The Abbotsford Canucks are beginning to get their roster together.
Sunday night saw the Vancouver Canucks announce their first big cuts to the NHL roster.
A majority of the cuts were sent down to the AHL, while a couple of prospects head to their CHL teams.
Here are our 2021-22 season expectations for all 16 of the roster cuts.
The son of NHL coach John Stevens Sr. will be back with the Canucks AHL team this season. Stevens is a versatile AHL centre who can kill penalties and play power play in a pinch.
Last season in Utica, Stevens was a connecting bridge between the St. Louis Blues’ and Vancouver Canucks’ organizations. The teams joined forces in the AHL and John’s brother Nolan Stevens was part of the Blues organization. It was a fun story to follow as the brothers join forces last year.
After one and a half seasons with the Utica Comets, Stevens will stay in the organization and play for Abbotsford. He will be in the lineup a lot as Abbotsford Canucks’ head coach Trent Cull trusts the way Stevens plays.
Though he was not talked about a lot through training camp, Devante Stephen’s looks like a strong AHL defenceman. The Abbotsford Canucks are going to be deep on the back end and Stephens is a versatile left-shot defenceman with size.
Abbotsford is a great spot for the local kid. Stephens was born in White Rock and split time between the AHL and ECHL last season.
We expect to see him be used as a bottom-four defenceman likely battling for ice time on the third pairing.
Sheldon Rempal has been a productive AHL scorer for a few years now. He is an undersized winger who will fit in nicely with Abbotsford’s middle-six.
Rempal is a former Nanaimo Clipper of the BCHL and has played in 10 NHL games over the past three seasons.
Brother-in-law to Jonah Gadjovich, Spencer Martin finds himself in a curious goaltending situation with the Abbotsford Canucks. We will get to Arturs Silovs a bit later.
Martin is likely the second-best goalie on the AHL lineup behind Mikey DiPietro but the Canucks have high hopes for Silovs, so it will be interesting to see how that situation plays out.
Without an ECHL affiliate, the Abbotsford Canucks will probably roll with three goalies unless they can find a worthwhile loan for Silovs.
After a strong rookie season as a pro, Jett Woo is back in the AHL to continue his development. Woo is a part of a very strong AHL right-shot defence group.
Even though he is not the most skilled at this current day, he is the most promising out of the RD group and does have the most NHL potential.
Woo should be getting top-four minutes in Abbotsford and will be killing a ton of penalties. He looked much better at this training camp compared to last season. His puck-handling skills and skating both looked much improved at this year’s camp.
The balance between development and wanting to have a winning team will be a juggling act for Cull all season long. Woo is a perfect example of that but could rise to the top RD spot with some good play early on. His defence-first style of play will work well with any left-shot defenceman in Abbotsford. If he develops into an NHL regular, his skill set will fit perfectly with any of Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Jack Rathbone or Quinn Hughes and their offensive skill.
We expect him to be a fan favourite in Abby with his big hits and strong defensive play. It’s a big year of development for Woo and we will see how he shows as a sophomore in the AHL.
It’s a big jump for Karel Plasek Jr. this year. He played last season in the Czech first division and will make the jump to the AHL this season.
Training camp was the first time we got to see Plasek in person and he did impress with good hands and decent pace. The question will be how he adjusts to the AHL. He is an offensive player but may have to change his game to fit in a bottom-six role for Cull.
Plasek represented the Czech Republic at the 2019 and 2020 World Junior Championships. This is a big step for him but the progression through his European career has given him this opportunity.
We expect to see Plasek bounce around the AHL lineup and potentially get some power play time as well.
There may be a loan coming for Silovs if the Canucks can find a good spot for him to play games. With DiPietro and Martin on the AHL team, it looks like Silovs may only get 5-10 games in this season. He will get a lot of work with Ian Clark and Curtis Sanford but having him play games should be of the utmost importance after he played just one game in North America last season.
It’s going to be tough to find a team that is willing to make Silovs their number one goalie, so he may just end up being with the Abbotsford Canucks and they will run a three-goalie rotation with DiPietro playing in a majority of the games.
Our expectations aren’t high for Silovs this season but if he plays well enough, he could position himself to be the AHL starter next year when DiPietro graduates.
The former Vancouver Giant forward will have a good chance to play some minutes in Abbotsford. Tristen Nielsen isn’t a lock to make the roster but his skating definitely impressed at training camp.
He will likely get into games and be on the opening night AHL roster. Nielsen probably plays in the bottom-six to start but we will see if he scores enough to get a chance to move up in Cull’s lineup.
Last season did not go well for Ethan Keppen but he is coming back to the organization with a clean slate. Keppen looked to be a bit out of shape last season when he joined the Utica Comets for seven games. He was a player who was severely affected by the pandemic. Not exactly from the virus but from the shutdowns around the world for rinks and training.
