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Canucks Training Camp 2021: Roster Locks, Bubble Players & Dark Horse Candidates

The Canucks named 41 players to their training camp roster. We break down the key battles for you here.

NHL: JUL 18 Canucks Training Camp
JULY 18: Vancouver Canucks players stretch during the Vancouver Canucks Training Camp at Rogers Arena on July 18th, 2020 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

On Sunday, January 3rd, the Canucks officially begin their training camp with an opening press conference along with player medicals and testing.

The next day, Canucks roster locks and hopefuls will hit the ice, with the first game of the season taking place nine days later in Edmonton against the Oilers on January 13th.

41 players were named to the Canucks training camp roster on Wednesday. There will be an added layer of intrigue this year with both young players battling for open roster spots, and the expected addition of a taxi squad which should include an extra 4-6 players.

Below is a breakdown of everyone in Canucks training camp, with predictions on roster locks, bubble players, and dark horses who could make the team out of camp.

Forwards

Roster Locks

1. Elias Pettersson
2. JT Miller
3. Brock Boeser
4. Bo Horvat
5. Tanner Pearson
6. Jake Virtanen
7. Adam Gaudette
8. Antoine Roussel
9. Brandon Sutter
10. Jay Beagle
11. Tyler Motte
12. Zack MacEwen

There’s little doubt about any of the above forwards cracking the Canucks line-up on opening night, barring any training camp injuries. This team will once again be carried by their top four forwards in Elias Pettersson, JT Miller, Brock Boeser and Captain Bo Horvat. Tanner Pearson will likely flank Horvat once again on the second line.

While the depth takes a serious hit after the top 4-5 forwards, the Canucks will once again rely on Jake Virtanen and Adam Gaudette to take another step forward. At the moment, there's also a strong chance that Virtanen slides into the top six, despite sitting on the sidelines as a healthy scratch at the beginning of the Canucks postseason push in the Edmonton bubble.

Antoine Roussel, Jay Beagle and Brandon Sutter should be locks to make the team, even if they are a drag on the team’s forward depth overall. Sutter is arguably the most expendable with Beagle locked in as the fourth-line centre, but the veteran also offers some insurance is Gaudette continues to be a liability defensively as the third-line centre.

Tyler Motte and Zack MacEwen should round out the forward group. Motte is a lock after emerging as one of the Canucks top penalty killers last season. MacEwen also looked good in limited NHL minutes last season, even if he was lucky to score five goals last season on just 17 shots.

Vancouver Canucks v St Louis Blues - Game Two
Loui Eriksson #21 of the Vancouver Canucks warms up before Game Two of the Western Conference First Round of the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoff between the Vancouver Canucks and the St. Louis Blues at Rogers Place on August 14, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta.
Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

Bubble Players

13. Loui Eriksson
14. Jayce Hawryluk
15. Sven Baertschi
16. Micheal Ferland

Will this finally be the year that the Canucks decide that Loui Eriksson is best left off of the 23-man roster to start the season? The odds are that he sticks around with a lack of viable options on Horvat’s wing. Despite his non-existent offensive production, the trio of Eriksson, Pearson and Horvat did excel as a shutdown unit for large chunks of the 2019-20 season.

Jayce Hawryluk was also signed to a one-year deal, and he offered some intriguing bottom-six production with three goals and 10 points in 26 NHL games last seasons, split between the Florida Panthers and the Ottawa Senators.

Sven Baertschi is likely bound for the AHL or the taxi-squad, but there’s some intrigue coming into camp after the Swiss winger was healthy for all of last season. There’s a slim chance that he slides back into the line-up on Horvat’s wing, a place where he previously had success.

Ferland is unlikely to join the Canucks to start the season, and his $3.5 million cap hit should end up on the LTIR.

2019 NHL Draft - Portraits
Nils Hoglander poses after being selected 40th overall by the Vancouver Canucks during the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena on June 22, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada.
Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images

Dark Horse Candidate

17. Nils Hoglander

THe 2019 second-round pick is the Canucks ultimate dark horse to crack the roster at forward. Our Fan2Abby already believes that he’s ready to join the Canucks, and I could see a scenario where Jim Benning and Travis Green give Hoglander an extended audition with the club to start the season.

