It’s been a pretty interesting pre-season so far for the Vancouver Canucks. So who’s done what?
Well, the Canucks have scored one goal in two games against the San Jose Sharks. Goaltenders Jacob Markstrom and Richard Bachman have looked stellar in their game in Colwood, BC, while verteran Ryan Miller and prospect (is he still a prospect?) Joe Cannata were decent but let in a pair each in Game #2 at Rogers. It’s expected that Bachman and Cannata will be sent down to the Utica Comets.
As for the rookies, almost all of them surprised. Jake Virtanen, the Canucks’ 1st pick (6th overall) in 2014, has had a couple good shifts thus far, but has been almost invisible for the rest of his play. Hunter Shinkaruk and Jared McCann are pushing hard for spots on the team, and with the way McCann is playing, he may even get nine games. From what I’ve seen of Cole Cassels – he’s really unnoticeable – he has shown flashes of being a great top 9 one day, but needs a season or two in Utica to get, er, seasoned. Nicklas Jensen is showing flashes of his potential, as always. Meanwhile, Brendan Gaunce and Ben Hutton have just continued to improve people’s perceptions since the YoungStars tournament. Gaunce has gotten quicker and is getting to the puck more – complimenting his cerebral game nicely – and with Chris Higgins out for at least three weeks with a fractured ankle, there’s a good chance Gaunce will be tapped to fill his spot to start the season. Meanwhile, Hutton is edging himself up the depth chart with crafty and creative play. So much so that he got fellow YoungStar standout Jordan Subban sent off to Europe to participate in training camp with the rest of the Comets without Subban playing a game!
Speaking of Subban and getting sent down, a total of 15 players have been sent down since training camp in Prince George: Anton Cederholm, Travis Ehrhardt, Dane Fox, John Kurtz, Evan McEneny, Ashton Sautner, Mackenze Stewart, Subban, Clay Witt, and Mike Zalewski were all sent to play for Utica, while Guillame Brisebois, Carl Neill, Tate Olson, Kyle Pettit, and Dmitry Zhukenov were all sent to their respective CHL teams.
As for roster players, none of them have looked bad, per se, but certainly no one has stood out to me. Linden Vey is showing he could be someone, but he’s not there yet. Chris Higgins looked great until he took a shot to the leg. The Sedins are playing with Ronalds Kenins, which seems to be working – if by working, you mean looking good but scoring no goals. Jannik Hansen is still speedy as ever. Bo Horvat has had a couple good chances to score, but has looked both good and not-so-good off the puck as well, although that will improve as the season goes on. Brandon Prust and Derek Dorsett have been okay.
Alex Edler, Chris Tanev, Yannick Weber, and Dan Hamhuis are back at it and looking better than
ever they have in the past. Meanwhile Luca Sbisa is forever trying to find himself a new partner in either Matt Bartkowski, Andrey Pedan, Alex Biega, Frank Corrado, or Ben Hutton. It will likely be Bartkowski and Corrado taking up the 6/7 D spot on the depth chart, but Hutton is there and could move past a few defenders if management likes what they see.
Players like Adam Cracknell (the lone goal-scorer against the Sharks) and Blair Jones have also exceeded my expectations. Jones has a great shot and Cracknell seems to be the replacement for Cal O’Reilly that Utica needs.
Again, it’s only pre-season, so the sky isn’t falling and the Stanley Cup doesn’t hinge on the next two games. But anything could happen in these next couple weeks, and it’ll be interesting to see who plays with who and what moves take place.