Surprise! Three rookies made the Canucks (five if you count Sven Baertschi and Jacob Markstrom).
Shocking everyone and everything in and around the Smylosphere, it was announced yesterday (Oct. 5th) that 2014 1st round draft picks Jake Virtanen (Drafted 6th) and Jared McCann (24th) and 2012 5th round draftee Ben Hutton (147th) all made the team, while Linden Vey and Frank Corrado were sent down. Vey and Corrado were both penciled in to be on the roster at the start of training camp.
Virtanen (2-2-4 in the preseason) was not as much of a surprise as Hutton and McCann, but his size, strength, work ethic, and youthfulness are a welcome addition to the Canucks. He’s also switched to #18, as opposed to the #77 he wore in preseason.
McCann (also 2-2-4) and Hutton (1-4-5) absolutely demolished in the preseason, which is why the outperformed Vey and Corrado got waived in the first place. Hutton has been working well with Sbisa and even getting some PP time, while McCann has an absolute cannon of a shot and has used it extremely well. Virtanen, McCann (now #91), and Hutton (now #27) should all be bundles of fun to watch in the regular season.
Two of the other “rookies” in Markstrom and Baertschi also showed they can handle the big-leagues this year, with Baertschi going all assists in an 0-5-5 stat line, while Markstrom showing why they kept him over Eddie Lack, going 2-0-1 with a 1.01 GAA and .962 save percentage. He only let in 3 goals over 76 shots. The future is bright indeed.
Another surprise was that of Brandon Sutter and the Sedins. While they were only tested out in the final game, they started a bit off and then gained some chemistry later in the game. Considering Sutter compliments their playing style, it should be interesting to watch; as well as the fact that it allows McCann to play natural center in the 3rd line slot.
Surprise number – I’ve lost track. 3? 5? Adam Cracknell made the team, answering one of my previous blog posts about the ambiguous state of the Canucks 4th line centerman. He’s shown he’s got the capability to play NHL hockey over Vey and fits in nicely between Prust and Dorsett.
On the flip side of things, the Sedins and Miller were fairly uneventful during the preseason. Miller’s save percentage has been in the high .800s, while the Sedins took their time and weren’t any help to any of their linemates (which, they don’t want to get hurt, so that’s fair).
Gaunce should be the #1 call-up, but it will be interesting to see how the lineup will be juggled once injured Chris Higgins returns to duty. Will they send someone down? Will they trade Higgins? Will they forfeit a rookie for the season? It’ll be interesting to say the least, much like the season ahead.
It’s going to be a really up year or a really down year for the Canucks in 2016. As much as I would like for them to drop to get star prospects Auston Matthews or Jakob Chychrun, I think they’ll place 3rd in the Pacific to get a roster spot. Don’t ask me about playoffs. With expectations on literally everyone else but them in the conference, the Canucks will be a wildcard that could upset everyone.
Go Canucks Go!