Earlier this week, we discussed which Vancouver Canucks are likely to hit waivers sometime before the regular season opens on October 3, 2019—and found the list to be rather lengthy. With a rebuilt blueline and an overstuffed forward corps, one might assume that the Canucks will avoid claiming any players themselves during the annual preseason waiver rush as rosters are finalized—but the possibility remains, especially if the team does end up losing a player or two to the waiver wire themselves.
A team in the Canucks’ current position—still lacking in overall organizational depth while trying to transition to contention—can never turn a blind eye to the prospect of free assets, and there are a number of circumstances that could see the team put in one or more claims.
Firstly, many are still expecting GM Jim Benning to trade a high-priced player or two—whether it be Brandon Sutter, Chris Tanev, or someone else—to accommodate Brock Boeser’s extension, and that could open up a spot for a cheap replacement. So could any major injuries sustained during the preseason, which are practically inevitable. Antoine Roussel is already starting the season on the IR, and he probably won’t be the only one.
As well, the Canucks may find that some of the players available on waivers—namely those cut from the deepest rosters in the league—simply represent an upgrade on their current depth options. It’s not outlandish to suggest that a better player than Tyler Motte or Oscar Fantenberg ends up being waived near the start of the season and Benning should be ready to jump at any such opportunity with the Canucks sitting ninth on the current waiver priority list.
So, who are these potential premium waivees? Let’s take a look at depth charts around the league to try to predict who won’t make the cut in 2019/20—and who will thus be available for the Canucks to snag.
The Canucks’ forward corps is already jam-packed with players at every position, but there are also a lot of lingering question marks about where exactly everyone will fit. The situation is nebulous enough that all it would take is an injury or two—or a couple of disappointing preseasons—to send Jim Benning scrambling for a replacement on the waiver wire.
Michael Dal Colle, LW (23)
|NHL (2018/19)||New York Islanders||28||3||4||7|
This will be the year that most players selected in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft will become eligible for waivers, and Dal Colle—picked one spot before Jake Virtanen—is definitely the prize pick among the bunch in terms of draft pedigree. Though Dal Colle finally broke through to the big leagues last year, the Islanders are chocked full of bottom-six wingers already—and have a couple of other talented youngsters looking to make the jump.
It’s entirely plausible that Dal Colle ends up on waivers—and he’s probably worth the gamble if one or more of the Canucks’ top-nine winger options go down with injury or fail to impress in the preseason.
Robby Fabbri, C/LW (23)
|NHL (2018/19)||St. Louis||32||2||4||6|
|AHL (2018/19)||San Antonio||3||1||1||2|
Fabbri’s career has been greatly hampered by injury thus far, and he’s subsequently been passed on the St. Louis depth chart by several other young forwards—including fellow left wingers Zach Sanford and Sammy Blais.
That could put 2014’s 21st overall pick on waivers by the end of this preseason—though, like Dal Colle, he’d probably only be worth a look if the Canucks have an unexpected vacancy in the top nine.
AJ Greer, LW (22)
Greer is a 2015 draft pick eligible for waivers at the age of 22. He’s also an enormous power forward that could feasibly fit in on any line. Greer found his offense at the AHL level last season, proving that he has some untapped potential as a pro scorer—and already he looks roughly equivalent to several players the Canucks are considering for their bottom-six.
If Greer hits waivers, as he’s projected to after Colorado added multiple forwards in the offseason, the 39th overall pick in 2015 will probably get nabbed by someone. Another factor to consider is Greer’s offseason arrest for assault following an altercation alongside Columbus winger Sonny Milano.
Josh Ho-Sang, RW (23)
|NHL (2018/19)||New York Islanders||10||1||1||2|
Ho-Sang is an enigma, but he’s also one that GM Lou Lamoriello may have given up trying to solve. Ho-Sang’s less-than-impressive ten game stint with the Islanders last season means he’ll need a particularly excellent training camp to crack the New York lineup—and it wouldn’t be entirely unexpected if he ended up on waivers instead, though Lamoriello will likely seek a trade first.
The 28th overall pick in 2014 is an enticing potential pickup, but he’s also one that would be wasted anywhere outside of a team’s top-six—so the Canucks should steer clear of Ho-Sang unless they encounter a surprise injury in the preseason.
Vladislav Kamenev, C/LW (22)
Kamenev is an absolute wild card. He’s only been healthy for one of the last six seasons, and now he’s run out of waiver-exemption and will be in tough to crack a deep Colorado forward corps.
Kamenev could fit all over a team’s lineup, but his injuries make him such a question mark that it’s entirely possible the 42nd overall pick in 2014 slips right through waivers.
Sonny Milano, LW (23)
Milano may have already run out of chances with the Columbus organization before his offseason arrest for assault—but now it seems all the more likely that the 16th overall pick in 2014 hits waivers after being passed on the depth chart by younger prospects.
