The Vancouver Canucks are going to play in another scrimmage tomorrow night, but today, they were back on the ice doing drills after a scheduled day off on Friday. The day off came after a rather intense Thursday evening scrimmage, and today’s practice featured much more physical play than we’d seen at prior practices throughout the first week of camp.
As we wrap up the first week of training camp, here are the main news and notes, along with some closing thoughts.
Jordie Benn flies back to Dallas for the birth of his child
Defenceman Jordie Benn wasn’t at practice today, and head coach Travis Green confirmed later that the reason was so Benn could fly back to Dallas to be with his fiance for the birth of his child.
Olli Juolevi — more on him later since a lot of people are asking about him — and Jalen Chatfield formed the fourth defence pairing today.
Per Brendan Batchelor of Sportsnet 650, upon returning, Benn will need to self isolate for four days and test negative for Covid-19 on each of those four days before he can return to the group. His fiance is due on July 24th, according to Patrick Johnston of the Province.
Micheal Ferland still not skating with main group
Travis Green has a new favourite phrase, and it’s one the NHL rules regarding injury updates added to his arsenal for the postseason — “unfit to play”.
Seriously, this reminds me of the time Alain Vigneault told reporters Cory Schneider was out day-to-day with a “body injury”.
Patrick Johnston asked Green about Ferland’s status and if he was skating with the second group as a means to continue to get his legs under him and get back up to speed after missing the first day of camp altogether.
Green, while cracking a smile, said, “he’s unfit to participate with the main group.” What that means specifically, we don’t know, and simply will not know under the league’s outline for reporting injuries and absences during the return to play. Thanks, NHL.
No update on Jack Rathbone’s ETA
Green was asked to provide an update on when newly signed defence prospect Jack Rathbone would be joining the team for the remainder of training camp, and said he didn’t have one to give.
When he eventually gets here, it will be an excellent opportunity for Rathbone to showcase his skills and get a taste of NHL competition in a rather low-pressure environment, given that he’s ineligible to participate in postseason games this year.
These games and this camp can only help Rathbone in his efforts to make the roster out of training camp next year.
Juolevi skates with main group
Olli Juolevi has looked decent so far at camp. He hasn’t necessarily looked out of place, but he hasn’t looked spectacular, either. However, sometimes not standing out can be a good thing, especially for a defenceman. Since someone requested it, here’s Juolevi (in the white jersey) and Quinn Hughes (in blue) battling each other in a 1v1 drill that the Canucks did today.
Here you go. Juolevi vs Hughes in 1 v 1 puck battle. pic.twitter.com/ApTspzuyCO
— David Quadrelli (@QuadreIli) July 18, 2020
— David Quadrelli (@QuadreIli) July 18, 2020
The Canucks have been cycling through Utica d-men pretty steadily in the main group this week, so don’t put too much weight into Juolevi skating with them, especially since Benn wasn’t present today.
That being said, this training camp benefits Juolevi in a similar way that it does Rathbone. It’s an environment that brings with it far fewer nerves than a traditional training camp would when you’re trying to crack a roster in September.
MacEwen shines, reflects on the passing of his father
Although he said he’s not putting too much weight into the fact he skated on a line today — rather than as an extra forward as he had all week — Zack MacEwen really did look good in both the scrimmages and drills.
But he’s also playing just two months after experiencing what MacEwen called “a very unexpected and life-changing event” — the passing of his father Craig at age 48.
“Coming back to playing hockey is definitely a little weird, having my father as my number one guy,” MacEwen said. Craig was somewhat active on Twitter and sometimes interacted with Canucks fans who were cheering on his son. He remained incredibly involved in Zack’s career and always wanted to be kept in the loop about who his son was skating with and how he was feeling.
It’s an incredibly difficult thing to go through and MacEwen isn’t going through it alone. Troy Stecher’s father Peter passed away over the break as well, and Jacob Markstrom lost his father earlier this season as well.
Bo Horvat and Travis Green both used the word “unimaginable” to describe what these players have gone through. “I know how tight my dad and I am, it’s never easy to lose a family member, especially your dad. We want to do something special for their dads in the playoffs,” said Horvat.