7 probable Canucks training camp scenarios to watch out for

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While we wait for the official word on the start of the 2020-2021 season, let’s take a look at what promises to be an intriguing training camp for the Vancouver Canucks.Right after their first playoff appearance in five seasons, the Canucks will enter next season with higher expectations than they have been for a long time. It is also for a good reason. Along with Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat and JT Miller, they have an elite young core to work with.

But there is also uncertainty as we approach next year. They lost their MVP to Jacob Markstrom, one of Chris Tanev’s top four defenders and a frontline winger to Tyler Toffoli. What will Nate Schmidt look like in blue and green? How good is Braden Holtby at this point in his career?

Here’s what we’ll likely be talking about whenever training camp starts.

1. Battle for places in defense

The Canucks have made no secret of the fact that they are planning to hold an open competition for one of their defensive positions. Olli Juolevi, Jack Rathbone, Brogan Rafferty and Jalen Chatfield are in the running, but none of them are a shoo-in.

Rathbone may be their most promising prospect, but he’s never played professional hockey before. Rafferty is already 25 and illuminated the AHL with 45 points (7-38-45) in 57 games last season – but with Hughes and Schmidt already in the fold, is there room for another defender offensive? Chatfield is 24 and more reliable defensively, but beating the NHL after just four points in 48 AHL games seems unlikely.

Then there’s Juolevi, and as a former first-round draft pick, it would be a huge disappointment if he can’t claim the spot. The 22-year-old’s development was stunted by injuries, but he made his way to an NHL playoff game, so that’s a good sign.

2. Travis Green contract status

While the Canucks and Travis Green would surely love to put pen to paper before stepping on the ice, if he enters the season as a lame duck coach, questions about his future will only get stronger.

Green is seeking a raise to his current salary, which is worth $ 1 million according to CapFriendly.com. The average salary among the publicly available figures is $ 3.8 million, so expect Green to earn somewhere north of $ 3 million.

3. Who is their number one keeper?

Holtby has a Vezina Trophy and a Stanley Cup on his resume, but he’s also just posted the worst save percentage (.897) of his career in 2019-2020. Was it a failure or is it a sign that his career is in decline?

Thatcher Demko, meanwhile, is entering his second full season as an NHL player. Many will wonder if his spectacular three-game playoff streak is any indication that he’s ready for prime time.

The answer is probably somewhere in the middle for both keepers, but it’s worth watching how each keeper is used in the future.

4. Is this the year Jake earns a place in the top 6?

For better or worse, the spotlight always seems to be on Jake Virtanen. Despite the shortened season, he posted career highs in goals (18), assists (18) and points (36) in 2019-20. Now 24, it’s time for the former sixth pick in the draft to prove he’s in the top six.

With the departure of Toffoli, there is also an opening for him. He’ll need to play at both ends of the ice, consistently, to gain Green’s trust.

5. Hoglander’s offer to make the team

If Virtanen doesn’t seize the opportunity in the top six, maybe Nils Hoglander will instead. The 19-year-old is on loan with Rogle BK in the Swedish Hockey League at the moment, where he has nine points (2-7-9) in 14 games. The 5-foot-8 winger is undersized, but has plenty of talent.

Conventional wisdom has him starting with the Utica Comets, but given that he will be one of the few players in the middle of the season, there might just be a place for him in Vancouver right away.

6. Ferland’s health

Did Micheal Ferland play his last game in the NHL? That’s a real concern after a concussion-ridden season that left the beefy winger on the sidelines for the most part.

While Ferland’s health is the main concern, his availability will also have an impact on the Canucks’ salary cap. If the 28-year-old is able to play, he will be counting $ 3.5 million against the cap, and the Canucks will likely have to lose their salary. If he goes into the long-term injury reserve, Vancouver will have a cushion.

7. Will Loui take the bus?

Will Loui Eriksson be part of the opening list… of Utica comets?

It’s a very real possibility for the 35-year-old winger, who has been a healthy scratch in the playoffs several times last summer. Eriksson can kill penalties and has been used in one of the top six roles as recently as the playoffs, but his kicking speed and offense is a problem – a problem that’s likely to get worse.

“Sweetness” has accumulated just 89 points in 255 games (including the playoffs) since signing with the Canucks in 2016. With just two years left, will the team try to push him to the top? retirement?

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