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.
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) October 5, 2016
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:
|Joseph LaBate||LW||NHL ELC|
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.
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) October 1, 2016
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.
That’s some kind of shot from Ruutu. Assist to LaBate. pic.twitter.com/L7yYll6qwi
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) October 3, 2016
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:
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.
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) October 5, 2016
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.