The Vancouver Canucks Bubble Team has been announced, and there’s good news: we came close! Would have gone six-for-six, too, if it wasn’t for those meddling kids. Okay, Sven Baertschi was completely justified in his decision not to go with the club to Edmonton. But the rest were bang-on – plus a few extras. Most of the positions are locked in, of course, but not every position is cast in stone just yet. There’s one last shot to make a good first impression before the play-in gets underway. But you have to be there to make a good impression. See every “bubble team” here.
Canucks Bubble Team Breaks Camp
The Vancouver Canucks have only cut a few players from re-training camp, or whatever we’re calling it. Kole Lind wasn’t a surprise, despite quite a good showing. He’s got plenty of time to improve his value, and will likely be leading the AHL squad next year. The four-month break has let Vancouver’s nemesis – injuries – heal up, and they have plenty of forwards fighting for spots. Rookies aren’t going to get preferred placement come playoff time.
On the defence, on the other hand, the Canucks have the luxury of fully ten defencemen going into the bubble. The choices were clearly made for the sake of bringing a different look to the defence if needed. Both Ashton Sautner and Guillaume Brisebois have NHL experience, but they play a similar style to Jalen Chatfield. While Chatfield has yet to play in the NHL, he was marginally better in camp. All three play a safe, steady, thoughtful game, and, well, how many of those should a team carry?
The Canucks are one of 11 teams only bringing three goaltenders to their bubble city, cutting Michael DiPietro.
We’re Off To See The Wild
At The Front
The league has decided to let the teams play their exhibition game with two extra players on the bench. That’s one defenceman and one forward. The most pleasant surprise was Micheal Ferland‘s return. The inability to get on the ice for months at a time helped him as much as anyone in the league. Fans were holding their collective breath for the oft-concussed winger, but he remained sympton-free. He played a physical, active game all through camp and is clearly raring to go.
This fits the bulk of Black Ace forwards settling in at Rogers Place, and it’s going to make things interesting for Jake Virtanen. The 6’5″ centre Tyler Graovac made a very good impression in his eight-game run with Vancouver before injuries put him on the sidelines. And you just know the former Minnesota Wild draft pick wants to get into the series. There’s also 6’4″ Justin Bailey in the stands after his excellent showing in Utica.
While they are both a handful for any defenceman, they are still behind Zack MacEwen. The undrafted workhorse has put in yeoman’s work in Utica, earning a few call-ups and scoring five times in just 17 NHL games this season. He skates well for a big man, hits eagerly but not thoughtlessly, and has a pretty good release to boot. But his backchecking has truly endeared him to coach Travis Green.
With all this in mind and a shaky start to camp, and Virtanen’s future is once again up for speculation. He’s a player on the Canucks bubble team in every sense.
They’re Blue (Line)
That Chatfield made the cut wasn’t much of a surprise – there were three of him in camp, after all – but the others are. Four years after his draft day, Olli Juolevi has yet to play a single NHL game. He does, however, have a chance to make the playoffs. He stumbled out of the gate, but since then has been solid in scrimmage games and earned his way onto the Black Aces. His game is all about thinking the play, and that remains. There have been justified concerns that his frequent leg injuries left him unable to keep up to the pace. His improvement over the last two weeks is a huge relief to himself, to the fans, and to the GM.
Brogan Rafferty joining the club is a bit of a wild card. Yes, we guessed he’d be here, and it’s almost certainly for the reasons mentioned then: he can skate end-to-end, and even score when he’s done. He had a monster first pro season but is not exactly a reliable player in his own end. He didn’t exactly outperform the other options, but he does have a talent they lack. We’re curious to see what circumstances would bring Green to use him.
For the record, Jordie Benn is still in Texas for the birth of his child and will be joining the team later. That’s an unpredictable event, so he may well miss play-in games.
As expected, Louis Domingue gets the nod over Michael DiPietro. DiPietro won’t be going home, however. Instead, he’ll return to Vancouver and work with skills coach Glenn Carnegie, joining the team if needed. Since he’ll be outside the bubble he’ll still need to quarantine, but will only need to test negative four days running. Then he’ll get the green light to join the club.
Domingue gets the nod for obvious reasons: the 28-year-old has 139 NHL games under his belt. He’s been a backup most of his career and knows what it takes to be ready even if not playing. There is going to be a lot of sitting around for the Number-Three guy, and working with a skills coach without having to wait for ice time is a better play for the young goalie.