It’s time to catch up with the cuts the Vancouver Canucks made to their roster this week.
Unlike the early cuts, where young prospects with no chance of making the team were sent back to junior or players on AHL deals were sent to the Abbotsford Canucks, the latest cuts are of some consequence, with players sent packing that had, at the very least, an outside shot of making the Canucks’ roster.
In total, 19 players were cut on Monday and Tuesday, including seven invitees. Of those 19 players, five had to be placed on waivers, where they could have been claimed, but all five cleared waivers on Wednesday morning.
Here are the 12 players already in the Canucks system who were cut:
- Arshdeep Bains
- Guillaume Brisebois
- Collin Delia
- Michael DiPietro
- Noah Juulsen
- Wyatt Kalynuk
- Brady Keeper
- Danila Klimovich
- William Lockwood
- Arturs Silovs
- John Stevens
- Jett Woo
Here are the seven invitees who were cut:
- Tristen Nielsen
- Danny DeKeyser
- Vincent Arseneau
- Marc Gatcomb
- Chase Wouters
- Matt Alfaro
- Michael Regush
Let’s take a closer look and break down these camp cuts.
Arturs Silovs and Collin Delia lost the backup battle
The backup job in Vancouver behind Thatcher Demko was Spencer Martin’s to lose but he faced a couple of challengers for the job in training camp: Arturs Silovs and Collin Delia. The two goaltenders were both longshots to beat out Martin but they at least made things interesting.
The Canucks are very high on Silovs, even though he has yet to play a full season in the AHL. The 21-year-old Latvian has all the traits that goaltending coach Ian Clark prizes, from his 6’4” stature to excellent athleticism, and Silovs has been a keen student of Clark’s coaching.
Silovs played 10 games each in the AHL and ECHL and seemed to settle in at the ECHL level with a .920 save percentage. He was exceptional at the 2022 World Championships for Latvia, posting a .952 save percentage in four games and stealing the starting job from established NHLer Elvis Merzlikins.
What Silovs needs most for his development at this point is a lot of starts to help turn the lessons he’s learning in practice into in-game habits that become instinctual. He wouldn’t get that as a backup to Demko and besides, the Canucks really need a dependable backup this season and there’s no guarantee that Silovs would be able to provide that.
Silovs will be battling for starts in Abbotsford with Collin Delia, a veteran journeyman who is looking to revitalize his career under the tutelage of Clark. For Delia, he saw the change in Spencer Martin’s game and is eager to undergo a similar transformation.
“I remember just playing against [Martin] and knowing his game, and then seeing him play in the NHL and being like, okay, this is a completely different goalie,” said Delia to CanucksArmy’s David Quadrelli. “There’s things here that weren’t there previously. Proof of concept, you know? He applied himself, was super disciplined, got rewarded for it, and I plan to do the same thing in my own way.”
Delia is on a one-way contract, which means he’ll be getting an NHL salary in Abbotsford. A team typically signs veterans to one-way deals if they intend them to play a lot and take on a leadership role with their AHL team.
Despite getting lit up for seven goals by the Edmonton Oilers, Delia looked good in the preseason and made some excellent saves. It will be interesting to see who gets the bulk of the starts between Delia and Silovs in Abbotsford this season.
Don’t forget DiPietro
If Silovs and Delia are set to battle for the number one job in Abbotsford, where does that leave Mikey DiPietro, who was also among Tuesday’s cuts?
DiPietro has had a rough journey in recent years, missing almost an entire season on the Canucks’ taxi squad during the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season and struggling in the AHL last season with a .901 save percentage while losing the net to Spencer Martin.
DiPietro reportedly requested a trade in the offseason and the Canucks gave his agent, Darren Ferris, permission to speak to other teams to try to find the right fit for a trade to occur.
That trade obviously hasn’t happened yet and it might be because Delia needed to clear waivers to go to the AHL. If he had been claimed and the Canucks had already traded DiPietro, the Canucks would have been left with just Silovs in Abbotsford and would have needed to scramble to fill out their goaltending depth.
It seems clear the Canucks don’t want to have three goaltenders in Abbotsford, so at this point DiPietro is likely to be traded or sent down to the ECHL.
Canucks’ defensive depth gets sent to AHL
The Canucks sent down five defencemen to the AHL who are in their system: Guillaume Brisebois, Noah Juulsen, Wyatt Kalynuk, Brady Keeper, and Jett Woo.
A notable defenceman who was not sent down is Christian Wolanin, who had a great game on Monday night against the Oilers, earning himself a longer look with the big club.
Including Wolanin, these six defencemen represent the Canucks’ defensive depth at the AHL level. It’s a relatively young group — Wolanin is the oldest at 27, Keeper is 26, Brisebois, Juulsen, and Kalynuk are 25, and Woo is 22.
Brisebois and Juulsen have played a handful of games for the Canucks but the defenceman who might have the best chance of playing for the Canucks this season, aside from Wolanin, is Keeper.
The right-handed Keeper had a strong training camp last year before he caught a rut in the ice at the Abbotsford Centre and broke his leg. He spent the last year recovering from the injury and looks like he’s back to 100%. He had another strong training camp and will now look to establish himself as the best right-side option in Abbotsford and first call-up on the right side in case of injuries.
Juulsen will also be looking to earn a call-up on the right side — he has 56 NHL games under his belt, so that helps his case. He’s a strong AHL defenceman who combines a physical game with a little bit of offensive skill, but his mobility just isn’t up to snuff at the NHL level.
Meanwhile, Woo will be looking to establish himself as a defenceman, period. Once the Canucks’ top prospect on right defence, Woo struggled in the AHL last season and found himself frequently playing as a fourth-line forward in the back half of the season.
