The Vancouver Canucks have officially survived the first day of training camp.
As expected, it was a pretty exciting day at the Abbotsford Centre. For the first time in 562 days, fans were able to enter an arena to watch their favourite hometown team, while players were finally able to hit the ice to meet new teammates and possible potential linemates.
The team hit the ice from 9:00am to 1:15pm on Thursday, followed by in-person media availability, yet another event that hadn’t taken place in just under two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some players excelled, while others struggled out of the gate. No matter how day one went, however, it was the first opportunity for the players to get into the competitive mindset heading into the 2021-22 season.
Here are three takeaways from the first day of training camp:
Group combinations, missing players
Like years past, head coach Travis Green and his coaching staff split the training camp roster in two separate groups, with group A hitting the ice first.
The line combinations had a mix of returning players and new faces, with veterans like Tanner Pearson, Brock Boeser and captain Bo Horvat leading the way. This was the first time that fans and media were able to properly take a look at some of the newest additions to the team, including blueliners Tucker Poolman and Brad Hunt, as well as forward Nic Petan.
Group B participated in their training session in the latter half of the day, with Green once again opting for a combination of veterans and rookies. J.T. Miller took his position on the first line, but not on the wing as expected. Instead, he centered a line with Vasily Podkolzin and Conor Garland, raising a few eyebrows on social media.
Management and coaches were also able to get a good look at players such as Jason Dickinson and Phillip Di Giuseppi for the first time, as well as the most recent acquisition to the team, Alex Chiasson. The former Edmonton Oiler signed a PTO with the Canucks on Wednesday, and could be a suitable replacement on the fourth line in the absence of Tyler Motte, who is recovering from offseason surgery.
Motte wasn’t the only regular who didn’t participate in day one.
Brandon Sutter, who is expected to fill the 4C role after signing a one-year, $1.125 million extension, didn’t suit up for any line rushes. The veteran forward is undergoing a series of tests due to fatigue issues, putting his return timeline into question.
The Canucks were also without right-handed blueliner Travis Hamonic.
Hamonic, who also signed a contract extension this past summer, missed the team’s media availability on Wednesday due to COVID-19 protocols. On Thursday, General Manager Jim Benning provided a bit more clarity to the situation, stating that Hamonic was dealing with a “personal matter” but should be back on the ice by Friday.
According to reports, Hamonic was the lone player on the Canucks who hadn’t been vaccinated yet. This has become an increasing issue over the past few days, with many teams publicly stating that they intend for their organization to be 100% vaccinated by the start of the regular season to avoid any COVID-related protocol complications.
The biggest absences, of course, go to Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes, The two RFA stars are still without contract extensions, pushing Benning and co. down to the wire to finalize a deal before the start of the regular season. Both players are currently training in Michigan with fellow unsigned RFA Brady Tkachuk of the Ottawa Senators.