Getting to see the Vancouver Canucks – even if it is just at training camp – lets fans know summer’s finally over. Unseemly speculation continues, though, because it’s the Vancouver Canucks.
Training Camp Standouts
Elias Pettersson was everything you expected. A beautiful, looping pass breaking Micheal Ferland in for a goal. Intercepting passes in his zone to reverse play. An oddly familiar shootout goal for the win. You know… everything that’s making his name come up in salary cap discussions. Opening night’s weeks away, is it? Dang.
The minor drama that was Jake Virtanen getting booted to the third practice group has worked itself out. He was with the top grouping yesterday and took part in today’s scrimmage. It may not have been the third group, but it was the fourth line with Jay Beagle and Tim Schaller. Clearly coach Travis Green served notice that he has the opportunity to move up, so long as he has the will. The good news is that his speed and his shot still work just fine, however disappointing his conditioning might be.
Quinn Hughes did nothing during the scrimmage to make you think last year was a mirage. Watching him find empty spaces to take passes which were only obvious in retrospect is so much fun! One interesting note was that at least once, he was paired with Troy Stecher instead of Chris Tanev. The two worked an excellent, creative shift in the offensive zone. They might be small, but that could be a very effective power play duo.
(As an added bonus, Stecher had an incredibly adorable cheering section at camp today. Small children with signs are awesome. I will not hear otherwise.)
The best news among the returning vets was probably Sven Baertschi. He didn’t look hesitant at all, jumping into the play, chasing pucks down, and initiating contact when needed. He was noticeable in the best possible way. Cue sigh of relief.
The New Arrivals
The good news is that Tyler Myers is as advertised. He skates well, carries the puck well, and has a very good shot. The bad news is that he was described by GM Jim Benning as a “shut down guy” which isn’t really his thing. Maybe it’s just that this is a scrimmage rather than a game, but he didn’t carry anyone off to the boards. His intention is much more to get the puck out than it is to stop the carrier, and that’s fine. Transition was a weakness of Vancouver’s last year, so his skill is more than welcome.
On the other side, Oscar Fantenberg was a neutralizer out there. He tied up sticks and bodies very well, and you could imagine the grin the Canucks’ goalies had. He might not start in Vancouver but doesn’t look out of place, either.
Lots of good stuff to say about the guys who were still at the Canucks’ training camp.
Ethan Keppen might be a bull in the OHL, but here he was a solid defensive player with good awareness who closes the gap on attacking players. Under continuous pressure, he had enough sense to get Olli Juolevi his stick when the defender’s broke but stayed involved. Good to see.
Speaking of Juolevi, if he hadn’t missed so much time to injury he’d be ticketed for Vancouver. He looked completely comfortable; no extra steps, no need to chase pucks or opponents, body in the right place… his “hockey intelligence” is clearly at an NHL level. We’ll see if the team wants him to get a full year as a leader in Utica or uses him as a call-up, but there’s little fear he’d be able to handle either choice.
Most Vancouver fans knew little of Francis Perron before the Canucks got him in the Tom Pyatt deal (the what?) He is a smaller player, listed at six feet and just 166 pounds, but uses it well. He made chances for himself in front of the net using a quick shot and getting into a good position to use it.
Michael Dipietro was excellent in the limited time each goaltender received. Very good anticipation didn’t lose his net, and toned down the hyper-aggression goalie prospects are prone to possess.
Around the Arena
It’s always fascinating to be in a crowd of Canucks fans. Picture in your mind the names of Canucks players, past and present. Who is likely to have the most jerseys worn by fans? A quick breakdown at one end of the rink over two hours:
There were a couple for Stecher (see above) and three for Boeser, but there were a bunch for “other” players, too. An old Stan Smyl “Halloween jersey” stood out, along with a handful of Alexandre Burrows, a Kevin Bieksa, Ben Hutton, Adam Gaudette, Dan Hamhuis, two for the late Rick Rypien. Given the love of grinders the fans have, it was unsurprising to see someone in a Michael Ferland jersey already.
I love that about sports fans in general. They recognize that it’s not just about talent, and it’s not just about numbers. It’s why Burrows was adored in a Chinatown bakery, instead of one of the far more talented Sedin brothers. Or why I tend to gush over a seventh defenceman like Alex Biega.
Going live to the Canucks training camp, which is all about the effort it takes to get to the big leagues, is somehow reaffirming. Yes, you need the talent, and the time, and be fortunate enough for some little crack of opportunity. But even if you have all of those, if you aren’t working for it, someone who is will beat you to it.
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