Camp Cuts: Canucks send ten more to the Utica Comets

With just over a week remaining until the start of the NHL season, the cuts from training camp are beginning to resemble the Battle at Whiskey Outpost from Starship Troopers. We shouldn’t be surprised, really. During the Canucks’ first practice, John Tortorella could be heard screaming at them, “Come on you apes, you wanna live forever?

Over the weekend, ten more players were cut from camp, including one minor surprise. Five defencemen, three forwards, and two goaltenders were assigned to the Utica Comets. In other words, that’s half of Utica’s opening night roster.

With all the other Canucks news happening this week, it took us a little longer to get to these cuts, but they’re all fairly easy to understand.

Joacim Eriksson is the closest thing to a surprise from these names, as he was expected heading into camp to compete with Eddie Lack for the job backing up Roberto Luongo. Instead, he made just one brief appearance in the pre-season, stopping all nine shots he faced in the third period against the Edmonton Oilers on September 18th.

After a strong performance at the Young Stars Tournament, where he posted a .931 save percentage in three games, I assumed he’d get a longer look in the pre-season, but the Canucks seem to be satisfied with Eddie Lack’s play in the pre-season and appear to be ready to head into the regular season with him as Luongo’s backup.

This gives Eriksson an opportunity to adjust to the smaller North American ice with more games in the AHL, while he would see minimum ice time behind Luongo, so it does make sense to send him down to Utica, but I expected Eriksson to get at least one more game in the pre-season before getting reassigned.

Peter Andersson was one of the best Canucks during the Young Stars Tournament, playing in all situations. Jets Nation writer Brett Martin identified Andersson as the first star in one of the Young Stars games and it was well-deserved. Andersson can play tough minutes, defends well in his own end, can quarterback a powerplay, and is an excellent penalty killer. Basically, Andersson does everything well in a calm, collected manner.

He will play a big role for Utica this season, but the 22-year-old isn’t quite ready for the NHL yet. He’s starting to look more and more, however, that he does have an NHL future, which is nice to see from a fifth round pick.

Darren Archibald is an interesting player. With the Chicago Wolves last season, he scored 12 goals and 22 points in 55 games, but the points came in streaks. He had 5 goals in 9 games in December, then no points whatsoever in January. He scored 9 points in 9 games in one streak in March, then just 3 points in 15 games after that streak to close out the season. He also scored 13 points in 18 ECHL games.

With his size and penchant for using it — he had five hits and a fight in his one pre-season game against the Sharks — Archibald could potentially be a useful fourth liner for the Canucks at some point in the future. This season will be his opportunity to prove he can be a consistent contributor in the AHL, which may give him a chance for a call-up.

Like Archibald, Alexandre Mallet also bounced between the AHL and ECHL last season, but spent most of his time with the Kalamazoo Wings, scoring 29 points in 44 games. The Canucks were likely hoping for more out of their 2012 second round pick, with one of the benefits of having their own AHL franchise being that they can give their prospects more opportunities to succeed.

While he had 8 shots on goal in 3 games, Mallet was still too quiet during the Young Stars Tournament and didn’t end up appearing in the pre-season.

Adam Polasek likewise bounced between Chicago and Kalamazoo, and also didn’t get into any pre-season games. With a glut of defencemen ahead of him on the depth chart, he had no chance of sticking with the Canucks and needs to focus on sticking with the Utica Comets this season instead.

At 6’3″, he’s got NHL size, but the question is whether he can skate at an NHL level to be an effective depth defenceman for the Canucks.

I liked how Henrik Tommernes played in the Young Stars Tournament and he tallied two assists in his one pre-season game against the Sharks, but his play was a little haphazard in the defensive end. His assist on Brendan Gaunce’s goal was pretty, as he deked around Joe Pavelski and hit Dale Weise with a great outlet pass. Too often, however, he tried to force passes into dangerous areas when he should have made a safer play.

This will be his first season in North America, so he’ll hopefully learn how to deal with the smaller ice and make more reliable plays in his own end. We could still see him with the Canucks this season if they face injury troubles on the backend. Incidentally, “troubles on the backend” is not something you want to hear from your doctor.

Joe Cannata seems to have been forgotten with the acquisition of Joacim Eriksson, but Cannata has some potential and performed admirably for the Chicago Wolves when he was pressed into action with Eddie Lack injured. It will be interesting to see if the Canucks keep Cannata in Utica to trade starts with Eriksson or if they’ll send him to the Kalamazoo Wings to get both him and Eriksson more starts.

