The media gathered at Canucks’ practice on Thursday, counting players on the ice and trying to figure out who was missing.
“Is Leipsic on the ice? There he is. Where’s Biega? Have you seen Motte?”
Eventually it was determined: Sven Baertschi, Antoine Roussel, Adam Gaudette, Olli Juolevi, Brendan Gaunce, and Thatcher Demko were absent from practice. Roussel is still recovering from a concussion. Baertschi perhaps picked up a knock in Edmonton. But the absence of Gaudette, Juolevi, Gaunce, and Demko seemed particularly notable.
Sure enough, the Canucks announced three new cuts half an hour into practice. Gaudette and Juolevi have been assigned to the Utica Comets in the AHL, while Gaunce will have to go through waivers before he can do the same.
Demko, however, will stick around, likely as insurance for the final game of the preseason on Saturday.
The lines at Thursday’s practice give a pretty good indication of what fans are likely to see when the Canucks take the ice on opening night on Wednesday. With just a couple cuts remaining, the Canucks roster is becoming clear.
Lines for the #Canucks at practice:— Brendan Batchelor (@BatchHockey) September 27, 2018
If the Canucks go with eight defencemen, well, there they are: Alex Edler, Troy Stecher, Ben Hutton, Chris Tanev, Derrick Pouliot, Erik Gudbranson, Michael Del Zotto, and Alex Biega.
The forwards are almost there. 14 forwards skated at practice. Add Baertschi, assuming he’s healthy, and that’s 15. That means two cuts remaining. Darren Archibald is an obvious cut, but it comes down to the likes of Tyler Motte, Markus Granlund, and Sam Gagner. Of those three, Motte is the only one who doesn’t have to clear waivers.
The three that were cut today are easy to understand.
For Gaudette and Juolevi, it’s easiest to start them in the AHL in their rookie professional seasons in North America.
Gaudette looked decent in his five-game stint last season and showed flashes during the preseason. At times, he was one of the most exciting players on the ice in a Canucks jersey. Refining his game in the AHL while playing big minutes in all situations can only help him when he eventually makes the jump to the NHL.
Juolevi wasn’t exactly disappointing at training camp and preseason, but he wasn’t as noticeable as the Canucks might have hoped. Couple that with some occasions where he got caught on the wrong side of his man or seemed to give up on a play, and Utica makes the most sense for him to start the year.
As for Gaunce, his fate was determined on July 1st. As soon as the Canucks signed Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel, and Tim Schaller, he wasn’t going to make the Canucks out of camp. Gaunce is well aware of how crucial this season is for his career.
“This could be a career-changing year, whether I play in the NHL for the rest of my life or I don’t,” he said.
To start the season, at least, Gaunce won’t be in the NHL. In Utica, he’ll compete to be a call-up option for the bottom-six, assuming he doesn’t get claimed off waivers.