Before the Canucks even get the chance to step onto the ice and begin competing with their NHL rivals, quite a few members of the team will have to do battle for their spot in the lineup. The Canucks’ roster is as in-flux as it’s ever been, and it should make for an exciting training camp.
The Sedins’ Right Wing-
Contenders: Loui Eriksson, Jannik Hansen, Anton Rodin, Jake Virtanen
Inside Track: Loui Eriksson was signed with this role in mind, and he has experience playing with the Sedins on the Swedish national team. In fact, when training camp commences, Eriksson will be getting an extended warmup with the Twins at the World Cup of Hockey. All signs point to Eriksson winning this job, despite Jannik Hansen’s great season there in 2015-16.
Baertschi and Horvat’s Right Wing-
Contenders: Whichever of the above don’t win the Sedin job.
Inside Track: Anton Rodin had a phenomenal season in the SHL, winning their Best Player award, which is awesomely represented by a Golden Helmet that the reigning winner wears all year. Sadly, Rodin won’t be able to bring that lid over to the NHL, but the Canucks are hoping he can bring at least some of his scoring to the big league. Rodin only really works in a scoring role, and is likely to head back to Europe if he doesn’t make the roster, so it makes sense to give him an extended look on this line. Hansen can fit in well enough on the third line, and Jake Virtanen may benefit most from some AHL time.
Third Line Left Wing, Two 4th Line Wing Positions –
Contenders: Alex Burrows, Emerson Etem, Derek Dorsett, Brendan Gaunce, Alex Grenier, Borna Rendulic, Jake Virtanen
Inside Track: Brendan Gaunce is waiver-exempt, but has arrived at the stage in his development where he needs NHL ice time. He should snag one of the wing spots, and preferably the one on the third line. Derek Dorsett is a near-lock to hold down the 4th line right wing job, love him or hate him.
That makes it a dogfight for that final 4th line left wing position. Alex Burrows has experience and versatility on his side, but Emerson Etem showed a lot of upside near the end of last season. It could go either way. Alex Grenier or Borna Rendulic would have to have exceptional training camps to make the team, and Virtanen’s waiver-exempt status makes him even more likely to start in the AHL.
One of these wingers could stick around as the 13th forward, but the team may choose to go with the loser of the 4th line center battle described below, instead. The club may also elect to carry 14 forwards, although eight defensemen looks more likely at this point.
4th Line Center-
Contenders: Markus Granlund and Mike Zalewski feat. James Sheppard
Inside Track: Markus Granlund was just re-signed for two years, and it seems like this job is his to lose. Mike Zalewski impressed with the Comets last season, but he does not have the skill or pedigree of Granlund. It is possible that the team will keep the loser of this battle around as the 13th forward, as teams usually like to keep an extra center on hand. However, it could also be any of the wingers that don’t make the cut in the above battle, too. Or both!
James Sheppard has just been added on a PTO to compete for this position, but seems like a long-shot. The former first rounder and NHL veteran finished 7th in points on his Swiss A League team, behind leading scorer Tommi Santala, so don’t expect too much from him. Likely just a warm body to fill out the veteran requirements of preseason games.
Bottom Pairing/Extra Defense-
Contenders: Luca Sbisa, Nikita Tryamkin, Philip Larsen, Andrey Pedan, and Alex Biega
Inside Track: Luca Sbisa and Nikita Tryamkin would have to do especially poorly in the preseason to lose their spots on the bottom pairing. Other options may provide more than Sbisa already, but his contract keeps him in for the time being, and hopefully his World Cup experience will give him a boost. With the team likely to carry eight defenseman, that leaves two jobs for three contenders. Andrey Pedan continues to be promising and brings some unique physical elements, and Philip Larsen has the most offensive potential out of any of them. That probably leaves Alex Biega on the outside looking in, despite a solid season in 2015-16.
Between: Jacob Markstrom and Ryan Miller
Inside Track: The plan all along has seemed to be gradually transitioning from Ryan Miller to Jacob Markstrom. This is the last year of Miller’s contract, and Markstrom just signed a big extension, so the writing is on the wall. Miller will still play more than the average backup, but Markstrom should be getting the lion’s share of starts. He will, however, have to start the season as Henrik Lundqvist’s backup at the World Cup.