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Questions Leading into Training Camp

With training camp beginning this Friday for the Vancouver Canucks, there are a lot of questions about what the opening roster will look like. To begin with, Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond are both out with injuries, which leaves two spots up for grabs on the teams second line. Will this be the year that Cody Hodgson reaches the potential that we’ve heard about for years? Gillis has been very active with extending professional tryouts, will we see any of Nolan, Begin or Legace come October 6th? Finally, of all the signed players in the off-season, do any of them actually have a legitimate chance at cracking the roster?
Let’s begin with Cody Hodgson. A major opportunity has presented itself to him on a silver platter with a big bow around it. Players have a tendency to break out when a regular in the lineup gets injured, well that time is now for the former 10th overall pick. Until now he’s been plugged into a 4th line role and the occasional sniff at a shift in the top 6 or 15 seconds of power play time. This year, the 2nd line center position is his to lose to start the season. Aside from his injury setbacks, not being presented with a legitimate opportunity with the club has been his biggest hindrance for success. Given that’s he spent this summer working extremely hard (is presumably healthy), and has been in attendance at the increasingly popular Gary Roberts training camp, it’s safe to assume that he realizes that now or never territory is nearing. I believe he will perform well, and once Kesler is back Coach V will do his best to somehow keep Cody in the top 6. The vacancies on Cody’s wing leads us to the next question.

Mason Raymond is out till November (apparently) so that leaves Samuelsson, Higgins, Sturm, and Hansen to battle it out for two spots. But eventually, when Kesler returns Cody is then thrown into the potential logjam. Simply put, whoever performs best, will get those spots and the others will be demoted appropriately to the 3rd or 4th line. This is how envision the opening night roster:




With so many enforcer types signed in the off-season, you are left with the problem of where to place them all. Byron Bitz, Andrew Ebbett, Aaron Volpatti, Mike Duco, Steve Pinizotto, Mark Mancarri. Do any of them have a legitimate chance at obtaining a 4th line wing position? I’d say it’s very unlikely and they will end up under the tutelage of Mactavish in Chicago. As is apparent above, I think it’s inevitable that Nolan and Begin will earn spots. Both have experience, and Nolan is a former all-star who never won a cup. He’s in the twilight of his career and is probably more motivated than most. Begin used to play with Lapierre in Montreal, and is the sandpaper type of forward the team needs.

As for Manny Legace, it’s tough to say. As soon as news broke, Vancouver fans were already saying goodbye to Cory Schneider. That doesn’t seem to be the case right now. Gills loves the "play it safe" approach and I think Legace is just insurance in case of injury, or perhaps a late season trade of Schneider. It’s extremely unlikely that Cory will get moved in the near future. As always, Mike Gillis has created a situation where every player will have to earn their spot. The competition will be fierce and it will be very interesting to see who’s dawning the jerseys on October 6th against Pittsburgh.

Written By: Michael Elias

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