Welcome back to WWYDW, the only hockey column on the internet to not run out of ideas this summer.
Speaking of summer, it’s over.
As you read these words, the Vancouver Canucks’ 2021 training camp has either already opened or is mere hours away from doing so.
Then, it’s off to the 2021/22 season, and who knows where else from there.
Prognosticating and predicting is now a major component of modern hockey fandom. It’s the underpinning of fantasy sports, the basis of endless summer debate, and something that most fans need to do to keep themselves sane in the offseason. One of the best things about pro sports are that they’re entirely unpredictable — and yet, we keep on trying.
Some things are so easy to predict, they’re virtual guarantees. Elias Pettersson is going to score on a bar-down one-timer from the top of the circle. Tyler Myers is going to take a crosschecking penalty at some point. JT Miller is definitely going to swear loudly enough to be heard through the broadcast.
Other predictions aren’t slam-dunks, but they are realistic enough to be made with full confidence anyway. Brock Boeser scoring 30 goals. Quinn Hughes breaking the franchise record for single season blueline scoring. Nils Höglander finally scoring a lacrosse goal.
But then there’s the sort of predictions that are really off the wall, truly out of left field. The sort that can only be described as bold. The kind that might make others stare at you incredulously, but that will make you feel incredibly wise when, against all odds, it actually pans out.
That’s what we came here looking for today.
This week, we’re asking you to:
Make your boldest prediction(s) for the Canucks in 2021/22.
Which Vancouver Canuck has the most to prove in Training Camp 2021?
Your responses are below!
There are actually quite a few players that have something to prove in camp, but the most is Mikey D. Many people called last year a “lost” year in his development, but he has said he wants to win a job in training camp. No matter what, Mikey D will start in Abby, but a strong camp will have the big club looking to bring him up permanently at some point this season.
Beer Can Boyd:
Toss up between Juolevi and MacEwen. Both need to make the final cut, or they’ll be going on waivers, and then most likely to a new team. IMO, Olli makes it, Zack is gone.
I would say Juolevi has the most to prove. He was drafted fifth overall and was supposed to become part of the Canucks’ top-four defensemen for years to come, along the lines of Alex Edler. That’s a lot of pressure. This is probably his last chance to show that he belongs in the NHL. If he has a bad camp, then performs poorly during the season, I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets placed on waivers and loses his spot in the depth chart to Rathbone.
Hughes: he had a down year defensively and measures himself against Makar and Heiskanen.
I don’t it matters whether he signed a bridge deal (betting on himself) or a long-term deal (prove that he’s worth it), he will be motivated to prove he’s an elite defender.
It’s absolutely OEL. With the amount of money he’s being paid, the term on his contract, and his recent performance, he needs to play like a top-two d-man to justify his existence on this team and give us hope to finally have a highly-paid vet who isn’t a complete anchor.
They all do.
Chris the Curmudgeon:
(Winner of the author’s weekly award for eloquence)
In my eyes, the only answer to this question can be Olli Juolevi.
Certainly, the list of players hoping to maximize their impression on the coaches in training camp is long. There are a number of players “on the bubble” who are hoping to impress and stick at the bottom of the roster; think MacEwen, Bailey, DiGiuseppe, Hunt, etc. There are others who are considered prospects at the moment, but who would like to force management to promote them to full time NHL duty; such as Lockwood, Gadjovich, DiPietro, and Rathbone. A third category would be players who underachieved or were injured last year, be it with the Canucks or elsewhere, who want to start the new season on the right foot. This would mean guys like Hughes, OEL, Motte, and Pettersson, pending new contracts in some cases, but all of whose NHL jobs are secure.
