Young Stars Give Vets a Run For Their Money

By Caleb Harder for CanucksCorner.com

Hunter Shinkaruk - Photo: VancouverSun.com

Hunter Shinkaruk – Photo: VancouverSun.com

The Vancouver Canucks opened the preseason at home against the San Jose Sharks in a compelling tug of war between the two teams that had remarkably disappointing seasons last year. The Canucks played fast and scored beautiful goals but one thing was off. The young stars were the only players to produce.

The symphony created by the rookies came off as if they were already in their prime. The flood gates opened when Jordan Subban took a shot from the point netting in the first goal. The three other goals in the game were provided by Hunter Shinkaruk, Bo Horvat, and Linden Vey. 

In their opening game, the young stars were on fire in their play against the Sharks. Though the Sedins and Radim Vrbata appeared to be a threat on the ice, they didn’t go much further than merely passing around the puck. It was a surprising outcome to the game as the veterans were expected to support the struggling young players who could not seem to get the puck out of their defensive zone in the Young Stars Tournament last week. Was it all a show for the rookies in Penticton causing fans to believe they were not ready to make the big leagues? The players on the ice last night in Rogers Arena were nothing like the ones we previously saw.

The overall effort of the group was outstanding kicking off with Linden Vey taking the chance on the breakaway two minutes into the game causing Stalock, the netminder for the Sharks, to struggle to make the save. The future Canucks showed lightning speed, beautiful plays, and proved that if the veterans won’t step up, they most certainly will.

It’s hard to tell if the vets were holding back or if former head coach John Tortorella was catching on to something in the season ending press conference. The core is not too old in theory but some will need to kick their play up a notch if they want to secure their jobs with the Canucks organization.

If the rookies continue to play in the fashion they did last night, expect players like Shinkaruk and Horvat to make the main roster this season.

The future of the Canucks, though uncertain, is looking bright.

 

HARDER’S THREE STARS OF THE GAME

#3 Linden Vey

G: 1 A: 2 PTS: 3 +/- 3

#2 Jordan Subban

G: 1 A: 0 PTS: 1 +/- 1

#1 Hunter Shinkaruk

G: 1 A: 1 PTS: 2 +/- 2

 

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Part Three: Expanding The NHL: How An Expansion Draft Could Impact The Canucks

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In a three part series Caleb Harder looks how a potential expansion draft could have an impact on the Vancouver Canucks. In the final installment, he looks at the goaltenders.

In this final installment of The NHL Expansion Draft Series, I will cover the possible scenario for the goaltending of the Vancouver Canucks should this expansion come to pass.

As discussed in my previous articles, I will be using the “7 / 3 / 2” (seven forwards, three defensemen, two goaltenders) model for who could be protected on the Canucks roster. Today we examine the goaltenders.

THE GOALTENDERS

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(30) Ryan Miller

On July 1st, the Vancouver Canucks inked a three-year $18 million deal with veteran goaltender Ryan Miller to fill the void of the starting goaltender after both Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo were traded to the New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers. Though the Canucks still had Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom, it was believed by management that the two Swedish goalies would need some support and mentoring in the crease. Ryan Miller is one of the first goalies that come to mind when the new hybrid style of play in net is mentioned. The one time Vezina Trophy winner holds the franchise record with the Buffalo Sabres for most career wins (284) and most wins in a single regular season (41 in 2009-10). With Miller starting in net for his new team, it restores hope for stability in goaltending for the fans in Vancouver.

(31) Eddie Lack

This young goalie is entering his second NHL season as a Canuck. Last season, he was put to the test by playing 19 straight games from the end of the 2014 Olympic break to April 7th, 2014 under John Tortorella despite demands by management to give him a couple games off during the span. After that span, Lack proved that while he may not be ready to be the starting goalie for the Canucks, he may be a solid second benefitting from more time developing under a veteran goaltender. Overall, Eddie Lack is a talented hybrid goaltender who can fill up the whole crease. He will be the successor to Ryan Miller someday, and is one of the most lovable goalies to play in Vancouver.

