It’s day two of Vancouver Canucks training camp out at the Meadow Park Sports Centre in Whistler, B.C.
Yesterday, one of the bigger stories of the day was Nils Höglander skating on a line with AHLers Linus Karlsson and Nils Åman.
But there’s a lot more than that, and we know our readers have questions!
That’s why we’re bringing you a live mailbag from the stands on day two!
Reply to the following tweet to ask a question, but I’ll also be answering questions from the comment section as well!
Let’s do this!
On yesterday’s episode of the Canucks Conversation Podcast, we gave our take on our favourite of the four NHL lines we saw skate on day one of camp.
Just to refresh your memory, the forward lines were as follows:
1st line: Tanner Pearson – J.T. Miller – Brock Boeser
2nd line: Conor Garland – Bo Horvat – Vasily Podkolzin
3rd line: Andrey Kuzmenko – Elias Pettersson – Ilya Mikheyev
4th line: Dakota Joshua – Jason Dickinson – Curtis Lazar
Faber said the Garland-Horvat-Podkolzin trio was his favourite, but I went with the Pettersson line, which featured the two new Russians, Andrey Kuzmenko and Ilya Mikheyev, on his wings.
This was without a doubt the most skilled line the Canucks put together, and the fact that Kuzmenko is clearly going to get more comfortable as the preseason continues bodes extremely well for this line’s chances of sticking together and being effective in the regular season.
Kuzmenko showed a ton of skill in tight but it was evident right away that it’s going to take some time for him to get used to the speed of the NHL game when it comes to how fast defenders close in, and just how fast you need to be to make things happen at the NHL level.
He’s got what it takes, it’s just a matter of getting settled in and comfortable.
Pettersson, on the other hand, looked like the best player on the ice in day one of camp, and the early returns on day two are that this will continue to be the case.
Mikheyev’s speed and two-way profile are undeniable, and there’s a lot to like about this trio so far.
A sleeper or surprise pick would have to be one player that people aren’t — for the most part — expecting to succeed or take a step.
This basically disqualifies most of the forwards, and Jack Rathbone, who we’re expecting big things from this season.
So with that in mind, I’ll go with Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
First off, there’s the belief held by both Bruce Boudreau and Ekman-Larsson himself will take a step this season due to overall comfort and familiarity with the Canucks.
Boudreau has been around a long time, and has said he’s seen multiple examples of players who were better in their second year than they were in their first after joining a new club.
“When a guy gets traded, and he’s been on a team for a long time, his first year with that [new] team is an acclimation period. Once he gets used to them, he becomes the player he used to be,” said Boudreau. “You see a lot of guys getting traded and in their first year and they’re [the new team] going ‘What did we trade for him? He’s not as good as I thought he was,’ but then they [the acquired player] become who they are.”
So there’s that.
Second, there’s now the chance that Ekman-Larsson plays a good chunk of the season with Quinn Hughes as his partner.
It’s almost a no-brainer that the point totals and overall success at both ends of the ice are going to improve for OEL if this is indeed the case.
There’s no guarantee that it will be, but even if it’s not — the first point of OEL being in his second year with the club is going to remain true no matter what.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson is our pick for biggest surprise/sleeper player on the Canucks this season, with Ilya Mikheyev coming in as a close second.
First Update: 12 PM
First, there were some questions for John Shorthouse.
And we did our absolute best to get Shorty to answer the age-old question:
“Does he point out ’69s’ and ‘420s’ on purpose?”
Now back to the regular mailbag questions.
Just to refresh everyone’s memory, these are the pairings we’ve seen through the first two days of camp:
Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Quinn Hughes
Danny DeKeyser – Tyler Myers
Jack Rathbone – Luke Schenn
Travis Dermott – Tucker Poolman
I’ll give my take on all of the pairings:
OEL – Hughes
It goes without saying that this is a pairing that will be able to move the puck incredibly well and be able to control the pace of play at both ends of the ice.
These are the two best defencemen the Canucks have, full stop.
They’re going to be fine, if not dominant while on the ice together, but they can’t routinely play 30+ minutes each night — especially not Ekman-Larsson.
Thus, with this pairing, I wonder if we’ll see the Canucks explore the idea of keeping Hughes away from OEL for most of the game, but keep the pairing in their back pocket if they want to throw it together midway through a game.
DeKeyser – Myers
It’s hard to have a definitive take on this pairing, but nothing aside from his play in recent seasons would suggest that Danny DeKeyser can’t play.
Thinking out loud a bit, I’m curious if the Canucks signed DeKeyser to a PTO as a backup just in case Jack Rathbone isn’t ready for consistent NHL minutes just yet.
Many — in the organization and beyond — believe that Rathbone is ready to take that step, but it’s hard to think of many other explanations for DeKeyser playing top four minutes in the preseason alongside Myers.
The pairing itself has looked fine, but it’d be somewhat alarming if a pairing featuring two veteran NHL defencemen didn’t look fine through training camp drills and scrimmages.
Rathbone – Schenn
It’s no secret that the Canucks are looking at a Rathbone Schenn pairing as a lite version of the Hughes Schenn pairing that great success last season.
It’s a lite pairing for a few reasons.
For starters, Rathbone isn’t as good as Hughes. Duh.
But it’s also a lite version because the pairing will be playing far fewer minutes than what the club asked Schenn to log last season.
Schenn is able to help insulate an offence-first defenceman, and could have great success with Rathbone in a third-pairing role.
Dermott – Poolman
Tucker Poolman didn’t blow the doors off on day one of camp, and neither did Travis Dermott. It’s just one day of camp, but one would assume that if DeKeyser isn’t signed to a contract, that Dermott and Rathbone will battle it out to be promoted to the Myers pairing, with the other skating alongside Schenn or Poolman on the third pair.
Things get a little bit more interesting if DeKeyser makes the team, but we wouldn’t read too much into a Dermott Poolman pairing at this point in time.
Keep scrolling down to the comments section as we’re answering a lot of questions down there as well!