The Canucks are giving him another shot this season and if he can find his scoring touch in the AHL, he could be a middle-six scorer who plays on the power play.
Keppen has a great release and the question will be if his foot speed is good enough to skate against AHL competition. He put in the work to be in great shape for the season, and we will see how he shows early on.
I am very high on Chase Wouters. This is the type of kid you want to sign out of the CHL and bring to your AHL team. Cull is going to be very pleased with Wouters and we already saw his leadership qualities shine at rookie camp when he was helping Vasily Podkolzin understand drills.
This is a bit of a hot take but I believe that Wouters will not be a healthy scratch all year long in the AHL. He’s my darkhorse pick to impress the heck out of the AHL fanbase.
Just an added tip, it’s pronounced “Waters”.
Another former Giant finds his way on the AHL roster with defenceman Alex Kannok-Leipert. As a two-year captain of the Giants, Kannok-Leipert showed well offensively in his final WHL year. He has looked fine throughout training camp and should get ice time in the AHL.
He may not be a starter on night one but he will work his way into the lineup. There are just so many good right-shot defencemen on the AHL team. Kannok-Leipert has a true uphill battle to get into action. His age helps him and any former CHL captain seems like they will work with Cull’s coaching style.
We don’t have great expectations for Kannok-Leipert but are ready to be impressed.
Big Vinny is back with the Canucks organization. He will be a serviceable fourth-line player for Abby. Nobody will take shots at the Canucks’ young stars with Vincent Arseneau in the lineup. He is the best fighter on the team and brings a ton of energy on every shift.
Our expectations for Arseneau are that he beats the wheels off a few AHLers and protects the hell out of any of his teammates. He’s a great guy to have in the room.
After dabbling in the AHL for the past few seasons, Jarid Lukosevicius has returned to BC to join the Abbotsford AHL squad. I’ll be honest, I didn’t really notice him at training camp and I don’t know much about him.
He was a consistent scorer in college and has a decent goals-per-game rate in the AHL.
I’ll have to see him play more to form an opinion.
Low key, bringing back Ashton Sautner is one of the best moves the Abbotsford Canucks made this summer. Our expectations for Sautner are high. We expect him to be the biggest minute-muncher on the Abbotsford Canucks.
There’s also a good chance that he is named the first captain of the AHL franchise.
Sautner was an assistant captain on a Manitoba Moose team that he was loaned to for two games last season. He is highly respected around the AHL and seems like the perfect option to captain the Abbotsford Canucks.
We expect to see him be the first pairing defenceman on the left side and eat up minutes on both the power play and penalty kill.
He is the best defenceman on Abbotsford’s roster if Jack Rathbone doesn’t get sent down.
Viktor Persson, assigned to the Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
The time has finally come for Viktor Persson to play hockey in North America. He was expected to join the Kamloops Blazers last season but COVID had other plans. Now, Persson will be joining a powerhouse Blazers team that will be battling with the Vancouver Giants for the BC Division title.
Persson should get ample minutes with the Blazers and hopefully slides into some special teams action. He has played the power play and killed penalties in Sweden but knows that it will take some adjusting before he is comfortable in North America. Persson told me that the rink size was the biggest shock for him at training camp and that he was so excited to play with the Blazers after what he has gone through over the past two seasons.
We have high expectations for him because he is on a great team and should be playing up the lineup in a hurry. The Blazers kicked off their regular season this past Friday and Persson could be in the lineup as soon as next weekend.
Connor Lockhart, assigned to the Erie Otters (OHL)
After a strong showing at rookie camp, Connor Lockhart looked good on the ice with NHL players at main camp as well. He has great stickhandling skill and a shot that seems to explode off his stick and surprised all those in attendance. He’s small but plays bigger than his 5’9″, 160-pound frame would suggest.
Lockhart is expected to be a top-line winger for the Otters this season. He is expected to be on a line with two drafted forwards and should put up a ton of points after not having a 2020-21 OHL season.
His only personal goal for this season is to play well enough that he earns a pro contract with the Canucks. We will follow along with his season and keep you updated with his highlights.
That’s it for our expectations of the 16 players that were cut from the Canucks this past Sunday. For better context, we only expect that one of these 16 players will get a sniff at the NHL level this season. Ashton Sautner is the only real call-up option out of the group as most of the players mentioned will be battling for AHL jobs instead of NHL jobs.
With the AHL team so close by, there will be plenty of competition for AHL players to stick out and impress the big club. We expect the Abby Canucks to be a very competitive team and now that other AHL teams are releasing their training camp rosters, that feeling is becoming even more real. The Abbotsford Canucks’ current crop of 14 players stacks up pretty well against most of the other AHL training camp rosters and they still have a lot of quality players who have yet to be sent down by the Vancouver Canucks.
It’s a good time to be a hockey fan in Abbotsford. Their team is going to be a lot of fun to watch and follow this season.