The calendar has switched from August to September and that means it means the start of NFL and fantasy football season and of course that means Vancouver Canucks hockey is close to returning.
October is just around the corner and you could just wake me up when September ends. All September music references aside, the Canucks will be gathered in Abbotsford from September 23rd to September 25th for training camp. This year will also see the return of preseason games which includes a September 26th game against the expansion Seattle Kraken and a game at the Abbotsford Centre the following night against the Calgary Flames.
With those dates creeping closer, here are three storylines for the Canucks heading into training camp and preseason.
Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes’ contracts
Both are the cornerstones of the franchise going forward and both are going to want big raises from their entry level deals.
Per CapFriendly, the Canucks have about 10.6 million dollars in cap space. However, that could rise throughout and after training camp and preseason with the recently retired Micheal Ferland’s 3.5 million dollar cap hit on LTIR and with the 23 man roster taking shape and players sent to Abbotsford.
It is a bit concerning that Pettersson and Hughes remain unsigned at this point but it is common for RFAs to go into September unsigned. In fact, Bo Horvat signed his six-year deal on September 8of 2017 and Brock Boeser signed his bridge deal on September 16 of 2019. Boeser missed training camp in Victoria and signed the day the Canucks were taking the ferry back to the Lower Mainland.
There is the possibility of another team offer sheeting Pettersson but Canucks general manager Jim Benning has said they will match any offer sheet if it happens.
It would be even more concerning if the Canucks head into the season without their number one centre and number one defencemen but I am confident that both players will get signed before then. Hopefully.
Vasili Podkolzin’s arrival
Canucks fans have been waiting patiently for the last two years for the teams’s prospect to make the jump from Russia to Vancouver.
There are high expectations for Vasili Podkolzin to impress at training camp and during the preseason after spending the last two seasons with SKA St.Petersburg playing bottom six minutes.
Podkolzin is expected to make the team out of camp but is expected to start in the bottom six.
However same thing was said about Nils Höglander at camp last season and he started and played most of the season in the top six so there is a possibility the 2019 first rounder could follow in the 2019 second rounder’s footsteps.
There is also the questions of how will Podkolzin adjust to the North American ice? How will he find chemistry with his new teammates? How will he stack up against NHL level competition?
These questions will be answered in the coming weeks but there is no doubt that Podkolzin and his feisty two-way game is NHL ready and he will make an impact with the Canucks soon.
Jack Rathbone and Olli Juolevi fighting for a spot
The spot for the left side on the bottom pair is up for grabs with Hughes and Oliver Ekman-Larsson taking the top two pairs.
Jack Rathbone has a good chance to get that spot. He already played eight games with the Canucks last season and managed three points. Rathbone has the chance to work on his defensive game at camp and in the preseason and showcase his offensive abilities.
What about Olli Juolevi? He is looking to impress at camp after finally playing regular season games in the NHL last year.
It’s a make or break year for Juolevi and he signed a one-year one-way deal in July. It will be interesting to see if his defensive play has improved. Has his pivoting improved? What about his defending on the rush? We shall see.
While Rathbone has the higher ceiling, one thing that Juolevi is better at is killing penalties. He looked alright on the PK last season with him getting his stick in to clear the puck away and block shots. Whether he makes the team out of camp or not, Travis Green should give Juolevi a chance to succeed this season.
Sure, Rathbone is likely to make the team out of camp but keep your eye out on Juolevi.
What other storylines do you see playing out at training camp and during the preseason? Let us know in the comments below!