It’s likely to become an odd and dynamic season. On Sunday, the Vancouver Canucks canceled the team’s practices and workouts as a concern about COVID-19 came to light. There was, according to a tweet from the Canucks, the risk of exposure to the virus.
As the Canucks noted, further details are coming about this issue.
Obviously, the Dallas Stars have already had six members of the team and staff test positive; and, both the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Pittsburgh Penguins had also canceled sessions recently due to potential COVID-19 exposure. However, both teams were back on the ice the next day. Let’s hope the same is true about the Canucks.
In this edition of Canucks News & Rumors, I’ll share some of the news from the team as it ended Week 1 of its training camp on Saturday.
Item One: Travis Hamonic Was to Have Joined the Team’s Training Camp on Sunday
According to a tweet from the voice of the Canucks Brendan Batchelor, head coach Travis Green had reported that new Canucks’ defenseman Travis Hamonic was to have joined the team on Sunday.
The Canucks were happy to be able to sign Hamonic to a professional tryout agreement (PTO) just prior to training camp. Hamonic is a classic defensive defenseman. He’s not much on the score sheet for goals and assists and, in the 50 games he played last season with the Calgary Flames, he only scored three goals and nine assists (for 12 points). However, he’s strong defensively, doesn’t make many mistakes, and is a steady influence on the ice.
Item Two: Nate Schmidt’s Been Impressive During Training Camp
According to Thomas Drance’s article in The Athletic earlier last week, newcomer defenseman Nate Schmidt has been impressive and has wowed his new Canucks’ teammates at training camp.
Drance’s article cited Canucks’ forward J.T. Miller as reporting, “Having a guy like Schmidty, the way he skates the way he sees the ice, it’s like having another forward out there. There’s a lot of movement, a lot of skill and when we get the high urgency and high compete, it adds another threat.”
Although it was pretty early in the training camp, Schmidt seemed to have found a good fit with the Canucks’ top line of Miller, Elias Pettersson, and Brock Boeser. If he does play with that group, he’s liable to have a career season even during a shortened 2020-21.
Last season, Schmidt scored seven goals and 24 assists (for 31 points) in 59 games. His best season thus far is the 2017-18 season with the Vegas Golden Knights, where he scored five goals and 31 assists (for 36 points) in 76 games. He could top that total, even in a 56-game season, if he remains healthy.
Schmidt was “found money” for the Canucks when the Golden Knights were forced to trade him in October for virtually nothing as a way to clear salary-cap space when the team signed former St. Louis Blues’ star right-side defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. (from Nate Schmidt will make the Lotto Line more lethal and he’s already showing how,” Thomas Drance, The Athletic, 06/01/21).
Item Three: Carson Focht Signs Three-Year Entry-Level Contract with Canucks
Carson Focht signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Canucks on Wednesday. Last season, Focht scored 32 goals and 24 assists (for 56 points) in 61 games with the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen. The 20-year-old center was chosen during the fifth round (133rd overall) of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft by the Canucks.
Focht will probably need to spend some time with the Canucks’ AHL Utica Comets before he has a chance to make the Canucks’ roster.
Item Four: Tyler Motte’s Off-Colored Injury Diagnosis?
Earlier this week, it was reported that Tyler Motte was injured in practice. That report has been now reported as false. He isn’t injured. The mistake came because Motte was participating in practice wearing what has now been called an “off-colored” jersey.
Apparently, hockey writers who saw the jersey during practice on Tuesday inferred that Motte was injured; however, fortunately, that isn’t the case and Motte will be fine moving into next week’s training camp.
Motte is projected to be partnered on a line with Brandon Sutter and Jake Virtanen. The 25-year-old winger scored eight points and 118 hits in 34 games played last season. However, he was a revelation during the playoffs where he played some of his best hockey of the 2019-20 season.
My prediction is that Motte will carry that playoff-style into the upcoming season and have a really strong season for the Canucks.
What’s New for the Canucks?
It was good to see Canucks’ fan-favorite Zack MacEwen back in action during the training camp. MacEwen was injured during the Canucks’ playoff run last season. Sadly, for him, the team was eliminated by the Golden Knights before he could return to the lineup.
He makes a difference on the ice and, like Motte, can impact the game in a positive way for the team. If he’s in good health, the 24-year-old forward is probably a lock for a bottom-six role with the team coming out of training camp.
In my opinion, both Motte and MacEwen are players to watch this season.