Milano hasn’t exactly set the pro hockey scene on fire since being drafted, but 2018/19 was his best AHL season yet—with 24 points in 27 games—hinting that he yet has a chance of breaking out offensively. Still, Milano’s off-ice issues make him an unlikely target for an organization that has emphasized targeting high-character players.
Evgeny Svechnikov, RW (22)
|AHL (2018/19)||Grand Rapids||0||0||0||0|
A preseason injury kept Svechnikov—2015’s 19th overall pick and the older brother of Andrei—out for the entire season. As such, he’d be an extremely risky waiver claim for any organization—but he could also return a potentially high reward if he’s fully recovered.
If the Canucks are unhappy with one or more of their top-nine right wing options following the preseason, taking a flyer on Svechnikov could be well worth the gamble.
Dmytro Timashov, LW (22)
The Canucks have a recent history—see Brendan Leipsic and Josh Leivo—of poaching depth wingers from the Maple Leafs, and Timashov could be the next in line. He’s a player that Toronto fans insist is ready for the big leagues, and despite his somewhat pedestrian AHL numbers he’s played a valuable role on some fantastic Marlies teams for three seasons now.
The 125th overall pick in 2015 saves his best hockey for the playoffs, and he seems the sort that could break out offensively at the NHL level—though it’s hard to imagine a spot for him in the Vancouver lineup barring multiple preseason injuries.
Carter Verhaeghe, C/LW (23)
|NHL (2018/19)||Tampa Bay||0||0||0||0|
The 23-year-old Verhaeghe lit the AHL on fire in 2018/19—but he’ll still be in tough to join the extraordinarily deep Tampa Bay lineup this season. He’s bounced around the league a bit since being drafted 82nd overall in 2013, but he also has the size and versatility to fill multiple roles at the NHL level—if a team is willing to take a chance on him.
The Lightning will have a difficult time sneaking Verhaeghe through waivers this preseason—though they successfully did so last September—but the Canucks don’t seem like a likely team to claim him.
The Canucks are well-stocked on the blue line, with eight full-time NHL defenders already signed and others like Olli Juolevi, Ashton Sautner, and Guillaume Brisebois ready to break through. In other words, it would take at least a couple injuries for the Canucks to go looking for defensive help on the waiver wire—but then again, that’s not an entirely unlikely preseason outcome.
If they go looking, the following players represent enticing options.
Haydn Fleury, LD (23)
The defense-first Fleury has progressed well since being drafted—but he’s also faced with the task of cracking one of the deepest defense corps in the league. Fleury may be currently pencilled into the lineup, but he could be easily supplanted by Gustav Forsling or Jake Bean—and that could mean a trip through waivers for the 7th overall pick in 2014.
Robert Hagg, LD (24)
|AHL (2018/19)||Lehigh Valley||0||0||0||0|
Whenever Ivan Provorov signs his RFA contract, he’ll bump both Hagg and Sam Morin out of the Philadelphia lineup—and he could also necessitate one of the two being placed on waivers. Hagg has spent the last two seasons as a full-time Flyer—putting up 20 points in 2018/19—so it’s likely that Philadelphia would seek a trade rather than risk losing him for nothing, but stranger things have happened.
Joe Hicketts, LD (23)
|AHL (2018/19)||Grand Rapids||64||3||24||27|
Hicketts is a BC native who gained recognition for his World Juniors performances in 2015 and 2016—despite never being drafted. Signed as a free agent by the Red Wings, Hicketts now finds himself buried on the surprisingly deep Detroit blue line. His trademark big hits could make him a fan favourite in Vancouver.
Julius Honka, RD (23)
Honka has been playing pro hockey since being drafted 14th overall in 2014, but his development appears to have stalled after spending much of the 2018/19 season in the Dallas press box. Honka failed to crack the Stars’ oft-injured blue line for a reason, and his offense has yet to make a real appearance at the pro level—but there’s also some untapped potential there.
Roland McKeown, RD (23)
McKeown is famous in Canucks circles for being the player drafted with the pick Vancouver traded for Linden Vey, but he’s since joined the Carolina organization—which is bad news for his chances of cracking the NHL in 2019/20. A defensive specialist, the 50th overall pick in 2014 stands to be the best right-handed defenseman to pass through waivers this preseason—and that alone makes him likely to be claimed.
Samuel Morin, LD (24)
|AHL (2018/19)||Lehigh Valley||2||0||0||0|
Morin’s situation was outlined in the Robert Hagg segment, but the 11th overall pick in 2013 is a very different player than his Swedish teammate. The 6’6” Morin is definitely a defenseman of the punishing variety, and thus carries with him a unique set of skills that is always in high demand on NHL rosters. He also missed the majority of the 2018/19 following ACL surgery, so he’s a bit of a mystery.