It’s finally a regular season gameday for the Vancouver Canucks.
After a 147-day hockey hiatus, the team is set to kick off the 2021-22 regular season with a contest against Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers.
It was quite the interesting preseason for the Canucks, who finished the exhibition play with a losing record of 2-5. The team had a few changes in their forward group, including losing forwards Jonah Gadjovich and Zack MacEwen on waivers. Gadjovich will be staying in the Pacific Division, joining the San Jose Sharks, while MacEwen will be heading east to play in Philadelphia.
The team also signed Alex Chiasson to a one-year, $750,000 contract. Chiasson, who is expected to be in the line-up against his former team on Wednesday night, signed a PTO with Vancouver at the beginning of training camp.
On the blueline, the Canucks will still be without veteran blueliner Travis Hamonic, who cleared waivers earlier this week. The 31-year-old defenceman signed a two-year, $6 million contract extension earlier this summer, but never attended training camp due to a personal family matter. As a result, Hamonic was placed on waivers for the purposes of AHL reassignment, and will start the season in Abbotsford once he returns.
Given the recent personnel changes, Wednesday’s line-up could likely look a lot different than what most people envisioned at the beginning of training camp.
To no one’s surprise, Elias Pettersson, J.T. Miller and Bo Horvat will be leading the top-six rotation, as will newcomer Conor Garland. The team will be without the services of Brock Boeser, who has been dealing with an injury for the past week, and will opt for Chiasson as his replacement on the Lotto Line instead. Boeser was listed as a game-time decision for tonight’s contest, but it appears that Pettersson spilled the insider information on his linemate.
Chiasson will also fill Boeser’s role on the first powerplay unit, alongside Pettersson, Miller and Horvat and Quinn Hughes.
With Miller back on the wing, it’s expected that Jason Dickinson will slot into the 3C role in between Matthew Highmore and Nils Höglander, with Justin Dowling, Vasily Podkolzin and Juho Lammikko rounding out the forward group on the fourth line.
The blueline is a bit more uncertain, particularly for the third-pairing.
During the morning skate, it appeared that Jack Rathbone and Kyle Burroughs were on the outside looking in as the extra pair. Rathbone had a very strong training camp, suiting up for all seven preseason contests, but doesn’t have the penalty kill experience that head coach Travis Green needs right now. As a result, it’s likely that the coaching staff will go for the duo of Brad Hunt and Luke Schenn to fill out the defensive rotation for Wednesday night.
Rathbone is also exempt from waivers due to the structure of his entry-level contract, making him much easier to move between Abbotsford and Vancouver throughout the season.
As expected, Thatcher Demko will be between the pipes to kick off the regular season, with Jaroslav Halak serving as the back-up.
Both Vancouver and Edmonton will be looking to start off on the right foot on Wednesday night, especially given how wide open the Pacific Division will likely play out.
Puck drop is set for 7:00pm PST at Rogers Place in Edmonton.
What are your thoughts on tonight’s contest against Edmonton? Let us know in the comments below!