The Canuck Way Mailbag: Virtanen, MacEwen, Markstrom, Rathbone

VANCOUVER, BC - DECEMBER 4: Jason Zucker #16 of the Minnesota Wild and Josh Leivo #17 of the Vancouver Canucks stand in front of Devan Dubnyk #40 of the Minnesota Wild during their NHL game at Rogers Arena December 4, 2018 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)"n
VANCOUVER, BC - DECEMBER 4: Jason Zucker #16 of the Minnesota Wild and Josh Leivo #17 of the Vancouver Canucks stand in front of Devan Dubnyk #40 of the Minnesota Wild during their NHL game at Rogers Arena December 4, 2018 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)"n /

There are plenty of questions to go around ahead of the Vancouver Canucks’ return to play. Here are this week’s best questions for the Canuck Way mailbag!

With much anticipation, the entire world watches as the Vancouver Canucks and 23 more of the National Hockey League’s best teams inch closer and closer to an official return to play.

So many questions, so little time… but The Canuck Way delivers! Here are the best questions for the mailbag this week as the Canucks turn up the tempo in training camp. Let’s go!

I love this question. You’re right! Jake Virtanen hasn’t been particularly good to start off the second training camp of the season, and Zack MacEwen is most definitely turning heads in his direction. But if it really came down to it, would I bench Virtanen in favor of MacEwen? Simply put: No.

In my opinion, no matter how out of shape Virtanen may appear, he deserves a roster spot over MacEwen, but more so other struggling players in the lineup. Guys like Loui Eriksson and Brandon Sutter should be considered a healthy scratch ahead of Virtanen or even MacEwen for that matter.

With Micheal Ferland remaining a question mark for playoff puck drop up to this point, what both MacEwen and Virtanen bring to the table in terms of physicality is way too valuable not to use in the opening night line up.

Flashback to the first camp this year and you’ll be reminded that Virtanen looked brutal, and even puked his way off the ice in the middle of Travis Green’s famous bag skate. It might take a week or two for Virtanen to get his legs under him, but this is his time to shine and he will be ready. The Canucks wouldn’t dare spend six years developing this kid just to bench him when they need him the most.

Right now, it’s too difficult to say. The trade window for the 2019-20 season is closed, and the Canucks should be 100% focused on winning games. Come the time when the Canucks can actually make a move, well, that’s a whole different story.

The play-in series versus the Minnesota Wild and whatever comes after that will play a big part in what happens to these two players this offseason. The Canucks need cap space if they want to stay competitive moving forward and these are two players that teams would be interested in acquiring.

With the way MacEwen has been progressing this year — if he can maintain that steady pace of climbing up the Vancouver ranks and outplay Virtanen in this next stretch of games — he has an opportunity to steal a roster spot for next year.

Depending on Virtanen’s trade value this summer, it might be what ends up happening regardless.

Jacob Markstrom hasn’t looked himself in training camp so far, and that’s no reason to panic. Plenty of goalies need some time to shake off the rust, it’s very common. Markstrom’s story, of course, is a little different considering the fact that he hasn’t played an actual game since having surgery on his knee.

Still, there is no need to worry about Markstrom’s play at this point. The Canucks are still 10 days away from their single exhibition game versus the Winnipeg Jets, and two whole weeks until games actually matter.

Markstrom will be sure to sharpen up in time for puck drop. He was in the middle of an MVP season before the unfortunate injury, and with the recent Vezina Trophy snubbing, he’ll be thirsty for more chances to prove why he’s one of the league’s top goalies. At the end of the day, Canucks fans just need to hope he isn’t as cold as Roberto Luongo in October.

Judging from what I’ve seen so far from Canucks training camp, the answer has to be Brock Boeser. He’s returned to Vancouver with an absolute bloodthirsty vengeance. He’s showing glimpses of his rookie year and his wrist shot hasn’t looked better.

