The Canucks will finally hit the ice this morning to try and put together their roster and begin preparations for the upcoming season. Training camp is on and the season isn’t that far in the distance.In less than a week’s time, the Canucks will open their pre-season with a Saturday matinee tilt with the Los Angeles Kings. It’s about to get real.
In less than a week’s time, the Canucks will open their pre-season with a Saturday matinee tilt with the Los Angeles Kings. It’s about to get real.
At least seven unrestricted free agents with realistic chances at an NHL role have joined the Canucks this offseason, which says nothing of the restricted free agents Vancouver kept in the fold and the two professional tryouts they’ve added to the mix thus far.
There are only so many rosters spots to go around, though. Then there’s the matter of finding out where each player fits when they’ve made it that far.
To handicap these roster battles and points of interest as the Canucks make their way through training camp, I’ve provided a list of the three most intriguing storylines.
Is Bo Horvat the First Line Centre?
Last week, the Canucks signed the final of their RFAs, Bo Horvat, to a six-year deal valued at $33-million, for a cap hit of $5.5-million annually. It’s not the type of salary we’d usually associate with an elite scoring forward, but it’s certainly in that tier of first line compensation. Clearly, the Canucks think Horvat is either ready to fill that role for the Canucks now or in the not so distant future.
Canucks sign Bo Horvat to six year contract https://t.co/DPFZ5QUnnH
— CanucksArmy (@CanucksArmy) September 8, 2017
The only problem? Horvat’s never played first line minutes. In fact, the only part of Horvat’s game that we can confidently say is at a first line level has been his raw point production, and we only have one season worth of data to back up that assumption, and in that season Horvat had an abnormally high on-ice shooting percentage.
Last season, Horvat was third among Canucks centres in average time on ice. That can’t repeat itself. You don’t hand out $5.5-million to a “foundational” centre and play him in a second or third line role. If Horvat is the future, then the future is now. I’m interested to see if Canucks head coach Travis Green agrees.
The Kids Are Alright?
There are about two spots in the Canucks lineup that are open to competition. Among the competitors are Alexander Burmistrov, Anton Rodin, Brock Boeser, Reid Boucher, Derek Dorsett, Griffen Molino, Jake Virtanen and Nikolay Goldobin are among the many competing for these spots.
We’ve heard a lot these last few years about the youth movement going on in Vancouver. It might have to spend a year on hold. Boeser looks ready for the NHL, and I think one could make a case that Goldobin isn’t far behind.
Vanek or not, if Boeser is good this month he has to stick with Canucks https://t.co/tscTeIn77X
— Jason Botchford (@botchford) September 8, 2017
I wonder if the Canucks have room for either of them (or any of their other young players) after some of the veteran additions they’ve made this off-season. By that same token, Canucks general manager Jim Benning has been adamant this summer that they’ll create room for young players if they prove themselves ready in training camp and the pre-season.
Who is Going to Play with the Sedins?
The Sedin twins are 36-years-old now, and somehow this storyline is still following them to almost every training camp. Last year, there was one obvious candidate ahead of the pack in the newly signed Loui Eriksson. There’s no such suitor this time around.
The Sedins finished the year with a number of different linemates, players like Jayson Megna, Michael Chaput and Markus Granlund, to name a few. With Granlund on their flank, the Sedins played some of their best hockey at both ends of the ice. If I were running the show, I’d go back to that well to start the season at the very least.
Benning tells @TSNBobMcKenzie that Green may put Gagner with the Sedins to start.
— Jason Brough (@JasonBroughTSN) September 9, 2017
One early candidate,that Green has singled out as an option to start the season with the Sedins? Sam Gagner. At a glance, that seems like an odd match. Gagner isn’t a play driver at even strength, and he does some of his best work against lower level competition. There isn’t much Gagner can bring to the Sedin line, and his inability to help move the river at even strength might actually make him a hindrance relative to some of the alternatives for that role.