THE RUNNER-UP

(35) Jacob Markstrom

Jacob Markstrom was one of two acquisitions from Florida at the trade deadline for former Canucks starter Roberto Luongo. This is the one goalie that I don’t see spending much more time on the West Coast. Without a doubt, Markstrom is a talented goaltender who had a decent lockout season with the Florida Panthers while sharing the crease with Scott Clemmensen and Jose Theodore. With the arrival of Ryan Miller to the equation, I believe Markstrom will not receive the opportunities he deserves to have as a goaltender and will be able to get a better shot in another franchise.

With these present conditions along with the recent selection of Thatcher Demko in the NHL Draft, the future is revealing glimmers of renewed hope. If the Canucks play their cards right in transitioning the role of the starting goaltender from Miller to Lack to Demko over a period of time, perhaps the city of Vancouver will no longer be considered the goalie graveyard to the rest of the hockey nation.

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Part Two: Expanding The NHL: How An Expansion Draft Could Impact The Canucks

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In a three part series Caleb Harder looks how a potential expansion draft could have an impact on the Vancouver Canucks. In part two, he looks at the defence.

As we mentioned in Part One, rumours made their way through newspaper and the internet that the National Hockey League would be granting four new franchises to Seattle, Quebec City, Toronto, and Las Vegas. If the rumours turn out to be true, the NHL will hold an expansion draft for the awarded franchises.

In the expansion draft, each existing team has the choice of protecting one goaltender, nine forwards, and five defensemen, or the option of protecting two goaltenders, three defensemen, and seven forwards. For teams that protect two goaltenders, all remaining goaltenders are required to have played a minimum of 10 NHL games in the previous season or 25 total games in the previous two seasons. Each team must also have one defenseman and two forwards left unprotected who have played in 40 NHL games in the previous season or 70 games combined in the previous two. Players exempted from the draft are first and second year pro’s and presumably other prospects.

In the Canucks current position, the team has the ability to choose whatever option they please in protecting players, but I will be using the “two goaltenders, seven forwards, three defensemen” format for this series. With all those rules in mind, if the expansion draft were to take place tomorrow, which defensemen would the Canucks protect on their roster and why?

To give an overview of the players eligible in the draft here is a quick overview chart of the defensemen on the roster.

THE DEFENSEMEN

defencemen

(3) Kevin Bieksa

Kevin “Juice” Bieksa is the true definition of leadership. Bieksa always provides 110% in the game whether it’s standing up for his teammates, delivering a solid hit on the opposing team when they get in the zone, or setting up his line mates for the winning goal. He is one of the most physical and aggressive defenders in the game and is not afraid to provide some gritty play. The Juice is a player with a true passion for the game and the kind of defenseman a team should never think twice about protecting for their roster.

(2)  Dan Hamhuis

Last year, Dan Hamhuis had the best plus minus rating among his fellow team mates. It seemed to be in the previous season that he was always on the ice when the Canucks scored and when they were scored on. Hamhuis has proven throughout his ten year career to have a decent point shot, however he is a fantastic defenseman when it comes to setting himself up an assist with a career high of 33 assists in the 2011-12 season with the Vancouver Canucks. Hamhuis also proved under the John Tortorella regime last season that he can definitely put the puck into the net and who knows, maybe this year it will be on the opposing team.

(8) Chris Tanev

Chris Tanev is the image of the Vancouver Canucks defensive future. The 24-year-old blue liner has strong hockey knowledge and can swiftly move the puck like no one else. His playing style is most comparable to former Canuck, Christian Ehrhoff, whom he played alongside in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final season. The undrafted defenseman has been one of the few successful prospects of the Mike Gillis era and it looks like it’s nothing but up for the rest of Tanev’s career.

If these three were to be protected by Jim Benning and the Vancouver Canucks, it would create the trifecta of the modern defensemen as it fills in the requirements of being tough on the ice, large on offensive strength, and honing the basics of what a strong defenseman is overall.

