carrying 8 defensemen then why expose one that could be claimed? Putting Stetcher on the team in Utica has zero risk and potentially fantastic rewards, waving Pedan for a player whom has had a great pre-season but is also very unproven will look ludicrous if Stetcher has a rough stint in Vancouver.

    You could argue for either Stetcher or Larsen, but not both in the same lineup. Here’s hoping we carry both Tryamkin and Pedan and they get enough minutes to develop to the best they can be. You can’t have enough big, physical defensemen that can skate as well as these two can.

    • Smyl and Snepsts

      I couldn’t agree more. Stetcher has been good but needs to start in Utica. He can always be called back up. Pedan and Tryamkin need to be here. Last year with Bartkowski and Weber was so depressing. Unless you are hyper skilled you better have size on the back end.

  • chinook

    I thought OJ would see 9 games but he didn’t look that great in preseason… too bad he can’t play in the AHL. There should be an exemption for first round picks to let them play underage.

  • Cageyvet

    Agree with the article and many comments. I watched Pedan live and he looked pretty good, and saw Tryamkin live last year and was also impressed with the potential. He struggled the other night, but I’ve already seen that he’s no worse than some we put on the ice last year.

    With Stecher and Subban looking to be the most dynamic offensive dmen on the horizon, with apologies to Ben Hutton who may continue to develop, I’m liking size on their pairings. The fact that we have 3 defenseman 6’5″ and up that are not pylons could be huge, pardon the pun.

    If they’re mobile enough, and they seem to be, some good coaching can bring out the Chara in them. That big wingspan and long stick really covers up a little slower pivot.

    Once the play slows down against teams who play more control than off-the-rush, these guys are invaluable. They are all punishers on the boards.

    I’d be going all-in on these guys and seeing what we’ve got, even 2 of the 3 being solid long-term would be a big upgrade on our team’s play in our own zone.

  • Dirty30

    Considering last season’s injury devastation, it’s great to see depth this year.

    Guys with skill and motivation who are pushing the players who might have thought they were a lock.

    That’s fantastic and credit to Benning for getting it done with his hands tied!

    As mentioned at least twice, Stecher needs to be sent down. It’s wonderful that he demonstrates such skill, decision-making and prowess to be considered, but it’s not like he’s competing against Bartowski or Weber. The team has a solid top four, some guys with size and potential, and that gives this team a luxury not known for a long time — to develop players who could, if needed, step in now.

    There is room for improvement except the top line, and guys like Jake and Emerson can also go to Utica for some work. If you lose the latter on waivers it’s no big deal.

    This season will be interesting on a number of levels. I don’t think this team will scare anyone, but they won’t be a pushover either.

  • chinook

    Stetcher over Larsen I believe Canucks have lots of size on defense but need someone to run power play who has some moves up his sleeve besides just firing the puck at the net. Stetcher is exciting as he draws other players towards him assesses the situation at light speed and then moves the puck.
    Canucks will be in tough if they do not score on the power play. Last year they left points on the table when they couldn’t score on power play, and they need to win face offs. If they improve in these two areas it will be a fun season, if don’t improve will be a long season.

  • SISMIM

    Stretcher has incredible vision and good decision making but I agree he has time.Send him to Utica and bring him up when the injury occurs.I hope Etem can show like he did last year but as he will likely clear waivers and get another Crack later in the season.