The Vancouver Canucks announced three more cuts to their roster on Thursday, as they inch closer to their opening night lineup.
Prospects Adam Gaudette and Olli Juolevi will begin the season with the Utica Comets. And if he goes unclaimed on waivers, Brendan Gaunce will join them.
Gaunce, 24, was a first-round draft pick by the Canucks in 2012, but has developed into nothing more than a checker at the NHL level. The 6-foot-2, 217-pound forward always has good underlying numbers, but has been remarkably inept at producing offence, with just five goals and seven assists in 114 career NHL games.
Gaudette, 21, didn’t look out of place during preseason, just as he did in five games for the Canucks at the tail-end of last season. But the 2018 Hobey Baker Award winner could benefit from meaningful AHL minutes before his likely return to Vancouver this season.
The fifth-overall pick in the 2016 draft, Olli Juolevi was a long shot to make this team given he is getting back up to speed after off-season back surgery. Travis Green dressed him for just two preseason games before cutting him, perhaps an indication that they’re being cautious with him. The 20-year-old will get to play in all situations with the Comets as he makes his North American pro debut.
Just three cuts remain, assuming Antoine Roussel (concussion) starts the season on the injured list.
Goaltender Thatcher Demko is a likely candidate to be sent down, with Jacob Markstrom and Anders Nilsson expected to share the workload again this season.
If the Canucks keep 14 forwards and seven defencemen, Alex Biega is the best bet among the team’s blueliners to be Utica-bound, though Derrick Pouliot could be a candidate after a dreadful preseason.
Up front, Green has a number of options. Tyler Motte doesn’t need waivers to be sent to the AHL, but he’s also been the most pleasant surprise of preseason. Darren Archibald was pencilled in for Utica by most observers before training camp, but he brings an element of toughness that the team lacks.
Nikolay Goldobin and Brendan Leipsic have been put in positions to succeed, playing in top-six roles with offensive-minded players, but neither player is guaranteed a spot given they’ve combined for just two points in nine games. Newcomer Tim Schaller has been underwhelming so far, though teams rarely cut new free agent acquisitions.
Based on practice lines, Markus Granlund could be another player destined for Utica, though giving up on a 19-goal scorer from just two years ago would be unconventional.
Here’s how the Canucks lined up at practice:
Lines for the #Canucks at practice:
— Brendan Batchelor (@BatchHockey) September 27, 2018
The Canucks have one more preseason game left, against the Arizona Coyotes Saturday in Kelowna. They begin the regular season on Wednesday at Rogers Arena against the Calgary Flames.