Cannata made 14 saves on 15 shots in one period of action in the pre-season, which is not too shabby.

Benn Ferriero was signed this off-season as AHL depth, but he does have NHL experience, with 14 goals and 23 points in 96 games, mostly for the Sharks. Ferriero didn’t get a shot in the pre-season, which must have been disappointing, as he does possess good offensive instincts and has put up a decent number of points in the AHL.

Since Ferriero can play at both centre and on the wing, he’s a useful depth player for the Canucks and, if he plays well in Utica, he may get a call-up if injuries strike. It would have been nice to see him in the pre-season, but he’s a known quantity for Tortorella, who had him with the New York Rangers last season.

Patrick Mullen was also signed as AHL depth, only it was the 2012 off-season. A smaller defenceman, Mullen needs to provide offence in order to make it the NHL, and it looked like he was on his way with a 41 point performance in 69 games in 2011-12. He didn’t get a chance to build on that performance after signing with the Canucks, as he suffered a season-ending injury 2 games in. The Canucks decided to give him another chance, re-signing him to a one-year contract.

Mullen was injured in the first period of his one pre-season game, though it was unclear what happened. Here’s hoping he remains healthy this season.

Finally, Yann Sauve was also sent down and this will be an important season for the Canucks’ second round pick from 2008. Sauve spent most of last season in the ECHL, instead of with the Chicago Wolves, which must have been frustrating for the Canucks. Sauve played well enough for the Kalamazoo Wings to earn a call-up to the AHL, but it took a long time to come.

He’ll hopefully spend the entire season in the AHL this season with the Canucks owning their own affiliate. I felt he played well in pre-season action against the Oilers, playing 19 minutes and finishing with an even plus/minus despite the lopsided score. At 23, he’ll need a strong season to avoid being permanently labeled a bust.

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6 comments

  1. Dave Robinson (@dcrwrites)
    September 24, 2013

    Actually, the timing of the Eriksson cut makes perfect sense when you consider that he played the first two periods for the Comets in Abbotsford on Sunday. Cutting him when they did meant he didn’t have to travel to Edmonton, and could be ready for the Comets’ game.

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  2. Chris the Curmudgeon
    September 24, 2013

    Yann Sauve might end up being one of the longest projects in NHL history, but I still think there’s an NHL player there. While it was several years ago, I remember him not really looking out of place during his NHL cup of coffee a few years back, and he definitely has the size to be effective in the show. If I recall, a lot of his ECHL stint last year was a rehab assignment after being injured in the AHL, which derailed him a bit after a solid full season for the Wolves the year before. I’d put him at about 9th on the Canucks’ defensive depth chart, after Weber (6), Alberts and Corrado, but ahead of guys like Andersson, Polasek and Tommernes.

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    • Lemming
      September 24, 2013

      I absolutely agree with you Chris, I don’t know why all the bloggers I read always just dismiss him. Every single game I’ve seen him play at the NHL level, he hasn’t looked terribly out of place (in fact I’d call him an adequate depth option in a pinch). He’s not going to quarterback your power play or play against the other team’s best forwards, but I think labeling him a bust is based purely on the hype with which he was drafted and the player he was expected to be versus the player he is and seems like he might pan out to be today.

      I’m a Sauve hopeful. It’s not a sure thing he’ll play in the NHL, but I think he still has a legitimate shot.

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      • Daniel Wagner
        September 24, 2013

        I’m right there with you guys. I like Sauve and I have hopes he’ll become an NHL player, but that’s why this season is such an important one for him. He’s getting to the age that you start to write guys off and I’m hoping that doesn’t happen to Sauve.

        I’m not sure whether he’s ahead of Andersson on the depth chart, but he’s in the mix. He needs to stick in the AHL this year. His stint in the ECHL was 32 games long: that’s not a conditioning stint or rehab assignment in my eyes.

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  3. Kippers
    September 24, 2013

    Ah, I was wondering where the camp cuts article was at.

    Hopefully Eriksson gets a full year with the Comets so he can get acclimated with the North American ice. With his stellar performance in Europe, I’d really love to see what he can do in the NHL if he adjusts to the angles/smaller ice surface nicely.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      September 25, 2013

      Yeah, the post was a little delayed this time around. Things just got hectic on Monday.

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