Ekman-Larsson, Juolevi struggle
Throughout the entire league, players are physically put through the wringer to kick off training camp, but Green and his coaching staff are known for taking that to the next level, and they definitely didn’t hold back last year.
Both groups participated in a series of bag skates during their day one training sessions, which has become a Travis Green staple here in Vancouver, but it was evident that Ekman-Larsson and Juolevi could not physically keep up.
Let’s focus on Ekman-Larsson first.
The Swedish blueliner, who was acquired from the Arizona Coyotes in a massive draft day blockbuster deal, has been the subject of criticism since landing in Vancouver. At only 30 years old, Ekman-Larsson has already dealt with numerous injuries, including his most recent nagging knee issues last season.
As a result, he definitely isn’t the same player that he used to be, and that was put on full display during the fitness testing on Thursday.
In typical fashion, Canucks Twitter exploded in criticism and head-shaking when OEL’s skating video appeared. Definitely not the best first sign, especially when advertised as a strong, offensively-minded, puck-moving blueliner, but there’s no need to slam the panic button yet after just one rough bag skate. Ekman-Larsson was able to bounce back during some of the drills, showcasing his veteran defensive positioning and fundamentals alongside Poolman.
We’ll see how Ekman-Larsson bounces back in the coming days, particularly during scrimmages and preseason games, where it ultimately matters most.
Ekman-Larsson wasn’t the only victim of the bag skate. Just ask Juolevi.
Like Group A, Green put Group B through the same tough fitness testing, and Juolevi was definitely not up for the challenge.
The former fifth overall pick, who suited up for 23 contests last season in the team’s bottom-pairing, looked completely gassed after the bag skate, and didn’t mask his exhaustion at all by the end of the drill.
It’s been a tough go for Juolevi over the past few years. Riddled with injury during his time in the AHL, Juolevi was finally able to make the big leap into the NHL this past year. Unfortunately, he only put up three points in his inaugural season, and has once again left the door wide open for other players, like Hunt or Jack Rathbone, to compete for the coveted third-pairing, left-handed blueliner position.
- As expected, Podkolzin delivered yet another strong outing during the first official day of training camp, putting his combination of size and silky-smooth mitts on full display. The Russian rookie is living up to the hype so far, and should be a lock for the team’s top-nine by the time preseason concludes.
Day two of training camp is set to take place on Friday at the Abbotsford Centre, with players hitting the ice at 9:00am.
What were your thoughts from day one of training camp? Let us know in the comments!