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Scenes from Canucks practice: Cole McWard skates with Quinn Hughes on top pairing

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
David Quadrelli
6 months ago
Welcome back to Scenes from Canucks skate/practice, the series here at CanucksArmy where we bring you all the news and notes from the Canucks’ non-game activities that take place on a sheet of ice all season long.
Today, that sheet of ice was at UBC, as the Canucks skated in a pretty clear NHL group followed by a second group with more NHL hopefuls than anything else.

What we saw

Here are the first group’s line rushes:
Some key things we noticed:
-Phil Di Giuseppe is back on the second line alongside JT Miller and Brock Boeser. That’s the spot that Di Giuseppe held down the final stretch of last season, and the spot it appeared was Vasily Podkolzin’s to lose based on training camp line combinations.
-Podkolzin skated in the non-NHL group after a rough showing during the Canucks’ 10-0 loss to the Calgary Flames on Sunday. There’s little reason to panic about this, but it’s certainly worth noting and keeping an eye on.
-Big Jack Stud (as he’s known in The Stanchies), Jack Studnicka, came in and had an impressive training camp and is being rewarded accordingly. Studnicka was buzzing during this morning’s practice as well and looks primed to swoop in and be the “buzzsaw” or “energy guy” Tocchet hoped Podkolzin and Nils Höglander could be for the NHL club.
-Ilya Mikheyev skated but did not take part in line rushes in his projected lineup spot alongside Elias Pettersson and Andrei Kuzmenko on the Canucks’ top line. He left practice early, as he continues to get his legs under him.
-On defence, Cole McWard got a turn skating with Quinn Hughes on the top pair as Noah Juulsen — who also didn’t show very well in the 10-0 loss to the Flames — skated with the non-NHL group.
-No real surprises on the rest of the defence pairings, but let’s revisit the Hughes-McWard pairing. Don’t sleep on that pairing being a viable option for the Canucks at some point this season, as he’s already got experience playing with a Hughes-type of player:
Let’s get into what was said after this skate!

What was said

Cole McWard spoke about the opportunity to skate with Quinn Hughes.
“It’s an amazing opportunity,” said McWard. “Obviously he’s one of the best players in the world, so that’s awesome for me and I was really excited to do that and be out there with him. He was a lot of help today in talking to me and just making sure I knew what was going on, making sure I was in the loop.
“I think I just got to read off him. Back him up and give him the puck as much as possible. He’s a great player and can do some pretty crazy things with the it, so just trying to keep my head up and move the puck over to him and read off his plays and try to play my own game too.”
Faber also asked McWard about his experience playing with Mason Lohrei (as outlined in the Danny Gee tweet above).
“Yeah, I mean, I think playing with Mason was an awesome opportunity too. He’s one of my best friends in the world. A real offensive player just like Quinn and I don’t think I’m trying to change my game too much. I’m just trying to go out there and and do the best that I can do. But at the same time, you got to have that awareness and you got to know he might jump up in the play and you always need one guy back. So just making sure that we have that guy to fall back on if something were to happen.”
McWard also talked about his mom’s advice to have a “goldfish memory” after being a part of the Canucks’ 10-0 loss to Calgary, and it seems like the Canucks’ coaches agreed.
“I’m trying to wash that one away,” said McWard. “Learn from it and watch the film and see where we broke down and see what we can work on and just get better at. There wasn’t even too much talk about the game. I think that right now we’re looking at tomorrow. We’re looking at how we can be the best team as we move forward here. There was some clips from the game and they [Canucks coaching staff] didn’t talk too much about that game in particular, but I think everyone’s mind is just to come out kind of chip on our shoulder and just move forward from it.”
McWard, a 22-year-old right shot defenceman signed with the Canucks as an NCAA free agent late last season and tallied one goal through five NHL games in 22-23.
We will update this story soon when Rick Tocchet eventually speaks and gives an update on Ilya Mikheyev’s status.
UPDATE 1:40 PM:
Rick Tocchet met with the media following the second group’s on-ice session and said Ilya Mikheyev did “really well” on his skating test but said his timeline to a full return isn’t quite yet clear. “Day-to-day or a week, I’m not quite sure yet.”
Tocchet also talked about his projected lineup for the rest of the Canucks’ preseason games.
“We’ll have two NHL lineups and sprinkle the other guys for the next two and by games four to six, we’ll have our lineup, we had this planned.” Tocchet also said he likes Cole McWard’s game and called him “someone with a bright future with the Canucks.” Do with that what you will.
Tocchet spoke about Dakota Joshua and Vasily Podkolzin being bumped from the main group.
“For Podzy, he’s working his butt off,” said Tocchet. “He’s just trying too hard with some of his reads, we got to make sure we dial that in. For Dakota, he’s got to pick it up. Quite frankly, I’m not going to get into other factors, but he’s got to try to win a job. The job’s not there, there’s guys breathing down that one job. Whether it’s a message or not — there’s a lot of other factors that I’m not going to get into — but yeah, he’s got to pick it up.”

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