Welcome back to WDYTT, the only hockey column on the internet already blocked by the Seattle Kraken on Twitter.
Speaking of crackin’, the 2021/22 regular season is about ready to get crackin’, and we couldn’t be more excited. By the time you read these words, you’ll be a week or less away from a real, actual Vancouver Canucks game that genuinely counts for points in the standings, and it’s tough not to get at least a little amped up about that.
Before we get there, however, we’ve got one last opportunity for preseason prognostication to lay before you, loyal reader.
You’ve followed the offseason transactions. You’ve tuned in to training camp. You’ve watched every preseason game. You’ve got Chris Faber’s Twitter pinned to your browser.
You’ve seen it all, and now it’s time to call it.
This week, we’re asking:
What is your final prediction for the 2021/22 Vancouver Canucks opening night roster?
(Feel free to predict as much, or as little, of the roster as you like!)
Which Canuck has impressed you the most so far?
Which Canuck has impressed you the least so far?
Your responses are below!
We haven’t really seen enough to tell. The game against the Kraken was a good test for a lot of guys fighting to make a spot, but it’s only one game, and obviously no one had any chemistry. This favours players like Rathbone, whose free-wheeling style doesn’t depend on that chemistry as much. I think it was pretty clear in that game, though, that the most impressive skaters out there were Rathbone and Hunt. I’ll take either of those guys in an NHL top-six.
As for the Flames game, it’s to some extent a mirror image of the Kraken game, in that the Flames iced almost no one who’s a lock for their starting roster and none of their top players or goalies. So, it’s certainly fair to say that the power play looked good, or that OEL looked revitalized and skated well, but it’s hard to glean much in light of the fact that an NHL lineup played a non-NHL lineup and therefore wasn’t under much pressure. That game was more about getting comfortable playing a non-scrimmage hockey game than it was about testing the players’ readiness for the regular season. Gadjovich and Lockwood were the real standouts in that game for me, in that they felt just as overqualified to be playing in that game as their NHL-regular teammates.
So overall, given the limited sample size of a three-day camp and a couple of exhibition games of questionable value, I guess I’ll say Ian Clark has been the most impressive in that he has the AHL starters looking very good against a mix of AHL and NHL competition. Least impressive, the obvious answer is Juolevi, but more for the camp performance than the exhibition games, in which he’s been more or less fine despite a couple of instances of poor timing stepping up. But no one has been particularly bad.
It’ll be interesting to revisit this after the seventh preseason game is done.
Most: Klimovich (in terms of his raw skill and potential as a prospect), Di Giuseppe for fringe players, OEL and Poolman for vets.
Least: Juolevi (we all know all the reasons) for prospects, Highmore for fringe players, Schenn for vets.
Rathbone is the obvious choice. I think the plan was to send him down the AHL and let Hunt and Juolevi hold down the left side for the regular season. Instead, Rathbone is making it impossible for the coach to send him to the AHL. He is scoring, defending well, dishing out punishing hits, and is noticeable all over the ice.
My honorable mention goes to DiPietro, who has looked very good in net. He won’t take the job away from Halak, but he is close. The Abbotsford Canucks are going to love him, and I project he will make the team next year for sure.
Juolevi is the biggest disappointment. He had a guaranteed spot on the Canucks roster because the Canucks did not want to risk putting him on waivers, but his training camp and preseason have been underwhelming at best. Last game was his best game, and he played well defensively. But Hunt and Rathbone have outshone him so far. If Canucks were to place him on waivers in an attempt to send him to the AHL, I think they could be confident that no team will take him. And if another team did take him, it would be no loss since he is easily replaceable.
Honorable mention goes to MacEwen and Highmore. I expected them to both show better than they have so far. Instead, I could see their spots being taken by Gadjovich and Lockwood.
Nils Höglander continues to impress. Starting to look like future team captain material.
Most disappointed in Jim Benning & Pat Brisson. Come on guys, just get it done already. If this team struggles early, you’ll be entirely to blame.
(Author’s note: Duncan clearly recorded this response before the Pettersson/Hughes contract extensions, so go easy on them!)
A River Named Curt:
Impressed? The goaltenders. Both DiPietro and Silovs looked far sharper than I would have expected after having hardly played for 18 months. And a shout-out to Gadjovich.
Less impressed with Dickinson and Höglander.
Gino’s 3rd Cousin:
I’m going to go with Jonah Gadjovich for who has most impressed me. He has shown the determination by losing ten pounds and focusing on his skating. It’s noticeable in the clips I have seen, and by all accounts he looks faster in person as well. I’d like Green to give him a shot, because he has a lot of the qualities the team needs; scoring touch, toughness, willingness to stick up for a teammate. I remember his first camp and I was shocked by how awful his stride was. From that first glance, I knew he would be a longer-term project. I think the time is now. Also, that sick pass to Wouters against the Flames was remarkable even for the preseason. I’ll leave the unimpressive player for others. I’m sure the popular answer will be OJ, but I’d need to see him in-person at camp and playing games to really make an assessment I could stand behind.
