4 Canucks under the most pressure heading into training camp

Aug 29 2019, 1:59 pm

While some Vancouver Canucks will stroll into camp saddled with high expectations, the guys on this list will have to work their way back into relevancy.

The young stars hope to lead the Canucks back to the playoffs for the first time since 2015. Along with them, some of the new additions aim to provide more depth than previous years.

Then, there are players who don’t have a clear role on this roster.

Cap crunch spells cuts

Out of 16 hopefuls, 11 Canucks forwards are virtually guaranteed a spot on the 2019-20 roster, though Antoine Roussel will begin the season on injured reserve.

  • Elias Pettersson
  • Brock Boeser
  • Bo Horvat
  • J.T. Miller
  • Tanner Pearson
  • Micheal Ferland
  • Sven Baertschi
  • Jay Beagle
  • Josh Leivo
  • Jake Virtanen
  • Antoine Roussel (IR)

That leaves six players on the bubble, with likely 3-4 spots available for opening night:

  • Brandon Sutter
  • Loui Eriksson
  • Tim Schaller
  • Nikolay Goldobin
  • Tyler Motte
  • Adam Gaudette

With just 13-14 forward spots available on an active NHL roster, the bubble players need a big camp if they want to be on the opening night roster.

Here’s four players heading into training camp on September 13 that will be facing the most pressure to make an impression.

1. Brandon Sutter

For all the credit management might get for reshaping this roster, it could all crumble if Brandon Sutter and Jay Beagle are the bottom two centres once again.

When he was healthy last year, Sutter dragged down just about every forward he played with and finished the season with six points in 26 games.

There’s a chance that Sutter returns to 30-point form, but that’s pretty much the ceiling for the 30-year-old. However, he’s the incumbent for that role unless the Canucks decide that they want to keep Adam Gaudette with the team to start the season.

J.T. Miller could also play third-line centre if Travis Green wants a more balanced attack. It’s a role he played in Tampa Bay. If either of these players do usurp Sutter, he could find himself on the fourth line, traded, or in the press box.

2. Loui Eriksson

Loui Eriksson was finally healthy last season, missing just one game (as a healthy scratch), but that didn’t help his brutal tenure as a Canuck.

The 34-year-old Swede finished with 11 goals and 29 points in 81 games last season. After beginning the season on a line with Elias Pettersson, he ended up spending most of the season on the fourth line with Jay Beagle and Tyler Motte. Over his final 42 games, Eriksson had four goals and 13 points.

So after finishing the season on the fourth line, who does Eriksson beat out for a spot now that the Canucks signed J.T. Miller and Micheal Ferland? There’s no clear answer to that question, and the fact that he and Travis Green “don’t really get along” won’t do him any favours in camp.

3. Tim Schaller

Of all players mentioned in this list, none have a larger uphill climb that Tim Schaller. After being hailed as someone who would bring toughness and grit, Schaller often found himself out of position and trailing the play instead.

He was on the verge of going goalless on the season after failing to score in his first 37 games. Then, finally, in Game 72 of the regular season against the Dallas Stars, Schaller potted two goals to break the streak.

Regardless, he probably ranks at the bottom of all 16 forwards who have a shot of making the team. Schaller needs to completely reinvent himself during camp if he wants to remain an NHL player.

4. Nikolay Goldobin

Nikolay Goldobin is heading into camp with lower expectations than a year ago, but still without a clear position on the team. He also has to sign a contract, as along with Brock Boeser, he remains one of the Canucks’ two restricted free agents.

With many slotting Miller, Ferland, and Tanner Pearson in the top six, there isn’t a clear spot for Goldobin to play. That’s a problem because as much as Travis Green tries to pound defence into the Moscow native’s game, he’s still a liability in his own zone.

Goldobin is still in the NHL because when the puck is on his stick, he is more dangerous than most forwards on the team. The problem is that he chases the puck too much, and finds himself in Green’s doghouse.

Last season in training camp, Goldobin flashed some impressive chemistry with Elias Pettersson, and started the year with him. That spot is almost guaranteed to be Brock Boeser’s now, as it was for most of last season, meaning that Goldobin should be fighting tooth and nail to play on Horvat’s wing.