On Monday, the Canucks officially cut five players from their roster. We knew about four of them ahead of time, as reports of Jonathan Dahlen, Petrus Palmu, Jalen Chatfield, and Reid Boucher getting cut came out on Sunday.
Boucher was the only one of that group that required waivers and he was joined on Monday by defenceman Ashton Sautner. Assuming they clear, Boucher and Sautner will join the Utica Comets in the AHL.
Sautner was a surprise call-up to the Canucks last season, getting an emergency recall in late March as Chris Tanev just couldn’t stay healthy. Sautner was about as unheralded a prospect as you could possibly imagine: an undrafted free agent signing out of the WHL, who never produced much in the way of points or stood out for strong defensive play.
In his five NHL games, however, Sautner did not look out of place. Well, except for his post-game interview, where he fell back on an old cliche — “Big two points!” — forgetting that the Canucks were completely out of the playoff picture and those two points in the standings actually gave them worse odds in the draft lottery.
Ashton Sautner received some words of encouragement on the ice from Jamie Benn during his first NHL game. pic.twitter.com/qFBb3cuqoq— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) March 26, 2018
Sautner partnered with Alex Biega and held his own. The Canucks actually out-scored their opposition 5-to-1 when he was on the ice at 5-on-5, though his underlying numbers were not as strong. Sautner impressed with his skating, his grit, and his ability to make a good first pass.
Heck, Sautner even scored a goal off a setup from the Sedins, ripping the puck just under the bar with a laser beam of a wrist shot. Regrettably, the goal was called back on a coach’s challenge, as 30 seconds prior to the goal, Derrick Pouliot was an inch offside.
In training camp and preseason action, Sautner looked like he had stepped up the physicality even more. He threw some solid hits, shoved players off pucks, and boxed out forwards effectively, though he took himself out of position looking for those hits a few times.
Sautner was good enough to be one of the last defencemen cut. They’re currently down to nine defencemen plus the injured Evan McEneny, so will likely make just one more cut to get down to eight.
Now Sautner will head to Utica and look to establish himself as a go-to defenceman for the Comets and position himself for a call-up this season. He’ll have a decent amount of competition; while Sautner looks like he has third-pairing potential, the Canucks have several defencemen with third-pairing potential in their system.
Sautner will compete with the likes of Chatfield and Guillaume Brisebois in Utica, along with Olli Juolevi if he’s the last defenceman cut at camp, and Evan McEneny once he recovers from knee surgery.