Having said all of that, Juolevi is the one guy on the team for whom this training camp is a make or break. He has the largest expectation-to-performance deficit, he’s on a show-me contract, and unlike some of the other guys vying for 3rd pairing or 4th line slots, he is not in a situation where he can think “better luck next year.” The team will be unfazed by keeping anyone in the first two categories in Abbotsford, either to keep improving their game for a future shot at the big club, or because they are depth players to begin with. Juolevi, on the other hand, is not a sustainable option in that role: he’s a former 1st rounder, a guy originally expected to be a big part of the team’s future, someone the team has been extremely patient with (albeit one hampered by unlucky injuries), and on a one-way show-me contract. As it goes in the military and in academia, it’s “up or out” for Juolevi this year too, and that call probably happens at the end of camp.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson is being paid over $7 million on a long-term contract to be the Canucks’ number one d-man. It has been reported on all fronts that his play has declined over the last few years and he said so himself. We are about to see if Benning’s gamble paid off and if OEL can return to form in a more competitive environment.
Without a doubt, Olli Juolevi has the most to prove. He needs to prove he can finally make the NHL and that his skating has improved. He needs to show he can anchor that left side and not get turnstiled.
Juolevi is pretty close to being what he is with little room for improvement left. Canucks have shown a lot of patience with him, but other players like Rathbone are knocking on the door, and I suspect if Juolevi doesn’t make it this year, he won’t be in the Canucks Organization after this year.
OEL, and it’s not particularly close. If he can be a top-three D at his salary, the organization has a future. If not, and he performs like a 5-6 D, then Benning has his work cut out (Myers and OEL combined paid too much for 4-6 D).
Juolevi is, of course, the obvious choice with the most to prove and live up to his draft position, but at this time he seems like a replacement level third pair D.
I think Jonah Gadjovich has the most to prove at this camp. He’ll be battling, perhaps literally, with MacEwen as an enforcer who can play and score. It’ll really be his skating and positioning that will make or break him as a somewhat responsible call up.
My dark horse selection is Jett Woo, who did not show well at previous camps, and has looked decent last year with Rathbone in the AHL after losing much of his lustre during a very average year with the Hitmen.
Because I don’t see that OEL needs to prove anything in training camp (he’ll make the team no matter what) I have looked to others to make my choice. I see training camp performance as crucial to Gadjovich and MacEwen, but I think Juolevi is the player with most to prove. The 5th overall draft choice’s career with the Canucks hangs in the balance. He’ll get stiff competition to make the team from Rathbone and Hunt. The stakes are huge.
OEL doesn’t really have to worry about making the club. Obvious choice, like everyone else is saying, is Juolevi plain and simple. Time is running out for Gadjovich and Lockwood and they’re the next two guys who have a lot to prove to the Canucks. Let’s see if these particular Benning picks work out or not. Sure hope so.
Juolevi has the most to prove in training camp. With all the veteran depth the Canucks signed, Juolevi is in an all-out battle to make the roster with like two other defensemen and he is not waiver exempt this season, so if he doesn’t make the team out of camp he could get picked up by, say, Arizona, and Juolevi then becomes Frankie Corrado 2.0.
This season is most definitely his last kick at the can in Canuckland to see if he is an everyday NHL defenseman or is he a #7 or does need to go to Abbotsford.
We will see.
He’s proven he can dominate in the AHL, popping in goals almost at will. But success in the AHL does not automatically earn you a ticket to the big show. Gadjovich will soon be 23 years old. His career is at a critical juncture. In camp he must prove he can skate and think like an NHLer, worthy of at least an early call up.
Juolevi makes sense. Now that the other guy that was drafted really high but never worked out is gone, Olli has all that pressure to live up to his draft pick. Clearly this will be his most important camp ever.
I’ll also go off the board a bit and say that the team’s leadership has got a lot to prove early in the season. Bo, EP, JT, and TG have to figure out how to leave 20-21 in the rearview and start this season strong. Another slow start, losing season, and this team sinks into a long Sabres-like depression.
I think Podkolzin has the most to prove at camp because his potential is such an unknown with him being stuck and underutilized in Russia for two years. He would have been a top-five pick otherwise and only dropped down to us for this reason, but now that the wait is over it’s time for him to prove he was worth it. So, the fact that he could step in and prove himself to be yet another top-six quality contributor for this already loaded forward group is the biggest camp question.