It’s a big ask from the 20-year-old to jump from the SHL to the NHL, but don’t be surprised if he’s able to stick around on the 23-man roster.

2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs - Edmonton
Justin Bailey of the Vancouver Canucks takes a walk in the Edmonton Bubble at Rogers Place on August 31, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta.
Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

AHL/Taxi-Squad Bound

18. Justin Bailey
19. Kole Lind
20. Tyler Graovac
21. Marc Michaelis
22. Will Lockwood
23. Jonah Gadjovich

Justin Bailey was a force in the AHL last season, but only received less than 11 minutes of ice time at the NHL level last season. Because he’s not a developing prospect, he could be an option for the taxi squad. Ditto for Tyler Graovac, who scored twice for the Canucks in eight games last season.

Marc Michaelis falls into the same category as Bailey and Graovac as an older player who could crack the taxi squad, but he likely will go back to Utica since the farm team lacks centre depth.

Kole Lind took a big step forward in his sophomore AHL season, but another year of development in Utica is probably best for him. Will Lockwood will begin his AHL career in Utica barring a stand-out training camp, while Jonah Gadjovich could also use another year of seasoning with the Comets.

Defence

Vancouver Canucks v Vegas Golden Knights - Game Five
Quinn Hughes #43 of the Vancouver Canucks looks to move the puck forward as Ryan Reaves #75 of the Vegas Golden Knights pursues the play in the first period of Game Five of the Western Conference Second Round of the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoff between the Vancouver Canucks and the Vegas Golden Knights at Rogers Place on September 01, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta.
Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

Roster Locks

1. Quinn Hughes
2. Nate Schmidt
3. Alex Edler
4. Tyler Myers
5. Jordie Benn

There’s certainly an open competition for spots on Vancouver’s defence, but the top four is a lock with superstar Quinn Hughes, the newly-acquired Nate Scmidt, wiley-vet Alex Edler and the $6 million dollar man 2.0, Tyler Myers.

Jordie Benn is probably a lock...more so because of the lack of depth, and not because he deserves to be a lock. Perhaps playing Benn on the right side on a more consistent basis in 2021 will help him become a more effective player. The left-shot defender had more success playing on his off side in Montreal, but Travis Green seldom played him on the right side last season.

Vancouver Canucks v St Louis Blues - Game Two
Olli Juolevi #48 of the Vancouver Canucks warms up before Game Two of the Western Conference First Round of the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoff between the Vancouver Canucks and the St. Louis Blues at Rogers Place on August 14, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta.
Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

Bubble Players

6. Olli Juolevi
7. Brogan Rafferty
8. Jalen Chatfield

After a strong training camp during the summer, Olli Juolevi earned himself a spot on the Canucks taxi squad, and finally suited up for his first NHL game in the Edmonton bubble. Despite being picked fifth overall, Juolevi was the 27th player selected in the first round of the 2016 draft to play an NHL game.

He’s looked solid and dependable in the AHL when he has suited up, and he should have the inside track to a roster spot in 2021.

Brogan Rafferty was dynamic offensively with the Comets last season, but it remains to be seen if the Canucks trust his defensive game enough to make him an every day NHL regular. He is on a one-way contract, so the best bet is that he makes the team as a seventh-defenceman.

Jalen Chatfield probably wouldn’t be on the bubble list if Benning didn’t continuously mention his name during the offseason. However, he is a right-shot defenceman who can kill penalties, block shots, and play with physicality. All three of those factors are lacking on the current Canucks blue line. Add all those up, and that gives Chatfield an outside chance of making this team.

Boston v Harvard
Jack Rathbone #3 of the Harvard Crimson skates against the Boston University Terriers during NCAA hockey at The Bright-Landry Hockey Center on January 8, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. The game ended in a 2-2 tie.
Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images

Dark Horse Candidate

9. Jack Rathbone
10. Guillaume Brisebois

One sexy, and one not-so-sexy dark horse candidate here. Sorry, Breeze-Bah.

