Wednesday, January 13 - Vancouver Canucks at Edmonton Oilers - 7 p.m. - Sportsnet, Sportsnet One
Thursday, January 14 - Vancouver Canucks at Edmonton Oilers - 6 p.m. - Sportsnet One, Sportsnet Pacific
If the leadup to the Vancouver Canucks' season opener is any indication, we're going to be in for a heckuva ride in the 2020-21 season.
On Tuesday afternoon, I was innocently refreshing my feeds in hopes of finding the Canucks' official opening-day roster and taxi squad list. Then, all hell broke loose. Seems Jordie Benn's absence since Saturday night's scrimmage and J.T. Miller's absence from practice on Tuesday are both Covid-19 related. Yikes.
Jim Benning made an appearance on Sportsnet 650 on Tuesday afternoon. All he could say was that the pair will be unavailable for Wednesday's game opener in Edmonton.
Everything else, at this point, is still speculation, but this reporting from Global TV's Richard Zussman makes sense.
What does this all mean? Well, for the moment, we're still not sure that anybody has tested positive. But it still means a giant roster headache for Vancouver.
As Sportsnet's Iain MacIntyre
Players who record a false positive test remain isolated and must test negative for three consecutive days before rejoining their teams. But under the extensive protocols established by the NHL in agreement with health officials, players can not travel by plane commercially or privately except on team flights, which rules out Miller and Benn for at least the season-opening road trip.
Patrick Johnston of The Province
posted more information in this thread on Wednesday morning. Click through to read it all — it sounds like it could be 10 days for Benn and a couple of weeks for Miller.
The league is continuing to handle all Covid-related announcements, and will be releasing the names of players who test positive going forward, now that the regular season is underway. But I'm not sure what the timeline is for those releases — if they'd come on a case-by-case basis or in a regular (weekly?) announcement. And if Benn and/or Miller technically tested positive *before* the season began, I'm also not sure if that creates another wrinkle.
Benning did also mention that Jayce Hawryluk will also be unavailable for Wednesday's opener. That, presumably, is due to the injury that he suffered during the scrimmage last Saturday, when he got tangled up with Tyler Motte and Kole Lind.
So — as of Wednesday morning, we still don't have an official announcement on Micheal Ferland's move to long-term injured reserve. CapFriendly
is showing Hawryluk on regular injured reserve.
Also, somewhat lost in all the Covid drama, the Canucks did announce the signing of Travis Hamonic on Tuesday. He's on a one-year deal with a cap hit of $1.25 million — nice savings if he can fill Chris Tanev's role this season. Tanev's making $4.5 million a season for the next four years.
Here's Hamonic's media availability from Tuesday, if you're interested:
The official roster and taxi squad list has just been released, ahead of Wednesday's morning skate. It includes 24 players on the main roster — one over the 23-player maximum. I assume that's because Benn and Miller, who are included, will get moved to the Covid list.
Interesting notes: the main roster does include Hamonic, Nils Hoglander — and Loui Eriksson, who I suspect was earmarked for the taxi squad before all this roster drama went down. As is normal, a couple of players on the main roster will be scratched before gametime.
My understanding is that no local media has travelled to Edmonton with the club. So there's no reporting of line rushes, and Travis Green wouldn't name his starting goaltender.
Here's how the lines were deployed at Tuesday's practice, with Miller and Benn absent.
I suspect this will be pretty much what we see.
And I can't help but think that it's ironic, after all the crap he took in the summer, that it's Jake Virtanen who gets vaulted onto the first line with Miller missing. Jake has kept his head down and stayed out of the spotlight during camp this time around. He could have a significant opportunity to earn Travis Green's trust, although Green said at Wednesday morning's media availability that he might try some different looks during the game.
Here's how the Oilers will line up:
A few new faces — Kyle Turris up front, and Jesse Puljujarvi's back — and has apparently had a good camp. On the blue line, Edmonton has an all-new third pairing of Tyson Barrie and Slater Koekkoek, but no Oscar Klefbom for the entire season, as he deals with a serious shoulder injury. Mikko Koskinen is expected to get the opening-night start for Edmonton.
With the roster adjustments that have been made, the taxi squad looks a little different than what had been foreshadowed. It's Mikey DiPietro in goal, Guillaume Brisebois, Brogan Rafferty and Jack Rathbone on the blue line, and Justin Bailey and Marc Michaelis up front.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Canucks did announce that they've assigned seven more players to Utica.
Forwards: Jonah Gadjovich, Lukas Jasek, Kole Lind and Will Lockwood
Defensemen: Josh Teves and Jett Woo
Goaltender: Jake Kielly
Word is that these players can stay in Vancouver for another week, until Jan. 20, before reporting to Utica. The AHL still has not released any details of its schedule for the upcoming season.
After all that, a few players remain unaccounted for. It remains to be seen what happens with Sven Baertschi, who make not take kindly to another season in the minors. Like Baertschi, Tyler Graovac and Ashton Sautner have also now cleared waivers, but have not yet received a new assignment.
Finally, to wrap up today — for a broader look across the NHL heading into the new season, I invite you to check out my new Forbes story:
Enjoy the games!