Welcome to Canucks Weekly, where you can catch up on the past week of the Vancouver Canucks throughout the 2019-20 season. From trending topics to news and notes, this is your weekly update on all things Canucks.
Training camp has begun and Canucks hockey has returned to the west coast. Restricted free agent Brock Boeser has not spent a minute on the ice due to the contract dispute that has raged on since the beginning of the offseason. But his absence has meant more opportunities for the other bubble players. Let’s hope that he signs sooner rather than later.
The last three days have been great for Canucks fans as they got to see the boys back on the ice. Judging by the observations coming out of Victoria, it sure looks like this group is ready to take the league by storm in 2019-20.
The annual camp scrimmage allowed Canucks fans to see everyone in simulated game action and there were many players who impressed. This is great to see as we transition from training camp to the preseason.
Here are some notable stories that came out of the first couple of days of training camp.
The Jake Virtanen Saga
We all knew something was up when Jake Virtanen was not present in the first two training camp groups. It turns out head coach Travis Green was sending a message. Virtanen once again failed to pass his physical. Despite saying that he worked hard in the offseason, his conditioning was not up to par in Green’s eyes.
We both agreed that there were goals that had to be met and that if he didn’t reach them he probably wouldn’t be with the first two groups on the first day of camp. There’s nothing more than that.-Travis Green
If Virtanen genuinely wants to improve and become a legitimate NHL player, he has to start putting in the work. With the extra opportunity created by the absence of Boeser, he should be extra motivated. As of now, that does not seem to be the case.
Virtanen returned to the main group the next day, so clearly the demotion was a not so subtle message to the 23-year-old. He may have taken it to heart, as he looked much better on the ice compared to the previous day. He still looks like he’s labouring a bit, but improvement is good to see.
Clearly, he’s going to have to up the work ethic in the preseason to silence the critics. He will have a chance to do that Monday against the Calgary Flames and it will be interesting to see who he plays with. Keep an eye on this one, folks.
Elias Pettersson in Midseason Form
Did we get into a time machine and land in 2020? Elias Pettersson looks like he’s been playing for a few months already, not a couple of days. He obviously took all the advice to heart and upped his conditioning in the offseason. From the first bag skate, he looked stronger than everyone else. Then in the scrimmage, he did what he does best, score ridiculous highlight-reel goals. “Dekey Pete” has returned and the NHL better watch out.
He looks determined to avoid the sophomore slump and put up even better numbers than last season. New linemate Micheal Ferland has figured out what every Canucks fan has known for a while now, Pettersson is a rare talent.
He’s unbelievable…It’s funny with those skill guys, enough is never enough with them. You see him in every drill, he just wants to be the best guy out there.-Micheal Ferland
Ferland is being aligned with the Swedish Gretzky because of the success he’s had with skill players. After playing with Sebastien Aho and Teuvo Teravainen with the Carolina Hurricanes and Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan in Calgary, he definitely knows skill when he sees it. It’s also good to know that he won’t be changing how he plays.
One thing I’m definitely not going to change is I’m going to come in and I’m just going to be physical…The best thing for me is to just stick to my game.-Micheal Ferland
Without Boeser, AHL-bound Reid Boucher joined them as the third forward. I was surprised by this, as he does not have much of a chance to make this team. It will be interesting to see who is aligned with them in game one of the preseason. I would like to see Green audition forwards who legitimately have a chance at making the team. Maybe he anticipates Boeser to be here sooner rather than later?
The Quinn Hughes Watch
Hughes has been the other young player to watch in training camp. After debuting in prospects camp and looking like a man against boys, he has transferred that energy over to the main camp. As expected, Hughes was paired with veteran Chris Tanev to start day number one.
Overall, they have looked great together. What’s underrated about Tanev is his skating and the ability to make a good first pass. Like I said in a previous article, he is the perfect partner for Hughes.
The next day he was paired with another slight defenceman in Troy Stecher. This could be a combination that is used at times during the regular season, but I do not see it as a long term solution. Unfortunately, their size could be a detriment defensively. However, I could be wrong as they both move the puck well. They are also great skaters, which may offset the lack of size.
In the end, Hughes probably plays well with anyone. I have no doubt that Green will experiment with his defence pairings throughout the preseason. So expect to see him with Tyler Myers as well at some point.
Apart from who he played with, he provided us with some dazzle as well. The victim today was Virtanen, as he made him look silly with acouple of quick dekes. In the scrimmage, he gave the puck away, which led directly to a goal, but that will happen to even the best defencemen in the league. Ultimately, it will be fun to watch Hughes’ development this season, mistakes and all. He more than makes up for it with the offence he generates.
Other News & Notes
Brandon Sutter Providing Offence?
After an abbreviated season in 2018-19, Brandon Sutter is healthy and ready to provide some offence. If the first scrimmage of training camp is any indication, Sutter will be much improved in that department. However, a scrimmage is miles behind an actual game, let alone a season.
He did look good though, scoring a bar down goal and assisting on another. He also was noticeable throughout the scrimmage. The challenge for Sutter will be staying healthy and consistent in that role. Judging by Green’s comments, he wants to roll at least three lines that can generate offence. So he will be provided with some wingers who have offensive tendencies. Let’s hope he can take advantage of that and put up some points.
Olli Juolevi Watch
The other player of note was Olli Juolevi. After laboring on the first day of training camp, he was “demoted” to the third practice group on day two. He also did not participate in the scrimmage. The reason provided by Green was deemed “load management”. Now, this could simply be resting his knee, which was expected.
In videos provided by Chris Faber from Canucks Army, Juolevi’s skating looked good. He didn’t look hurt, so that’s positive news. We will have to see how he looks during game situations when the preseason commences, to properly judge his condition.
The Canucks Week Ahead
After Sunday’s festivities, the Canucks will split their squad in half. One group will head to Alberta to play one-half of the Flames while the other remains in Victoria to play the other half. The rest of the week they will face off against the Edmonton Oilers twice and close it out in Los Angeles against the Kings on Saturday.
There will be multiple cuts throughout the week, as the Canucks attempt to pare down the roster for the regular season. #BoeserWatch will also be in full swing until he ultimately signs. Here’s hoping it’s not too much longer. Let the games begin!
My name is Matthew and I cover the Vancouver Canucks, and Vancouver Giants here at the Hockey Writers. I am also the head of the prospects and NHL Draft coverage. In addition to writing, I host the Canucks & Pucks podcast as well. I am passionate about the Canucks, prospects, and all things hockey.