#1. RD Cole McWard
Cole McWard has had his superstar captain praise him and his coaches speak highly of him during the preseason; no pressure, right? McWard admitted to his nerves earlier in the week, but he looked fine without Quinn Hughes in the Canucks’ most recent game against the Seattle Kraken.
Even at this point, the 22-year-old may or may not have earned a spot on the NHL roster yet, and like Juulsen, McWard needs to prove himself and make Tocchet and co. 110 percent sure he can handle what’s being thrown at him. After all, it’s not like Vancouver is swimming in options outside of McWard and Juulsen.
Ultimately, the former Ohio State warden probably makes the Canucks’ roster with ease. The question is more of whether or not he appears on the top pairing, the bottom pairing, or the seventh defenseman. Considering McWard has already established chemistry with Hughes, Vancouver won’t be ardently campaigning to give Tyler Myers a shot, and the offensive-minded Filip Hronek isn’t a great fit there either.
The stakes aren’t super high here, but the outcome of the game against the Flames and the lineup that plays in it will tip the Canucks’ hand heading into the regular season. Barring any last-minute surprises, the opening night roster has already been decided.