CA’s 3 stars of the week: Three standouts from Vancouver Canucks training camp

Isabella Urbani
6 months ago
And just like that, preseason hockey is upon us and the regular season is around the corner.  
After opening training camp on September 21 at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, BC, today marks both the final day of practice and the first of six exhibition games for the Canucks as they head on the road to take on the Calgary Flames at 5:00 p.m
Unlike previous years, the Canucks only held one scrimmage at camp, which took place yesterday from 10:30-11:40 a.m., and was the only time fans got to see the Canucks in a game-like scenario. During the outing, the team’s usual stars stood out as being a level above the rest: goaltender Thatcher Demko, defenceman Quinn Hughes and forwards Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Andrei Kuzmenko, and JT Miller. They’re the team’s stars; undoubtedly, they were stars at training camp. 
However, training camp grants players outside of who fans got to watch last season the chance to prove they too could be full-time fixtures on the roster. Fans were treated to extended lineups and the return of Vasily Podkolzin and Nils Hoglander at the NHL level. Arguably, the real excitement from training camp comes from the batch of players on the cusp of an NHL promotion who show flashes of success, and in this inaugural edition of the brand new CanucksArmy series, “3 Stars of the Week,” we want to acknowledge those players that deserve this nod. 

3rd star: Arshdeep Bains 

Bains is a bit of a dark house taking home the third star from this week’s training camp. A few players could just as easily slot in here. Christian Wolanin, the reigning AHL defenceman of the year, looked just as solid as he’s been for Abbotsford all year; Guillaume Brisebois, who’s been locking horns for that final spot on the left side of the defence with Wolanin, has the edge according to Faber; forward Josh Bloom opened the scrimmage with a penalty shot goal and never looked back, and Jack Studnicka, in true Jack Studnicka fashion, was a wrecking ball.
With all that considered, it’s Bains with third-star accolades for his job of taking over Ilya Mikheyev’s spot on a line all camp with Canucks-guarantees Pius Suter and Conor Garland. That speaks volumes of Bains, who after putting up 38 points (13G, 25A) in his rookie season in the AHL, was the frontrunner of the pack to assume that position and stay there all training camp. He didn’t shine individually as much as the other nominees, but aside from Brisebois, was the only player to play alongside and against the Canucks’ regular roster all training camp. His ability to manage this tricky assignment will undoubtedly reflect in more game-time responsibility in the AHL, and perhaps a higher position on the “callup list” for the upcoming season. 

2nd star: Vasily Podkolzin 

Podkolzin got a vote of confidence this training camp from veteran JT Miller after playing on a line with Boeser, captured on day one of training camp.
“I’m not going to get into details but he reminds me of me,” said Miller. “Young and sent down, having to learn to play the right way and learn to play in the NHL. I was a strong skater when I was young and was a bigger guy like him… He’s coming in, obviously he looks great again, like he always does, so I’m excited to see him again this year.”
On day two of camp, Podkolzin revealed the two are on a phone calling basis. “We’ve got a great relationship and if I have any problems I can call him and ask for advice,” said Podkolzin. “He’s told me his story and that’s what I want to learn from him. He’s had a hard way and a long way [to the NHL] but again, he just tells me to be confident, keep working, and keep smiling.”
Sounds like Podkolzin and Miller have sort of a mentee/mentor role going on at the moment as Podkolzin looks to make his return to the lineup full-time this season. Curious to see how this dynamic changes as the season kicks off. Could Podkolzkin be elevated to playing with Miller full-time? The chemistry and support are there, certainly. If not, Podkolzin is definitely in head coach Rick Tocchet’s back pocket if he decides to change up the wingers on Miller’s line. 

1st star: Nils Hoglander 

It’s hard to believe with the version we saw of Hoglander at training camp that he spent the majority of his season in the AHL. Outside of the regular stars on the team, Hoglander’s performance was the closest of the entire training camp to that level of play — and he proved that by playing on a line with the team’s two best scorers last season, Kuzmenko and Pettersson. Hoglander will likely start the season in a bottom-six role, but if he produces at a top-six level, he’ll be a no-brainer to flip up into the first and second line, potentially with the linemates we saw at training camp. Alongside a notable offensive spark, Hoglander’s defence, more specifically his wall work, was on full display as captured by Jeff Paterson of The Hockey News. There’s no better way to cement himself in the top two lines than by utilizing his puck possession to maintain possession and generate offensive opportunities and faceoffs for the lines above him.

Check out these posts...