Bruce Boudreau has proven to be quite a different head coach than Travis Green was for the Vancouver Canucks.
Now that you’ve made it past the “understatement of the year” portion of this article, let’s dive into what we took away from day one of Vancouver Canucks training camp – in terms of their lineup
While it’s typically not wise to throw out a complete lineup after just one day of training camp, Boudreau told reporters Wednesday that his training camp philosophy is a bit different than what Canucks fans are used to.
After years of being told not to read into line rushes – even on game days – by former Canucks head coach Travis Green, Boudreau was candid in stating that he’d be putting together lines at training camp that he felt could play together in the regular season.
“In tomorrow’s practice we’ll have at least four lines that we’re hoping look like opening night,” Boudreau said. “But the next day they may all be changed, so who knows.”
“The tough one will be Sunday because we’ve got to put two teams together and X amount of veterans in each game. But in the preseason, at least for the first couple of games, the lines that we have out there we’re going to try to keep together as a unit. Rather than saying, ‘Okay, JT, you’re playing, but Boeser is not playing so we’ll put another guy up’. I’m trying to keep the lines together to keep some familiarity with them.”
“For example, in Penticton, there was a line of Wouters, Klimovich, and Nielsen, and they played well together. So why wouldn’t I keep them together here? So we’re going to do that.”
So with all that in mind, let’s dive into what lines we saw on the ice today in Whistler, in the best possible order.
Here’s what appears to be the current makeup of the NHL forward lines:
1St line: Tanner Pearson – JT Miller – Brock Boeser
2n.d line: Conor Garland – Bo Horvat – Vasily Podkolzin
3rd line: Andrey Kuzmenko – Elias Pettersson – Ilya Mikheyev
4Th line: Dakota Joshua – Jason Dickinson – Curtis Lazar
The most glaring takeaway from the forward lines is that Nils Höglander is currently on the outside looking in when it comes to the NHL forward group.
We’re not sure how much we should be reading into the lines that had AHL skaters on them in terms of how likely we are to see those lines out in Abbotsford on opening night, but we can tell you that Höglander skated with Nils Åman and Linus Karlsson on what could very well be a top six forward line — if not the top line altogether — in Abbotsford this season.
The organization believes in both Karlsson and Åman, and will want both players to take major strides in their development this season out in Abbotsford, and it is very possible that they will want the same for Höglander.
Admittedly, it’s a little more difficult to point at the defense pairings and try to dub any of them as the first, second and third NHL pairing, but these are the ones we saw today:
Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Quinn Hughes
Danny DeKeyser – Tyler Myers
Jack Rathbone – Luke Schenn
Travis Dermott – Tucker Poolman
Quinn Hughes was stapled to the right side today, and likely will be for the foreseeable future as the Canucks continue to see what they have in Hughes on his opposite side.
Danny DeKeyser, who joined the Canucks on a PTO, looked fine next to Tyler Myers in the scrimmage. He made simple passes and didn’t try to do anything too flashy. DeKeyser missed a wide open net after a slick feed from Elias Pettersson during the scrimmage, which certainly wasn’t the best look, but overall, DeKeyser looked fine today.
The Canucks are clearly hoping that Jack Rathbone can find Quinn Hughes-like success by playing alongside Luke Schenn. Rathbone obviously isn’t as gifted as Hughes, but he does need to be the primary puck mover on any pairing he plays on, and Schenn is certainly no stranger to playing with a partner who that’s the case with.
All in all, it is very possible that this could be the Canucks’ opening night lineup, but it is more possible that we see some new line combinations experimented with as training camp and the preseason continues.
Boudreau did insinuate that he has unlimited line combination possibilities in his head, after all.
When asked how many different line combinations he has in mind, the coach had a somewhat tongue-in-cheek response.
“How high a number can you think?”
“The only thing I really know is that we want to start with Bo, Petey, and JT up the middle. Everybody else, we’ve had lineups where they’re playing the left side and the right side,” Boudreau said about the team’s forward depth. “I talk to all of them about how they like playing, or if I plan on moving them to a different spot.”
See you tomorrow, Canucks fans!