With the Young Stars classic in the rear-view mirror, the Canucks organization turns its attention to training camp, which officially began Thursday at Rogers Arena. Now that the physical testing is done, the Canucks are in Whistler about to hit the ice and begin a camp that comes with many questions throughout the line-up.
Looking at the forward group, it's clear that Henrik and Daniel Sedin will once again occupy the first line, but could see a new winger with newcomer Loui Eriksson, who is currently occupying that spot with them at the World Cup. In the mix for that spot, is incumbent Jannik Hansen, who had a career-high 22 goals alongside the Sedins last season.
The middle six of the Canucks line-up will include Bo Horvat ,Sven Baertschi, and Brandon Sutter, After those three, and then one of Hansen or Eriksson, there will be a battle for all the roster spots. Young guns like Jake Virtanen, Emerson Etem, Alexandre Grenier, Brendan Gaunce, and Anton Rodin are coming to camp with something to prove. Add Derek Dorsett and Markus Granlund into the mix, and it will be interesting to see how it all shakes out by the conclusion of camp.
Jack Skille, Tuomo Ruutu, and James Sheppard have all been signed to professional tryouts for camp. Although they do not currently have a contract with the team, they will be looking to earn one.
Lastly, some of the prospects in the organization will look to make a name for themselves, and they may not secure a spot to begin the year, but hope to get the call at some point during the season.
All of this creates competition for roster spots and ice time throughout camp and the pre-season games.
On the backend, it's clear who the top four defenceman will be.
Christopher Tanev and Alexander Edler will likely be back as a pair after seeing extremely positive underlying numbers when paired together. Newcomer Erik Gudbranson is expected to line-up beside Ben Hutton on the second pairing. This should allow Hutton to push the play forward and generate offence with Gudbranson hanging back and supporting. After that, it's going to an interesting battle for the few remaining spots on defence.
Alex Biega, Nikita Tryamkin, Andrey Pedan, Luca Sbisa and Philip Larsen are all in the mix to occupy that bottom pairing. Larsen provides something that the Canucks lacked last season, particularly when Edler was injured: A defenceman who can carry and distribute the puck on the powerplay. GM Jim Benning has said that Larsen is someone that they hope will be able to help in that area specifically.
So that leaves four remaining defenceman to battle for the final spot on the left side of Larsen. Tryamkin showed flashes of his potential at the end of last season, and has played both sides in the KHL. The young Russian defenceman plays a rugged game that would make the Canucks harder to play against. But Sbisa and Pedan bring similar styles of play to Tryamkin, so he will need to beat out those two for a regular spot in the line-up.
Prospects like Ashton Sautner, Troy Stecher, and Jordan Subban will also look to make a name for themselves.
With Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Loui Eriksson, Jannik Hansen, and Jacob Markstrom currently participating in the World Cup of Hockey, there will be more opportunity for players to make a name for themselves.
In goal, Markstrom and Ryan Miller return as the goaltending tandem for the Canucks this season. But there will be quite a bit of change at the AHL and ECHL levels, with Thatcher Demko and Michael Garteig turning pro after both having extremely successful NCAA careers. It's expected that Demko will be in the AHL, with Garteig being the strater in the ECHL. Richard Bachman will be there to mentor the two, and provide goaltending depth for the Canucks.
It will be interesting to see how things shake out over the course of training camp and the pre-season. The Canucks have a varity of players that can move up and down the lineup and provide different skillsets that help push the play.
Every year, there is a player or two who makes a name for themselves and forces the organization to make a tough decision. Last season, it was Ben Hutton and Jake Virtanen. Time to see who it will be this season.