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His name was swirling in the Vancouver market when Matt Sekeres dropped a bomb. According to his sources, Jim Benning (the Canucks general manager) has been considering shopping Boeser for cap space this upcoming offseason.

Unhappy with his name being thrown around just a couple of weeks before the team’s first playoff appearance in five seasons, he’s fired up and pissed off. The trade window has long been closed, and Boeser wants to focus on winning hockey games.

Add on that Boeser will be making his NHL playoff debut against his hometown team, and BB6 has every reason to want to be the best that he can be ahead of this series. It won’t be in front of friends and family this year, but the drive to impress is definitely still there.

Whatever the reasoning, the Canucks get the best out of Boeser when he plays the Wild. He made his NHL debut versus Minnesota where he scored the game-winner. It’s looking like he’s set his eyes on doing the same thing in his NHL Playoffs debut.

The Canucks possess a few different strengths over the Minnesota Wild heading into the play-ins, but if I have to pick one, I’d put health head and shoulders above everything else. Sure, Vancouver has a lethal top-five power play that can stop a team dead in its tracks, but the Canucks are a depth team that’s finally healthy.

Put together the entire Canucks main roster and suddenly Vancouver skyrockets to having one of the league’s best top-nine forward groups. The lotto line is hands down one of the best in the league. The addition of Tyler Toffoli gives the Canucks a very capable two-way second line, and the emergence of Virtanen, MacEwen, Adam Gaudette, and other players gives the Canucks depth that is heavily loaded with proven scorers.

Looking over each player’s individual statistics from the season, cutting out missed games, the Canucks had seven players (the only team in the league with 7) pacing for 20+ goals. That’s over half of the forwards overall. Add the fact that the middle six forwards stepping up also know how to throw their weight around, and holy smokes Vancouver is sitting pretty ahead of the playoffs.

Jack Rathbone signed his three-year entry-level contract with the Vancouver Canucks with the full intention of making the roster next season. Obviously, if that comes to fruition remains to be seen, but I have high hopes for the 95th pick of the 2017 NHL Draft.

This kid has heart and soul with the sheer will to do whatever it takes to improve. He’s done it year after year, and signing with the Canucks is the best way for him to continue improving. He’s accomplished everything he can at the NCAA level, and people shouldn’t count him out at Canucks camp next season.

He’s a left side guy and beyond Quinn Hughes and Alex Edler, there isn’t too much competition to fill the third-pairing role. Jordie Benn simply hasn’t been a fit in Vancouver, and in my opinion, Rathbone has a better chance at the roster spot than Olli Juolevi.

It may not be his position to lose, but I’d be surprised if he doesn’t make the team. The AHL may not be back in time for the NHL’s 2020-21 season, and I’m not sure how the Canucks and Rathbone feel about him playing in Europe.

The Nikita Tryamkin talk is over. For now…

Let’s be real, Canucks fans. This is the Canucks fanbase we are talking about, and as long as the fans have a voice, they won’t turn away from a chance to talk hockey. Even if it means discussing the BFG himself, the 6’7 Tryamkin.

Word on the street is that Tryamkin turned down big money in Russia in an attempt to wait for the Canucks to make a better offer. The flat cap situation struck down hard in the NHL while he was waiting, and Tryamkin never got the phone call he was hoping for.

That resulted in a one-year extension for Tryamkin and the Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg, and that tells me he’s still hopeful on a return to the Canucks and/or the National Hockey League in 2021-22.

The Canucks hold his rights for one more year and they would be stupid not to at least revisit this situation when the time comes. They can keep an eye on him from a distance for now while he doesn’t eat up needed cap space, and hopefully, if he’s progressed, he can either find a roster spot with Vancouver, or Benning can find value in the towering defender on the trade market.

Next. Canucks: Brock Boeser trade won't happen any time soon. dark

I hope you enjoyed the questions that were asked this week. Do your part if you want to get involved! Jump on Twitter, follow our page, and ask us a mailbag question! Check back next week for another version of The Canuck Way mailbag! Go Canucks go!