Rathbone, Lockwood, Gadjovich, Klimovich, Silovs, and DiPietro have demonstrated the Canucks prospects are nowhere near as dismal as some pundits have suggested.
I only watched the one game, but Garland looked really good, though that was to be expected. I also expected Gadjovich to have a strong camp, so good to see he did. I liked Wouters in the Calgary game, even aside from scoring he looked good on the forecheck and breaking up plays.
Most: Ian Clark for the work he’s doing preparing goaltending prospects for the future.
Least: Petey and QH for not being here. Sorry, I get it, but don’t want to.
Most impressed: Rathbone has shown well and looks like he may make the team.
Least impressed: Dickinson, who was a total non-factor in the Kraken game.
Hard to pick just one. Rathbone has been stellar and more physical than expected, same with Lockwood. Gadjovich has been terrific. I will go with Alex Chaisson though. In the only preseason game I saw him play, he had a solidifying veteran presence and a big body to go with it. I think he can provide some leadership to the bottom-six, especially with the departure of Beagle and perhaps Sutter, and hopefully the Canucks sign him because Chaisson can chip in offensively, as well.
Squire Barnes probably put it best in referring to Chaisson as a unicorn because he plays on the 4th line as well as the power play. We saw this when he screened the goalie for a PP goal against the Flames. Chaisson skated well with Bo and out-worked and made smarter plays than other guys who he is competing against, such as Highmore and MacEwen.
As far as disappointments go, to me the big story here are the RFA holdouts. Petey and Hughes are too young to be doing this and need to get a kick in the butt and get back to playing hockey. I am not sure if it is one or the other, or the agent acting as ringleader here, but if these guys want to win, then they need to be fair so that the team can keep some of the other great players around, as well.
I am going to say OEL, albeit only a one game sample, but he was very good.
JB bet the farm and future on this guy and it just may be the most vital piece, along with Hughes and Petey, that will either sail or sink this ship.
Chris the Curmudgeon:
(Winner of the author’s weekly award for eloquence)
For most impressed, I would have to say Mikey DiPietro. While he certainly did avail himself of extra coaching time last season, going so long without playing any competitive hockey seems as though it would have had a strong negative on his play. But, so far, he has sparkled.
I have to say that I am the least impressed with the double standard being set for some players over others. The optics of Juolevi’s antics in training camp were bad, but it is also no secret that Juolevi was one of the Canucks who was crushed by COVID last year. Sutter was also known to have had a particularly bad case, and on the surface appears to be taking the necessary time to get himself ready to compete. However, because of his tenuous hold on a job, OJ (never the fleetest of foot, but not someone prone to coming in out-of-shape either) was basically subjected to a humiliating display that he may not have deserved because somehow it was determined that he would be earning or losing his roster spot at the bag skate. I don’t know if he would have made it anyways, as there is no question that roster management considerations and style of play aside, Rathbone has looked better so far. But if the guy had just stayed home and said “tired from long COVID” rather than shown up due to a perceived lack of options for a bubble guy (albeit one who got to enjoy all the detriments of practising and traveling with some other Typhoid Mary last year), he wouldn’t have been subject to the same harsh judgment as he has been.
Di Giuseppe has impressed me most because I never saw it coming. He might well make the cut, especially if Pettersson and Sutter aren’t back by opening day.
I would have to say Jack Rathbone has impressed the most, which leaves OJ on the waiver wire at some point this season.
Least impressive is a tie between Hamonic, EP, and Quinn. Hamonic for taking up a roster spot and now dragging the team along. Regardless of reasons, just being a question mark hurts the team. EP and Quinn decided to share agents which makes the process MORE difficult! They both want individual deals, but need to be treated like a package deal. Brian Burke said dealing with the Twins was easy, they both wanted to stay on the same team and worked together. EP joining CAA complicated the situation immensely.
Hamonic, EP, and Quinn all have to do what’s best for themselves, but in the sense of training camp and the team, all are tied for least impressive.
(Update: Ten hours after writing this, Quinn and EP have signed. I take full credit!)
Impressed with Mikey DiPietro who is playing his guts out.
Honorable mention to Benning for so far not caving in during negotiations…if EP and QH get too much, the Canucks will have trouble keeping their other best young players….so dollars are important to the team’s big picture.
Unimpressed with EP and QH’s agent who probably promised the moon, and ran into the reality of “salary cap gravity” on the launching pad.
I think the most impressive through the two games I’ve watched is Rathbone.
On the other side is Juolevi. The commentators seemed to think he was “ok” in the Calgary game, but I saw him get turnstiled twice, and looked confused about his positioning multiple times.
At this point, Juolevi doesn’t look ready for an NHL job, whereas Rathbone does. The fourth-rounder supplants a #5 pick.