The Vancouver Canucks have three games to go in this disappointing season and all fans have their eyes on the overall standings to see where the team finishes. Even with a top-five pick in their lineup next season, we are likely in for more of the same.
But there’s always hope, right? RIGHT?!?
Thus, although we’re still six months away from the start of next season, I thought I’d lay out a couple of possible lineups for the club for their 2017-18 season opener.
Now, a lot can and will happen between now and the first week of October. There’s the expansion draft in June. The NHL Draft a few days later. Contract signings. Free agent signings. Trades.
Then, in September there will be training camp, pro tryout contracts, and exhibition games. There may be injuries.
Inevitably there should be a new head coach too.
All to say that it’s almost impossible to predict what the opening night roster will look like. And ultimately, it doesn’t even matter. After all, of the three players who started on the Canucks fourth line back in October 2016, one will finish as the club’s leading scorer (Bo Horvat), one had season-ending neck surgery (Derek Dorsett), and one is looking ahead to the post-season with another team (Alex Burrows).
But let’s do it for the heck of it, shall we?
1. Likely opening night roster
Presuming Brandon Sutter does not get taken in the expansion draft (despite the growing sentiment in some parts of the Canucks fanbase), you are looking at guaranteed spots for him, the Sedins, Horvat, Markus Granlund, Sven Baertschi, and Loui Eriksson. I have a feeling that Dorsett will be on there, along with Brock Boeser and Nikolay Goldobin. Ditto for Jake Virtanen.
That leaves one more spot, maybe for someone like Jayson Megna or Griffen Molino (both under contract for next season). Or perhaps the Canucks re-sign one of their restricted free agents: Drew Shore, Reid Boucher, or Michael Chaput.
On defence, the only addition I see is last year’s first-round draft pick Olli Juolevi – hopefully he can start to quiet some of the Matthew Tkachuk lamenters. Let’s presume that Luca Sbisa gets taken in the expansion draft and that Ben Hutton isn’t traded in the summer. That leaves you with Juolevi, Hutton, Alex Edler, Chris Tanev, Troy Stecher, and RFAs Erik Gudbrandson and Nikita Tryamkin. One of these players will start in the press box.
In goal, all signs point to Ryan Miller likely coming back next season (whether on a one or two year deal).
Thus, the opening night roster in October 2017 could like this (don’t get too caught up in the line combos for now…and I’ve presumed that the Canucks fall in the draft lottery and re-assign their first-round pick to junior):
Dorsett-Megna-Virtanen (Shore, Boucher)
Does that lineup look better than what the Canucks have iced the past two seasons? I say yes… if only marginally. I don’t think that this team makes the playoffs next year.
2. Dare to dream opening night roster
Okay, let’s blue sky a bit here.
Let’s say that Brandon Sutter is exposed and taken in the expansion draft. More importantly, let’s pretend that the Canucks defy the odds and win the NHL draft lottery (taking either Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier).
And for the heck of it, let’s say they trade Ben Hutton and a prospect or two for a top 6 forward of some sort (ala Gabriel Landeskog or Evander Kane).
Check out this lineup (again, don’t get too caught up in the line combos):
Eriksson-Megna-Virtanen (Shore, Dorsett)
I give a team like this a much better chance to make the playoffs. And they’d be a lot more exciting to watch.
That’s not too much to ask, is it?