Part Three: Goaltenders

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Part One: Expanding The NHL: How An Expansion Draft Could Impact The Canucks

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In a three part series Caleb Harder looks how a potential expansion draft could have an impact on the Vancouver Canucks. In part one, he looks at the forwards.

It was recently rumoured by Tony Gallagher of The Province Sports Editorial that Las Vegas has been granted an NHL expansion team. Howard Bloom of Sports Business News then went on to add more wood to the fire by reporting that the NHL has also granted new teams to Seattle, Toronto, and Quebec City. Overall, this ended up causing a flurry of speculation among hockey fans on social media. If these rumours turn out to be true, then the National Hockey League would hold an Expansion Draft for the newly awarded teams.

For those who are unfamiliar with the draft, here is a quick guide to how it takes place. In the draft, each existing team has the choice of protecting one goaltender, nine forwards, and five defensemen, or the option of protecting two goaltenders, three defensemen, and seven forwards. For teams that protect two goaltenders, all remaining goaltenders are required to have played a minimum of 10 NHL games in the previous season or 25 total games in the previous two seasons. Each team must also have one defenseman and two forwards left unprotected who have played in 40 NHL games in the previous season or 70 games combined in the previous two. Players exempted from the draft are first and second year pro’s and presumably other prospects.

With all those rules in mind, if the expansion draft were to take place tomorrow, who would the Canucks protect on their roster and why?

In the team’s current position, the Vancouver Canucks have the ability to choose whatever option they please in protecting players, but I will be using the “two goaltenders, seven forwards, three defensemen” format for this series. In this article, the spotlight will be on the forwards of the franchise and who would the management possibly select for protection?

To give an overview of the vast number of eligible forwards in the Canucks ranks, here is a depth chart for each forward position.

THE FORWARDS

Forwards

(33) Henrik Sedin and (22) Daniel Sedin

The Swedish twins have been a key part of the franchise since they were drafted in 1999. Since then, both Henrik and Daniel have picked up the Hart Memorial Trophy, two Art Ross Trophies, the Ted Lindsay Award, an Olympic Gold and Silver medal, and two Presidents Trophies. The twins also hold the record for most career points with the Vancouver Canucks franchise at first and second place respectively. Though some may believe the two star-studded players are far past their glory years, with the proper support in the line, they still stand as a major part of the Canucks leadership.

(17) Radim Vrbata

Vrbata was picked up from free agency last summer to infuse some scoring power to the aging core of the Vancouver Canucks. He holds one of the best records in the shootout, which is an area the team has always struggled with in past seasons. Radim Vrbata is also a first line forward and will tie in seamlessly with the Sedins giving them the shot in the arm they need to return them to their former glory.

(13) Nick Bonino

Nick Bonino has been determined to act as the new second line centre for the Canucks since he was acquired in a trade alongside teammate Luca Sbisa for former centre Ryan Kesler. Though some argue that Bonino will not be able to fill the void left behind by Kesler, the young gun had a remarkable breakout season. He picked up 49 points while playing on the third line scoring 20 of them on the power play. The new Canuck is a fantastic playmaker and is a no-brainer to protect in an expansion draft.

(14) Alex Burrows

Alex Burrows is a grinder but given his performance last season, some would question why even bother protecting him on the roster. This veteran player has time and time again proven himself as a true warrior on the ice and as a force to be reckoned with. Burrows is also a very versatile player that you can place on any line and he will flourish with his teammates. Although he had a disappointing season scoring only a mere handful of points, expect him to not go down without a fight this season. He has bounced back from three injuries during the season and one in the offseason publicly stating he is fully recovered, training hard, and is dying to hit the ice with a fresh slate. This is what makes him a true hockey player with heart.

