We are now at the beginning of training camp for the Vancouver Canucks and Brock Boeser remains unsigned. The longer it drags on, the higher the possibility that he will not begin the regular season with the team. There is a lot of time before that happens, so the hands are off the panic button for now.
Regardless, Boeser’s absence gives someone an opportunity to showcase himself as an option on the top line with Elias Pettersson. Even if he signs before the regular season, the time spent in the top six could jumpstart that player’s confidence going into opening night. So without further ado, here are three players who could fill in for Boeser in training camp and heaven forbid the regular season.
You knew this was coming. The #FreeGoldy movement has resurfaced on Twitter and the fact that Boeser isn’t in training camp will only increase its intensity. Nikolay Goldobin, who recently signed a one-year “show-me” contract, needs to take advantage of this opportunity. Now, he won’t be the only one head coach Travis Green experiments with on Pettersson’s right-wing, but he should be in the mix.
Goldobin is already in a fight to gain the trust of his head coach. He should use this time to show him that he can be a legitimate option in the top-six. When Boeser inevitably signs with the team, you would hope that he has enough confidence to move to another line or shift to the left-wing and continue to produce.
He already has a bit of a leg up on the competition too after starting last season on Pettersson’s wing. He had some early success but was ultimately moved off the line due to defensive lapses and questions about his work ethic. After working hard in the offseason, it appears he’s ready to prove everyone wrong. Producing in the preseason with Pettersson will go a long way in making that goal a reality.
Training camp represents an opportunity for every player to gain confidence and start the season on the right foot. There is no player who needs this more than Jake Virtanen. In normal circumstances, he would be vying for a spot in the bottom-six. But Boeser’s absence has made this preseason far from normal.
Instead of just one spot being open on Pettersson’s wing, there are two. Presently he is wingless, doubling Virtanen’s chances of landing a spot beside one of the best players on the team. Just like Goldobin, he needs to take advantage of the opportunity and get in Green’s good books before the games start being played for keeps.
If Virtanen’s commitment to fitness is any indication, he should be in line for a breakout season. But Green is not entirely convinced, recently stating,
I’m anxious to see where Jake is at training camp and where his fitness level is at. Is he committed? It was a long off-season and for me, the telltale is how that player shows up on Day 1.– Travis Green (From ‘Ben Kuzma: Green eager to see if Virtanen’s commitment is as solid as his fitness’, National Post – 9/12/19)
If he can finally take the next step and show some consistency in his play, he could become an option down the road for the top six. For what it’s worth, it does seem like he’s committed to improving his game.
I need to get around the net more and find loose pucks and tip more pucks and probably could have had five or six more goals if I got a little greasier. That’s something I have to improve on and do more in games.– Jake Virtanen, National Post
This is a key year in Virtanen’s development. He cannot afford to have another season of inconsistency. This opportunity for top-six minutes has to be taken seriously. He’s saying all the right things, now comes the hard part, putting it into practice.
Josh Leivo’s versatility makes him the perfect candidate to fill in for Boeser on the top line. If he can open eyes in training camp, the possibility of playing in the top-six in the future goes up substantially. He already has experience playing with Pettersson, so he will not have to take any training manuals with him.
Normally, Leivo would not have much of a chance of bumping anyone out of the projected top-six. But without Boeser, his chances have gone up exponentially. Being a right-hand shot also helps, as he could take his spot on the power play too.
Related: Canucks’ 2019-20 Projected Lineup
Leivo has a lot of offensive skill and is primed for a breakout. He could get a head start on that by producing in the preseason. He needs to leave everything on the ice and let the chips fall where they may. If Boeser misses the season opener, he could be first on Green’s list when the top line goes over the boards.
After months of speculation and debate, training camp has begun. One of the Canucks’ fears has been realized, Boeser has not reported to camp. However, as Green pointed out during media day, it goes on regardless.
Now other players have an opportunity to fill in and impress the coaching staff. They could also potentially solidify their spot in the lineup even when Boeser returns to the team. An opportunity like this does not come every day. All the bubble players would be wise to take advantage of it.
Now, he could sign tomorrow, making this article moot. Until that happens, it is worth talking about as we inch closer and closer to the opening night matchup against the Edmonton Oilers.
Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, media editor, and scout who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.