This will be a big year for Woo — can he work himself back into the conversation as a legitimate NHL prospect? There were flashes of a projectable game for Woo at the Young Stars Classic but he’ll need to do a lot more in Abbotsford.
On the left side, Wolanin appears to be ahead of Brisebois and Kalynuk on the depth chart. Brisebois has been in the Canucks system for seven years now and has never done enough in his few NHL games to prove he deserves more of them. Injuries limited him to 26 games with Abbotsford last season — he’ll be hoping for good health to take on a leadership role on the Abbotsford blue line.
Kalynuk signed with the Canucks in the offseason and has 26 games of NHL experience with the Chicago Blackhawks. He’s a decent puck-mover and has some offensive upside, but there are some major defensive question marks that might prevent him from ever sticking long-term at the NHL level.
At the very least, Kalynuk will provide some experience in Abbotsford and can play on the power play, while hopefully working on his defensive game in case he has to get called up to Vancouver at some point.
Forwards young and old
Four forwards in the Canucks system were sent down this week: Arshdeep Bains, Danila Klimovich, William Lockwood, and John Stevens.
Stevens is the wily veteran of the group, a 28-year-old centre, who played a combination of third-line and top-six minutes for Abbotsford last season and was frequently responsible for lining up with the team’s youngest players, like Klimovich.
Stevens had 19 goals and 43 points in 68 games for Abbotsford and is expected to again play a leadership role in the AHL this season. He’s unlikely to earn a call-up.
It was thought that Lockwood might have an outside shot of making the Canucks out of camp given his speed and willingness to play a physical game. After all, he played 13 games for the Canucks last season.
The Canucks improved forward depth, even with injuries at camp, made things harder for Lockwood and he ultimately had a disappointing preseason. The 24-year-old winger was given three preseason games but didn’t make much of an impression in any of them.
Lockwood will be looking to improve on his 25 points in 46 games with Abbotsford last season and prove that he deserves a call-up.
Klimovich is one of the most intriguing prospects in the Canucks’ system because of his raw talent. His challenge will be refining that raw ability and he’ll have a new coach in Abbotsford in Jeremy Colliton to help him along.
As an 18-year-old in the AHL last season, Klimovich had just 18 points in 62 games and was a healthy scratch in the playoffs. He’ll be looking to step into a larger role this season and the early returns on his offseason development have been promising. He was great at the Young Stars Classic, showcasing his excellent passing as well as improved diligence defensively.
Still just 19, Klimovich could be in line for a breakout season at the AHL level.
Bains also had a great Young Stars Classic but struggled to stand out once the preseason began. Last season’s leading scorer in the WHL, Bains is taking his first step in professional hockey, so some growing pains are understandable.
The upshot is that Bains has given every sign of being willing to put in the work. At development camp and prospect camp, Bains absorbed everything quickly and made a positive impression on the coaching staff. While he’s got clear offensive talent, he also has the attention to detail to play a strong defensive game. That should help him quickly adapt to the professional game in Abbotsford.
Is Bains likely to get called up to Vancouver this season? Probably not, but there’s still some promising signs that he is a legitimate NHL prospect.
Danny DeKeyser’s tryout ends
Most of the invitees are heading to Abbotsford to play for the Canucks’ farm team. Danny DeKeyser, however, won’t be joining them.
The veteran defenceman joined the Canucks on a professional tryout (PTO) but has now been released and will seek out a contract elsewhere. He might not get it in the NHL, as he simply wasn’t very good in the preseason for the Canucks.
The two most intriguing invitees heading to Abbotsford are Tristen Nielsen and Chase Wouters, both of whom have a chance to earn an NHL contract in the future.
Nielsen was like a dog on a bone at the Young Stars Classic, throwing big hits despite being undersized, creating havoc on the forecheck, and showcasing his underrated skill.
Nielsen has speed, can kill penalties, and might have some untapped offensive upside, but he couldn’t win the trust of Trent Cull, Abbotsford’s head coach last season. With a new head coach, Nielsen has the potential to earn a much bigger role and prove himself deserving of an NHL deal.
Wouters seems like the type of player that could one day earn a living on an NHL fourth line — he’s a great penalty killer, plays a sound defensive game, and gives his all every shift. If he can build on his limited scoring from last season, he’ll be one to watch.
The remaining invitees who were cut are unlikely to end up in Vancouver at any point.
Arseneau plays the tough guy role well in the AHL, but doesn’t have NHL skill. Gatcomb looked good at the Young Stars Classic, but his limited footspeed was exposed in the preseason. Regush played a physical game at the Young Stars but didn’t get a preseason game. The Surrey native did enough, at least, to earn an AHL contract with Abbotsford this week.
Alfaro didn’t even play for the Canucks in the preseason, but was pretty good in a 13-game stint for Abbotsford on a PTO last year, putting up 7 points in 13 games. At this point, the 26-year-old centre will just be looking to stick in the AHL after spending most of his professional career in the ECHL.
Who is left in Vancouver?
This week’s cuts leave just 29 players on the Canucks roster, with a need to get down to 23 by the start of the season. Some of those 29 players, including Brock Boeser, Ilya Mikheyev, and Travis Dermott, are currently injured.
Here are the 29 players remaining, arranged into some potential lines and pairings:
Tanner Pearson - J.T. Miller - Conor Garland
Andrei Kuzmenko - Elias Pettersson - Vasily Podkolzin
Nils Höglander - Bo Horvat - Curtis Lazar
Dakota Joshua - Jason Dickinson - Phil Di Giuseppe
Sheldon Dries - Nils Åman - Linus Karlsson
Quinn Hughes - Luke Schenn
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Tyler Myers
Jack Rathbone - Kyle Burroughs
Christian Wolanin - Tucker Poolman