Canucks hope prospect camp will set the stage for good main camp showings
My biggest takeaway from the final day of the Vancouver Canucks' prospects camp at Rogers Arena on Monday was that all participants were healthy and fully engaged in working on their skills and drills. This seems unusually promising, doesn't it?
The biggest health issue that I heard about was Josh Teves taking a puck to the face on Sunday — probably the first time that's happened to him after four years of wearing a cage at Princeton. He has a black eye but was still in action on Monday.
Last season, for example, Jett Woo unexpectedly missed the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton as he was treated in Vancouver for a lower-body injury — and didn't get to participate in main camp, either. He also didn't get to work out with the group at development camp in July as he recovered from minor offseason knee surgery.
"It's been unfortunate the way that things have happened with Jett," said Canucks director of player development Ryan Johnson. "It's good to have him be a part of this, a part of the group and get to experience some of these things, especially heading into main camp. It's something that he hasn't yet to go through, which is important for a player — to be around his peer group and to be around NHLers and rub shoulders with them on and off the ice, it's important."
Johnson also had high praise for 2019 fifth-rounder Carson Focht, who will be Woo's teammate on the Calgary Hitmen next season.
Ben Kuzma has the full rundown on Focht, who Johnson called "a guy that jumped off the page for me right out of development camp."
While there seems to be plenty of interest from all sides in getting Young Stars back to Penticton next year, Johnson seemed sincere when he talked about how this weekend's prospect camp could be a very useful tool in getting the team's young players ready for main camp in Victoria.
"Sometimes young players come out of the Young Stars Tournament - it's a grind. It's a lot of hockey in a short amount of time. They haven't had much practice time and they come out of that into testing and into main camp. At times, they've already been through too much of a grind to put their best foot forward at camp."
Johnson also emphasized that his group wasn't focused on player evaluation over the last three days.
"This wasn't an evaluation-based camp," he said. "It was more about details and getting them ready as opposed to sitting and evaluating them. That wasn't the purpose. It's to put them in the best place to really show well when we do sit down and watch a main camp and into the scrimmages and things like that. To allow them to be in the best place possible at that point."
Monday's workout concluded with a two-on-two short-ice mini-game, which brought some intensity.
Johnson seemed very pleased with how Olli Juolevi fared over the three days on his newly repaired knee — and with his attitude. Juolevi looked buoyant as he chatted with reporters after the session.
"Olli's in a real good spot, not just physically but mentally," Johnson said. "He's as content as I've seen Olli in a long time and it's exciting. To have him be a part of this and get him ready for main camp and be ready to go for us as an organization is great."
All 19 players from prospects camp will be part of the crew at main camp, which opens Friday in Victoria. The team will need to have enough bodies to populate the two rosters needed for their simultaneous split-squad games against the Flames in Victoria and Calgary next Monday. After that, cuts will probably begin.
A full training camp roster has not yet been released.
Also - Patrick Johnston got the scoop on Petrus Palmu from his agent on Tuesday. Apparently the goal is to get him up a league in Europe this year — either to the Swedish Hockey League or the KHL.
After the prospects wrapped up their session on Monday, the veterans hit the ice for a twirl of their own. Bo Horvat is now in town and joined the group for the first time, so the only missing bodies are injured Antoine Roussel and unsigned Brock Boeser.
Apparently Jim Benning was on hand to check out the prospects over the weekend, but there was no sign of him on Monday. My guess was that he spent the morning doing a happy dance in his office after the news broke that Zach Werenski had re-upped with Columbus for three years at a $5 million cap hit per season — well below the numbers that had been bandied around.
Werenski was drafted eighth overall in 2015, 15 spots ahead of Boeser. I've seen suggestions that trying to compare contracts for the current RFA defensemen against the forwards is a bit of a losing battle. I'd say we can take Werenski's deal as a bit of a sign that some players might not have as much leverage as they hoped — or as much appetite to miss training camp.
Another high pick from 2015, forward Pavel Zacha, signed his new deal on Tuesday — three years at a cap hit of $2.25 million per season. Though Zacha was selected sixth overall, he has been a bit of a disappointment in New Jersey, with just 76 points so far in 201 games. By comparison, Boeser has 114 points in 140 career games so far — closer to the same range as still-unsigned Kyle Connor of Winnipeg, who's at 128 points in 178 games.
What do you think? Will Brock get signed and be in Victoria when camp opens on Friday?