Jack Rathbone profiles as someone who could be a top-four fixture on Vancouver’s defence for years to come. The 21-year-old is a dynamic offensive defenceman in the making, but making the jump straight from the NCAA to the NHL is a tall, tall ask.

His skating, offensive instincts and transitional play are already at an NHL-calibre level, but scouts will say that he needs to work on his play in the defensive zone. Still, because of the lack of depth on the Canucks blueline, he certainly has a shot of making the team.

Guillaume Brisebois is a less exciting prospect that should still be considered a dark horse candidate to make the team. Even though Juolevi, Rafferty and Chatfield have a better chance of making the team (based on Benning’s comments during the offseason), it was Brisebois who was named the Comets’ best defenceman last season.

He’s not flashy while playing a simple, sound defensive game, but the Canucks lack of depth on the right side, coupled with the fact that Green likes playing defenceman on their strong side, doesn’t bode well for the Brisebois roster chances.

NHL: MAR 26 Ducks at Canucks
MARCH 26: Vancouver Canucks Defenseman Ashton Sautner (29) skates up ice during their NHL game against the Anaheim Ducks at Rogers Arena on March 26, 2019 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Anaheim won 5-4.
Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

AHL/Taxi-Squad Bound

11. Ashton Sautner
12. Jett Woo
13. Josh Teves
14. Mitch Eliot

Ashton Sautner has had his cup of coffee at the NHL level, but he’s nothing more than a depth piece or potential taxi squad candidate. Jett Woo will begin his professional career in the AHL this season, while Josh Teves and Mitch Eliot are bound to join Woo in Utica as well.

Goalies

Vancouver Canucks v Vegas Golden Knights - Game Seven
Thatcher Demko #35 of the Vancouver Canucks congratulates goaltender Robin Lehner #90 after he shut out the Canucks 3-0 to win the game and the series 4-3 after Game Seven of the Western Conference Second Round of the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on September 04, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta.
Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

Roster Locks

1. Thatcher Demko
2. Braden Holtby

While Hotlby is the highest-paid goaltender on the roster, this is Thatcher Demko’s team now. The 25-year-old should be given every opportunity to take the reigns as the starting goaltender, although Holtby should see plenty of playing time as well with the condensed schedule.

AHL: FEB 05 Utica Comets at Laval Rocket
FEBRUARY 05: Look on Utica Comets goalie Michael DiPietro (64) during the Utica Comets versus the Laval Rocket game on February 05, 2020, at Place Bell in Laval, QC
Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

AHL/Taxi-Squad Bound

3. Michael DiPietro
4. Jake Kielly

It waits to be see what the Canucks decide to do about having another goaltender on the taxi squad. You would think one would be needed in case of an injury, and it’s probably Jake Kielly if it’s either of these two goalies.

Michael DiPietro had a great first AHL season, and he should continue his development in the minors. Don’t be surprised if the Canucks try to acquire another goalie closer to the start of the season, whether it’s someone to join the taxi squad, or someone to back-up DiPietro in the AHL.

Opening Night Line-Up/Taxi Squad Prediction

Here’s my prediciton for the opening night roster, along with the taxi squad. I have three forwards, two defencemen and one goaltender on the taxi squad. CapFriendly recently laid out the taxi squad rules for those who are curious.

Opening Night Roster

Forwards

JT Miller — Elias Pettersson — Jake Virtanen

Tanner Pearson — Bo Horvat — Brock Boeser

Antoine Roussel — Adam Gaudette — Nils Hoglander

Tyler Motte — Jay Beagle — Brandon Sutter

Extras: Zack MacEwen, Jayce Hawryluk

Defence

Quinn Hughes — Tyler Myers

Alex Edler — Nate Schmidt

Olli Juolevi — Jordie Benn

Extra: Brogan Rafferty

Goalies

1. Thatcher Demko
2. Braden Holtby

Taxi Squad

Forwards: Loui Eriksson, Sven Baertschi, Justin Bailey

Defence: Ashton Sautner, Jalen Chatfield

Goalies: Jake Kielly (for now, but I’ll say the Canucks pick-up someone off waivers, like a Calvin Pickard from Detroit).

Leave your predictions for the Canucks roster in the comments below.