The NHL regular season begins next week, leaving teams with not much time to pare down to their 23-man rosters.
That includes the Vancouver Canucks, who have some interesting decisions to make. With just two preseason games remaining, time is running out to leave an impression on Canucks head coach Travis Green.
Tyler Graovac and Zack MacEwen appear to be obvious cuts, leaving seven players for four open spots – depending on the health of winger Brock Boeser and defenceman Oscar Fantenberg, who both suffered concussions in Monday’s game.
The Canucks have the option of keeping 13 forwards and eight defencemen, or 14 forwards and seven defencemen. There appears to be 2-3 open roster spots up front, while the back end has room for 1-2 blueliners.
Forwards on the bubble:
- Adam Gaudette
- Loui Eriksson
- Tyler Motte
- Nikolay Goldobin
- Tim Schaller
Defencemen on the bubble:
- Alex Biega
- Oscar Fantenberg
Contractually, Adam Gaudette is the easiest player to send down, as he doesn’t require waivers to play in the AHL. But an impressive showing of late has changed the narrative.
“What I like about Adam is he’s trying to make the team. Other guys should take notice,” Green said Saturday before including Tyler Motte in his praise. “There’s a lot of competition for spots and time is running out. Guys need to make sure they play well.”
Here’s a look at how the bubble players have fared:
Forwards on the bubble
It’s not what many Canucks fans likely want to hear, but Loui Eriksson is probably making this team.
Me when Eriksson is penciled into the opening night roster.. pic.twitter.com/tPmAYjCh7T
— Chris Conte (@ChrisConte79) September 20, 2019
The $6 million man has been used on the penalty kill during the preseason, and once again, he looks like a reliable player in that role. He’s even chipped in a goal and two assists in three games.
The one thing working against Eriksson may be that Travis Green wants the team playing an uptempo, pace-pushing style of hockey. That’s definitely not Eriksson’s bread and butter. The 34-year-old did have a bit of a disappearing act against the Senators on Monday night, although so did most Canucks who weren’t penciled in on the power play.
He’s certainly expendable, but the fact that he can pass accurately and kill penalties likely means he sticks with the team.
Pretty much the antithesis of Eriksson, Motte has once again flashed his hustle and work ethic during preseason.
Tyler Motte works hard, which is worth about $500,000, and doesn't complain, which is worth about $475,000, so I guess the #Canucks got that contract right.
— Daniel Wagner (@passittobulis) July 2, 2019
That isn’t to say he’s a lock to make this roster though. The knock on Motte has been that although he works hard, he’s still a flawed player who ends of on the ice for a plethora of scoring chances against. If he makes this team, it’s solely because of his work ethic.
One person who could bump Sutter out of his third-line centre role is Adam Gaudette. What started as a rocky preseason for Gaudette has ended up in a good showing overall.
Gaudette now has three goals in four preseason games, and in the estimation of the coach, is clearly working his tail off to make his team. While his effort should be applauded, he has shown that there’s still work to be done on the defensive side of the puck.
After a sub-par season, scoring just 10 points in 47 games, Tim Schaller had an uphill climb to make the team this year.
In order to make the team, Schaller needs to convince Green that he can be relied upon on the penalty kill and provide physicality and defensive responsibility in a fourth-line role.
So far, there hasn’t been much to gain from Schaller’s three preseason games, other than a nice assist on Jay Beagle’s breakaway goal against Edmonton.
It’s now fair to wonder if Nikolay Goldobin even makes this hockey team after the preseason concludes. If the coaching staff does keep him in the NHL, it’s based on his potential rather than his preseason play.
He registered an assist playing with Bo Horvat and J.T. Miller, but looked like a perimeter player on that line. Goldobin was also a non-factor against the Kings on Saturday.
From an asset management perspective, it makes sense to keep Goldobin ahead of less talented players like Eriksson or Motte. That being said, Goldobin’s on an extremely short leash with Green, and his preseason play so far likely has done nothing to change that.
Battle for the 7th defenceman spot
When Fantenberg is on his game, you shouldn’t notice him much. So, maybe it’s a good thing the 27-year-old Swede hasn’t been that noticeable in preseason.
It’s unclear whether Fantenberg will be able to start the season on time, given he’s in concussion protocol after this hit on Monday:
Sabourin and Szwarz sandwich Fantenberg.
— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) September 24, 2019
If the Canucks keep eight defencemen, he’s on the team, but Green could elect to keep seven – which would put him in competition with Alex Biega for the last spot.
Fantenberg led the Canucks in ice time against the Oilers in a 6-1 drubbing, but he was on the ice for more scoring chances against than any other Canucks.
The Canucks know what they’re getting with Biega.
He’s not blessed with great skill or size, but he plays his heart out every night, and actually scored at a 30-point pace last season (16 points in 41 games). While he can be a risk-taker, he’s also got a work ethic that Green adores in his players.