With 32 players remaining, the decisions supposedly get tougher. Well, looking at who is left, we will see if the Vancouver Canucks have already showed their hand.
Sometimes, I hate the waiver system in the NHL. Teams like the Vancouver Canucks do not usually update full cuts until players clear waivers. My first-world problems aside, we can add Ashton Sautner to the cuts made this weekend.
It’s too bad, because I felt Sautner played very well and deserved the extended look. He looked just as good during his late season call up last year and I’m sure the coaching staff has taken note. When an injury eventually hits the right side of the defence (and it will), Sautner will be near the top of the list.
It’s at this point where this summer’s roster turnover (or lack thereof on defence) affects the final cuts. Let’s start with defence. There are two more cuts to be made and one of them is waiting to get healthy to be sent down (Evan McEneny). Olli Juolevi will likely compete with Alex Biega for that eight spot on the blue line.
Honestly, I think Derrick Pouliot has been terrible in preseason and his spot should be in jeopardy. Ben Hutton has been slightly better, but is still making those same mistakes from last season. Juolevi has had ups and downs and could benefit from time in the AHL. I guess it really depends on how badly Jim Benning wants Juolevi in the lineup. In my opinion, I don’t think Juolevi has done enough to displace one of the above three.
Goaltending seems predictable as well. Thatcher Demko will likely start in Utica, which isn’t the worst thing to happen. I talked more about why I feel this way in the latest prospect report if you are curious. Long story short, if the Canucks feel Demko will develop best in Utica, then that’s fine.
We are down to 19 forwards, so I will assume five cuts will be made in the next eight days. Loui Eriksson seems to be okay and will return soon, so that’s one less spot for the players on the bubble. There are no updates on Antoine Roussel, allowing one fewer cut until he returns.
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Wacey Hamilton is probably on his way to Utica soon. He works hard, but even Travis Green knows that Hamilton won’t be stealing a spot from a contracted player. For those on the bubble and who don’t require waivers, we have Adam Gaudette and Tyler Motte. Gaudette has not blown the doors off at camp and given his waiver status, the Canucks may choose to start him on the farm.
Tyler Motte is a very interesting name. He will require waivers after playing one game in the NHL this season. On one hand, that’s an incredibly valuable 14th forward to have so the team can buy time until Roussel returns to action. The team won’t have to manage the 30 day/10 game rule when it comes to recall waivers and as long as they don’t play Motte, he can be returned at any time.
However, Motte has been very good this preseason. To me, he’s shown more than Brendan Gaunce, Markus Granlund, Tim Schaller or Jay Beagle. Unfortunately for Gaunce, he could be the odd man out when the final roster crunch happens. Sam Gagner has been invisible this preseason, but we know he won’t be moved or waived. Darren Archibald has played a grittier game and brings the physical aspects on the ice that are conveniently absent from Beagle. But he is likely out as well.
So, who is the final cut? I think it will be narrowed down to Markus Granlund and Tim Schaller. Perhaps Nikolay Goldobin or Brendan Leipsic could be left off the roster, but Travis Green has tried very hard with Goldy, giving him as much ice time as possible (you know, before the benching). Leipsic has the advantage of favouritism with the coach and he did score that nice goal. If I have to choose, I think Granlund is the last one out.
So, to recap. At goaltender, I think Thatcher Demko starts in Utica. The final cut on defence will be Olli Juolevi. Then we get to the topic that will spark the most debate: the forwards. I think Wacey Hamilton, Adam Gaudette, Brendan Gaunce, Darren Archibald and Markus Granlund will fall short.
This is not my ideal solution, but this is what we have to work with. I know Jim Benning thinks this roster is better equipped to compete, but I just don’t see it. This year’s draft makes it a very good time to be mediocre, so Canucks fans will get what they want, whether management likes it or not.