The Canucks are at the midway point of the preseason, which is when the roster really begins to take shape. The final few exhibition games will determine who wins each roster battle, who gets to stay, and who gets cut. Here’s a quick look at how things have progressed thus far.
Who Has Already Earned a Spot?:
Anton Rodin- Rodin was probably going to be gifted a spot anyway after his stellar season in Sweden, but he’s gone ahead and earned it all on his own. Rodin shows an exceptional amount of skill, and some early chemistry with Bo Horvat. With Virtanen’s injury, Rodin is going to start the year in a top-6 role.
Philip Larsen- The Canucks brought Larsen in as a powerplay specialist, and he’s demonstrated those skills in his limited appearances. Larsen’s game definitely has some holes, but his style of play is greatly needed on this roster.
Brendan Gaunce- The Canucks got exactly what they wanted from Gaunce this preseason. He’s taken yet another step forward, and has shown an ability to use his size and strength at the NHL level. Gaunce is a cerebral player, and it will be interesting to see how he is able to adapt to a bottom-6 role throughout the year. The only question now is whether he’ll be lining up at center or the wing.
Who is Still Battling?:
With nine forward spots seemingly taken, that leaves four left for the remaining players to fight over. Markus Granlund is a near-lock, but it remains to be seen whether he will be a center or winger. Derek Dorsett isn’t going anywhere, and Alex Burrows’ salary makes him unlikely to be cut. That leaves just one spot for Emerson Etem, Borna Rendulic, Mike Zalewski, Tuomo Ruutu, Jack Skille, James Sheppard, Joe Labate, and possibly the injured Jake Virtanen to fight for. Virtanen’s injury makes him likely to start in the AHL, however. Etem would seem to have the inside track on this job, but he has been outplayed by Rendulic along with Ruutu and Skille, so things are still up in the air.
On defense, Luca Sbisa’s contract and Nikita Tryamkin’s KHL out-clause makes them both virtual locks for the roster. Beyond them, Philip Larsen has shown more than enough skill to be given a spot as a powerplay quarterback. That leaves one remaining spot for Andrey Pedan, Alex Biega, and Troy Stecher to fight over. Stecher has been the most impressive of the three, but as a rookie pro he will likely start in the AHL. Pedan hasn’t exactly impressed, but he has far more potential than Biega and will likely get the spot.
Players Who Raised Their Stocks:
Anton Rodin- See above.
Brendan Gaunce- See above.
Philip Larsen- See above.
Troy Stecher- Stecher had a decent amount of hype coming into the preseason, but still managed to blow away everyone’s expectations. Stecher looks like he could hold down an NHL role now, but it is probably best to keep him in the AHL for a season. He certainly moved his way up the depth chart.
Borna Rendulic- As a fairly unheralded free agency signing, Rendulic definitely turned some heads at training camp. The Croatian-born player has been among the more impressive would-be wingers and, if he doesn’t make the roster, he’ll be among the first call-ups.
Joe Labate- Labate has previously only been noted for his size, but he is starting to learn how to use it. Labate made a physical impact throughout the exhibition schedule, and showed off a bit of skill to go with it. Has lined himself up for a future 4th line role.
Guillaume Brisebois- Brisebois lasted longer in camp than anyone expected, and did not look out of place in preseason action. Solidified himself as a promising prospect.
Michael Carcone- An undrafted free agent, Carcone was among the more impressive Canucks in Penticton and continued to look good for the actual exhibition games. He has great offensive acumen, and isn’t afraid to go to the dangerous areas. Should play a top-6 role in Utica right away.
Players Who Lowered Their Stocks:
Emerson Etem- Etem signed a “prove it” contract and came into training camp needing to do just that. So far, he hasn’t proven much at all. Etem has flashes of brilliance, but is too inconsistent and frequently invisible, which has him at risk of losing a job.
Andrey Pedan- Pedan doesn’t appear to have taken a step forward in his development. His game is about where is was last year, which was not good enough for consistent NHL work.
Jayson Megna- Signed to be an AHL veteran and a potential call-up, Megna has been relatively invisible. Has likely been passed by other players on the depth chart, such as Rendulic.
Alex Grenier- Grenier was always a long-shot to make the roster, but he barely put up a fight this season. Despite his massive size, Grenier was a non-factor on the ice, and was sent down a bit earlier than expected. His NHL window is probably closed.
Mike Zalewski- Zalewski came into the preseason expected to fight for the 4th line center job, but has been outshined by some of the PTOs. The work ethic is still there, but Zalewski struggles to get much done at the NHL level.