Summer is over for the Canucks, as the Pre-season will officially begin one week from today. Next Monday, 14th September marks the first Pre-season game for the Canucks in Terrace, British Columbia. It seems like yesterday that CBC announced the winning of the bid for Terrace to host their first Canucks Pre-season game. Again, congratulations to the Kraft Hockeyville 2009 winner, a town of 12,660 population, now known as the most passionate hockey city in Canada.
Today is also the day two of the Prospect Camp for the Canucks, and I believe we’ve all heard the interviews of Vigneualt, Hodgson and Shirokov. With all these talents, gathered by our most trusted GM, I don’t think I’ve been so excited about the upcoming lineup for the Canucks, ever.
There is still plenty of hockey to be played before we know for sure the official line-up for the Canucks in the 2009-2010 season. In fact, there are nine Pre-season games for the team before we lock down on the official squad, and for most of the prospects, Canucks can play them no more than 10 regular season games before their first year contract kicks in.
I think there is no argument as to which prospect will get the most attention on whether or not he makes the team than Cody Hodgson. Without ever playing a single game for the Canucks, Cody was recently named by The Hockey News as the top Calder candidate for 2009-2010, ahead of Tavares and Hedman. SYP also named Hodgson as the top three prospect of the NHL, just behind Tavares and Hedman.
However, a back-injury sustained during practise has kept Hodgson off the ice for a while, and despite being approved to join the prospect camp, Cody is only allowed to do skating drills but NO CONTACT. Whether this affect his chance of cracking the team this year remains to be seen. It will be a terrible blow to Hodgson’s ego as well as the marketing department of the Canucks if he indeed doesn’t make the team.
We all know that the only logical opening for prospects in the current Canucks roster is probably just the third-line. Since AV usually keeps his fourth-line to blue-collar work, the Johnson-Rypien-Hordichuk lineup is pretty much what I expect to see comes October.
But we already have tons of player fighting for third-line opening. If we assume for a moment that Demtira is healthy enough to play, the Sedins + Burrows + Kesler + Demitra + Samuelsson will fill up the top six nicely. Then we will see Bernier, Hansen, Wellwood, Raymond fighting for the three spots. Since, Hodgson is still under recovery, I don’t think AV will rush him, we do have plenty of healthy bodies already! Then, who else should we keep an eye on at the end of the Prospect Camp?
Micheal Grabner, coming off a great season and playoffs with the Moose is very very close to making the team. He is oozing with confidence, and I don’t think the Canucks can afford to keep him off the roster for any longer, without hurting anyone’s feelings. If the team can’t use him, they might-as-well trade him now.
I think there’s a dark horse in Sergei Shirokov, who gave up quite a lot to be here at the camp, and trying to making the team. He sure has some natural offensive skills, often seen from the Red Army’s graduates. If he doesn’t make the squad, will he be content to spend one season in Manitoba??
The camp will end tomorrow noon, and the team will travel to Edmonton for two night games with the Flames and Oilers Prospects. By then, we should know more about which player has the better chance of making the team.
But in any case, whether or not there are any third-line vacancies will depend of the health status of Demitra or any upcoming trades by Gillis. So I guess we won’t know until the puck is drop on 1st October.