The NHL hockey season is upon us.
Everyone within the Canucks organization descended to Vancouver Thursday morning to complete the off-ice requirements that comes with training camp.
They will make the jump to Vancouver Island Thursday afternoon, and will hit the ice Friday morning in Victoria, for what is expected to be a very competitive camp, which kicked off with a sweat.
Video: CAMP | Gut check time. Canucks Training Camp is a go.
It's an exciting time with the new additions via free agency, the draft, and trades. Let's look at some the storylines heading into camp.
Heading into the off-season it was clear that the management group wanted to add some offensive punch and grit to their top six forward group. They did so by trading for J.T. Miller and signing Michael Ferland as a free agent.
Miller is a versatile forward who can play all three positions up front, while Ferland gives the group some much needed sandpaper.
The expectation is that Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser will be reunited to start the NHL season, and Bo Horvat and Tanner Pearson will make up two-thirds of another line. Now it's just a matter of which of the new acquisitions lines up with those pairs.
Miller would give Pettersson and Boeser a player that can create transition out of the defensive zone and then create plays while set-up in the offensive zone, while Ferland gives them a player who can grind along the walls and then park himself in front to get second and third chances.
Whoever doesn't lineup with those two will join Horvat and Pearson as the team's second line and look to give them some impactful offensive depth.
Another interesting thing to follow among the forward ranks is how the Canucks will deploy their bottom six.
If Miller and Ferland land in the top six, that means players like Sven Baertschi, Josh Leivo, Jake Virtanen, Nikolay Goldobin, Tyler Motte, Loui Eriksson, and Tim Schaller are all vying for ice-time on the wings. Not to mention that Brandon Sutter, Jay Beagle, and Adam Gaudette are battling for the two centre positions.
GM Jim Benning mentioned last week that he is hoping that the team will be known for having an effective top nine rather than a prototypical top six. That means that there will be some extra scrutiny placed on which players make up the third and fourth lines.
Miller and Ferland weren't the only additions to the team over the summer. The defensive group is also getting an injection of new players with Tyler Myers, Oscar Fantenberg, and Jordie Benn being added as free agents in early July and Quinn Hughes looking to build off his five-game audition last year.
Those four join the incumbent Alex Edler, Chris Tanev, Troy Stecher and Alex Biega.
How the pairings shake out will be an interesting thing to follow.
Edler and Myers played together in the WHL for the Kelowna Rockets, so there is some familiarity there, but that was a long time ago and was only for a handful of games. (Myers played nine WHL games in 2005-06)
If you put those two together, then you could put Tanev and Hughes as a pair and then probably have Benn and Stecher as the final pairing. That would leave Fantenberg and Biega as the depth options for when injuries happen.
At first glance, that deployment makes sense, but that doesn't mean that it will work right off the hop. It can take some time for the players to develop chemistry and especially with so many new faces.
There shouldn't be too many surprises on the personnel on the backend, but it will be fascinating to see where all they land.
Call Up Options
Something that usually goes under the radar is the players battling to get to the top of the 'call-up' list. They are unlikely to make the opening night roster, but a good showing with everyone's eyes on them at camp can help them earn a callup later in the year.
Prospects like Zack MacEwen, Guillaume Brisebois, Ashton Sautner, Josh Teves, Brogan Rafferty, and Reid Boucher all saw time with the big club at some point last season and are all chomping at the bit to get another chance for next season.
Obviously, a good showing at camp won't earn them the promotion in November or December, it will require them to play well in the AHL in the first part of the season. But it can help keep their name in the front of everyone's mind and that is never a bad thing.