Waiver frenzy has hit the NHL and the Canucks have chosen not to participate – at least in terms of supply. Teams must be down to 23 roster players and under the salary cap by tomorrow, meaning that today was the last day to waive players that you want to reassign to the minor leagues. While plenty of teams have waived some interesting names, Vancouver management chose not to waive anyone at all, which gives us an idea of how their final roster will look, at least in part. At the very least, it means that there will be no major upsets – Emerson Etem and Alex Biega are staying with the team to start the season.
In other, slightly disheartening news, the Canucks have reassigned Troy Stecher to the Utica Comets, ending his campaign to be the next Ben Hutton (for now). Richard Bachman also cleared waivers, and will head to Utica as well.
The waiver wire was jam-packed today, so I’ll just let the Godfather give you the full list:
Full list of today’s waivers, 1 of 2: pic.twitter.com/EJNh1CXIbG
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) October 10, 2016
Remainder of today’s waivers, 2 of 2: pic.twitter.com/BTUOaLfnwA
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) October 10, 2016
A couple of interesting points here. One is that there are no Canucks names on the list, and the other is some of the young talent that is available.
On the Canucks side of the ledger, the fact that Jim Benning and company decided against waiving any more players before tomorrow’s roster deadline indicates that Emerson Etem and Alex Biega are safe, and thus will start the season with the Canucks – the NHL season at least. Meanwhile, Troy Stecher will start in Utica, as will Richard Bachman, who cleared waivers this morning.
— Utica Comets (@UticaComets) October 10, 2016
I have no issue with the Stecher reassignment. Though he had a nice preseason, it was a pretty front loaded performance. After looking like a potential stud in his first game, he tapered off to merely not looking out of place. Jeff Paterson sums that up nicely here.
— Jeff Paterson (@patersonjeff) October 10, 2016
Stecher will get a ton of ice time in Utica and an opportunity to run a top power play, as well as work with Travis Green. It’s highly likely that we’ll see him back up in Vancouver when the first injuries inevitably hit on defence.
Here’s what the remainder of the roster looks like:
All told, that’s 16 forwards, nine defencemen, and two goaltenders, for a total of 27 roster players. The Canucks have to get down to 23 by tomorrow, and without waiving anyone today, there are only two options: reassigning those who are waiver exempt, or placing player on the injured reserve. More specifically, they’d like to get down to 13 forwards and eight defencemen.
The obvious one is Tom Nilsson, who constantly surprises people by still being on the roster – he has not played a single preseason game, and is simply waiting around to be placed on the IR. That’s one less blueliner they have to worry about.
The Stecher reassignment and Nilsson being injured means that the defensive side is set. After the obvious top four, Sbisa, Larsen, Biega and Tryamkin make the Canucks out of camp. The only disappointment here is Andrey Pedan, but given that he probably wasn’t going to get in the lineup ahead of Sbisa, Larsen or Tryamkin, it’s probably for the best that Pedan plays 25 minutes a night in Utica, where he’ll be the top all around defenceman.
In the forward ranks, the Canucks need to cut down three players. There are a few different possibilities here. One is placing Anton Rodin on the injured reserve. The Swedish MVP has looked great in the preseason, but missed the final two games due to soreness in his knee – the same knee that received a skate cut last season, required surgery, and prevented him from skating until just a couple of weeks before training camp started. This type of setback was not entirely unexpected, given the severity of the injury, but it is still dispiriting due simply to the fact that Rodin was one of the Canucks’ best forwards during the exhibition period.
Another option is the forwards on Entry Level Contracts. Obviously Bo Horvat isn’t going anywhere, but the Canucks could choose to send either Jake Virtanen or Brendan Gaunce to the AHL unimpeded by waivers. In my opinion, Gaunce has done everything he could to show that he deserves to be on the team, and his versatility in being able to play any forward position (he even played some right wing last year in Utica) is something that the Canucks will certainly covet. Jake Virtanen, who was injured for roughly half of the exhibition games, looked like he could still use some extra time to recover from his shoulder ailment, so a reassignment certainly wouldn’t be the worst thing for him.
Two further options are the PTO players, Tuomo Ruutu and Jack Skille. Both have looked solid in their preseason showcases and either would be worthy of an NHL contract – it’s simply a numbers game. Jack Skille provides size (something that the Canucks could use, especially if they choose to start Virtanen in Utica) and an unimpeachable work ethic. Ruutu can play either centre or the wing, and demonstrated that he’s still capable of potting goals. Both players are strong penalty killers too, which is also a nice option to have. That said, PTO players are always long shots to get signed, and it’s likely that if they showed anywhere close to the same as contracted prospects, the prospects would win out.
Between the ELC players, the PTO players, and placing Rodin on the IR, the Canucks could drop their forward numbers down by as many as five without needing to use waivers. That’s a convenient spot to be in, because there are some gems on the waiver wire right now that could pique the Canucks’ interest – and after finishing 28th last year, they’re in prime position to pick someone up. During the beginning portion of the new season, waived players are offered to each team in reserve order of the previous season’s standings, meaning that the Canucks will have third crack at any available players, needing only for them to get by Toronto and Edmonton, both of which are loaded with young talent already.
There are a number of intriguing names on the wire today, but in terms of young, talented forwards, one sticks out to me more than the rest: Teemu Pulkkinen.
Teemu Pulkkinen is a 24-year old right shot right winger out of the Detroit Red Wings organization. He’s been a dynamic scorer in the AHL, leading the American League in goals in the 2014-15 season (with 34) and the 2015 Calder Cup playoffs (with 14 goals in just 16 games). During his time in the NHL, he hasn’t scored quite so many goals, with 11 in 70 games split over three seasons. Granted, he’s been playing bottom six minutes (averaging 11:25 per game), giving him a career goals per 60 minutes of 0.80, which would have been 4th on the Canucks last year, behind on Jannik Hansen, Sven Baertschi, and Daniel Sedin.
Ryan Stimson’s pass tracking project has also found evidence that Pulkinnen is a strong playmaker, being a top-60 forward in terms of Primary Shot Contributions, which combines shot rates and primary shot assist rates.
Pulkinnen was 57th of all forwards in Primary Shot Contributions/60 last season. Just behind Tavares/Hertl. Ahead of Neal/Kessel.
— Ryan Stimson (@RK_Stimp) October 10, 2016
If you want a contrasting opinion on Pulkkinen, here’s one from Ray Ferraro:
Bingo – watched him I’m guessing 70 times over last 2 yrs / big shooter, trouble getting to puck or gaining step away from defender to shoot https://t.co/3NKv3uZ8f4
— Ray Ferraro (@rayferrarotsn) October 10, 2016
Ferraro is usually a pretty reliable judge of talent, as someone who sees a massive amount of hockey games and seems to have his head on straight when it comes to knowing what to look for.
That said, I still think Pulkkinen would be strong claims for the Canucks. Other solid options include Seth Griffith (a 23-year old 5-foot-9 winger who scored 77 points in 57 games with an offensively loaded Providence Bruins team) or the slightly older but consistently underrated P.A. Parenteau. Given their positions on the waiver totem pole, they have a good chance at grabbing a player if they want to.