Whether the World Cup of Hockey is good for the Vancouver Canucks that are playing in it is debatable. It will definitely help the prospects, though.
Vancouver Canucks captain Henrik Sedin shared his brother Daniel’s comment after their first pre-tournament game against team Finland: “I was ready to retire after the first period.” The twins are turning 36 this month and there is some concern that they could break in long before the 82nd game is played in the 2016-17 NHL season. Plus, in a tournament as intense as the World Cup of Hockey, there is always an injury risk.
But it’s not all bad.
The world cup kicks off on September 17, with the best-of-three final series scheduled for Sept. 27, Sept. 28 and, if necessary, Oct. 1. Meanwhile, the Canucks’ training camp is set to take place in Whistler, BC, from Sept. 22 to Sept. 26.
Judging by Team Europe’s pre-tournament games, there is a good chance that Luca Sbisa and Jannik Hansen will join the Canucks in Whistler as soon as the preliminary round concludes. That would be on Sept. 21 — perfectly in time.
Team Sweden, on the other hand, has a good chance to make a deep run in the tournament, perhaps even all the way to the final. The team around Canucks forwards Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin and Loui Eriksson, appears to be the strongest in their group. Therefore, the three aforementioned forwards and goaltender Jacob Markstrom might miss the entire Canucks training camp.
Again, that is bad, as the four cannot prepare with their team. However, especially the Sedins and Eriksson should profit from playing with each other at the highest level ahead of schedule. But that’s not even the point here.
With likely four and possibly up to six players missing a large chunk of training camp, the Canucks will be forced to give their prospects a deeper-than-normal look.
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Ryan Miller is currently the Canucks’ starting goalie. But with Markstrom gone, NCAA signings Thatcher Demko and Michael Garteig will get a deeper look.
With Sbisa gone, it could be Olli Juolevi’s time to shine. The Canucks’ 2016 first-round draft pick seems confident enough to make an early impact. He played an outstanding 2015-16 campaign, winning everything there is to win in junior hockey, and he wants to take the next step.
Others that will try their best to make it at least past the first few cuts include Jordan Subban, Troy Stecher and Andrey Pedan.
At forward, there are several Utica Comets trying to stick with the NHL club for good. Brendan Gaunce, Mike Zalewski and Alex Grenier headline that group.
This is not all about sticking with the big club, though. Making a good first impression as a prospect can have a lasting impact on the future career path. Play good this year and it could help earn you a spot on the roster next year or the one after that.
The Vancouver Canucks will play their first preseason game on Sept. 27, another one on Sept. 28 and a third on Sept. 30. Veterans like the Sedins don’t usually play in all of those early games, but their break after a long, intense tournament could be longer than normal.
In a situation like that, we could see prospects stepping up their game, playing bigger roles and more minutes than they normally would. This is all pure speculation, but it is hard to find a negative in the WCH from a prospect point of view.