So, here we are at Day One of training camp at the new Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre (which seats 7,200 and will be one of the ice hockey venues for the Olympics in 2010).
It looked pretty empty with the sparse crowd of loyal Canucks fans that came out to watch and, of course, get as many autographs as possible.
With 55 players attending camp (19 defensemen, 31 forwards and 5 goalies), they were split into two groups with different time slots today, so I was able to attend both.
Group One was comprised of a lot of the Vancouver prospects mixed in with a few veterans. The goalies were Cory Schneider and Andrew Raycroft. Group Two was the "A" bunch: Luongo, the Sedins, Kesler, Burrows, Salo, Edler, etc.
You can’t read too much into the line combinations we saw, as players who usually play together on the same lines are not always together in the same groups. That goes for the defense also.
Willie Mitchell and Kevin Bieksa teamed up together, Sami Salo and Alex Edler, the Sedins with Mikael Samuelsson as well, but that was about it on this day.
There are a number of players that were invited to camp, like Mark Parrish (via Dallas), Ron Petrovicky (Riga - KHL), Dave Scatchard (who did not play in the NHL last year and previous in the AHL and Phoenix), Tanner Glass (Florida) and Marco Rosa (Houston-AHL).
The only spots I see available are Pavol Demitra’s (out with an injured shoulder until Oct.) and maybe one or two on the fourth line. Coach Mike Gillis has said all along, that he will let the players decide who will be staying.
You can pretty well pencil in Bieksa, Edler, Mitchell, Salo, Ehrhoff, and Schneider (missing today) on defense. Left to battle it out for the seventh and eighth spot will be O’Brien, Lukowich, Nycholat, Rome, and McIver.
The Sedins, Samuelsson, Kesler, Burrows, Bernier (let the records show, a slimmed down version), Wellwood (not Well-fed this year), Raymond, Johnson, Hordichuk and Rypien will be the forwards.
There are a number of players that could push for Demitra’s spot, while maybe getting even more time than Demitra did last year. They are Scatchard, Parrish, Petrovicky, Hansen, Grabner, P.C. Labrie, Desbiens, Bolduc, and Shirokov. Different players in this group have the ability—either the size, grit, speed or scoring ability—to push out anyone on the fourth line.
From the prospects camp and including today, Shirokov has been making things happen and catching eyes with his talent.
I did not mention Cody Hodgson, because he was a no show today.
With nine pre-season games to filter out the starting lineup and with only eight NHL players needing to be in a preseason game, there will be plenty of opportunity for some of these players to sort this out.
The sorting will start as soon as Monday in Terrace, British Columbia, with a game against the NY Islanders.
In the end, the players destined to head back to their junior teams, the Nucks farm teams or released will likely be as follows: Defensemen—Sauve, Connauton, Ellington, Baumgartner, Ramsey, Oberg, Toigo, and Funk. Forwards—Anthony, Bliznak, Collins, Gendur, Glass, Rai, Rosa, Tochkin, Walsky and goaltenders, Clark and MacHesney.
I will report again on the last day of camp, as some cuts will have been made and more to follow before the pre-season starts.