(57) Linden Vey

In his last two seasons in the AHL, Linden Vey has been a point a game player for the Manchester Monarchs, a minor league affiliate with the Los Angeles Kings. In a system that was jam packed with forwards, Vey never got the chance his deserved with the Kings and was traded at the draft to the Vancouver Canucks for their third round pick. Now with his new team, it is up to him to decide whether he thinks he is ready or not to make the big leagues because the opportunities in Vancouver are plentiful. If Linden Vey is able to play in the NHL the way he has in the minors, he will turn out to be one of the major driving forces for the team.

(9) Zack Kassian

This wild card has left us wondering if he will turn out to be the all-star he was projected to become or the worst trade that former GM Mike Gillis made in his darkest time. In his few years with the team, Zack has had a streaky run of success and drought wearing the blue and green. All was forgiven though when the management recently inked a two-year deal with Kassian, giving him another shot at proving himself. Protecting a player like Kassian can either be the best idea ever or one that fans will regret for many years to come.

If the Vancouver Canucks were to protect these players in an expansion draft, I believe it would reflect kindly on their roster with an even mix of veteran leaders and solid promising players that are bound for success in the seasons to come.

Part Two: Defensemen

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It’s Miller Time Canucks Fans

By Caleb Harder – CanucksCorner.com

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It’s the moment that all Canucks fans in Vancouver knew was bound to happen, the signing of all-star goaltender, Ryan Miller. The former Buffalo Sabres and brief St. Louis Blues netminder signed a 3-year $18 million deal with the Vancouver Canucks to solve the question of the unproven tandem of Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom. With Miller in place to run the crease, Lack (26) will be backing up for the veteran goalie.

People have been pondering what Eddie Lack is thinking since fans and analysts assumed he could be carrying out the starting role by the 2015-16 season. One could view the new goaltending line-up to be as if it were like a mentorship. Miller will be turning 34 on the 17th of July, and as he is still in his prime, he could show Lack a few tricks on how he became a successful goaltender. Miller was drafted late in the 1999 entry draft, usually indicating a limit on his future prospects. Through careful development under the mentorship of Martin Biron, that did not affect the career that he would have.

Lack will then eventually take up the slack for Miller after his contract expires, and take on what Miller did for him and in turn, mentor prospect Thatcher Demko, who is expected later on to become the next star goaltender of the Canucks. All of this of course, will not have the names of Markstrom and Joacim Eriksson in the future of the franchise and Joe Cannata, unfortunately, not going any further than the Utica Comets.

The next question is what is the relationship going to be like between Rollie Melanson, the Canucks goaltending coach, and Ryan Miller? Melanson likes his goaltenders to play a collapsing Butterfly style game, but it will be difficult in the fact that Miller plays a Hybrid style, a blend of Butterfly and Stand-up goaltending. At this point in Miller’s career it is highly unlikely that Melanson will convince the veteran to play a different game, but the two will have to come out to a respectable compromise. The recently signed goaltender was asked whether he would be willing to change his style under a new coach but responded reluctantly to the question.

Ryan Miller has been said to not be the greatest when it comes to dealing with the spotlight of the media, which some have considered an issue because that spotlight will be shining on him a lot in Vancouver. Though individuals would dismiss him as a bad person for attaining only a passable social relationship with media, it’s perfectly normal. Roberto Luongo was not the best with the media either until everything he crammed inside was passively brushed out on Twitter under the “Strombone1” handle. Miller appeared to be fine when answering media questions yesterday, and coming right off the ice, players are usually in a different head space when they are immediately bombarded with questions on their play. This could lead to why Miller could come off as trite in post-game interviews. Ryan Miller is not a bad person for not always being up for an interview, and in the end, he is still the Canucks new goalie even though the news might not get the same breaking headline stories that were provided through his predecessors.

This then leads us to addressing the inevitable “goalie controversy” chatter that is as old as remixing viral videos. Since Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo have been traded, the controversy is long gone and should not be expected to be carried on as a Vancouver tradition.  The signing of Ryan Miller should not be viewed as another problem for the Vancouver Canucks, but the beginning of a new chapter for the franchise.

It’s Miller time, Canucks fans.

 

Twitter @cjaharder