When the Canucks finished their final game of the pre-season against the New York Rangers, John Tortorella wasted no time making the final cuts of training camp. By the time he took the podium at the post-game press conference, he had already met with each of the players and delivered the bad news. Contrary to what Cat Stevens, Rod Stewart, and Sheryl Crow may say, the final cut is the deepest.
Brendan Gaunce got shipped back to junior with the Belleville Bulls, while Frank Corrado and Zach Hamill were reassigned to the Utica Comets. For Hamill, it was his second time getting cut this training camp, as he initially got sent down to Utica a week ago, only to get called up again when Jordan Schroeder suffered a hairline fracture blocking a shot. The reasons for Hamill getting sent down haven’t changed.
The most important part of these last few cuts is that the Canucks’ final roster is pretty much set. Assuming Schroeder gets put on the Injured Reserve, the Canucks now have a 23-man roster, though it includes the suspended Zack Kassian. The biggest news is that both of the Canucks’ first round picks from this year’s draft are still with the team: Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk. We’ll have more on this development later, but for now let’s look at the final cuts.
It’s a little surprising to see Frank Corrado get cut, as many had him pencilled in to the opening night roster, including myself. Corrado finished off his pre-season in the best way possible, scoring a goal and adding an assist against the Rangers. It was a fine capstone to what looked to be a fairly strong pre-season, but Tortorella wasn’t quite satisfied.
“Frankie had a goal and an assist and we just send him to Utica,” said Tortorella, appropriately enough, frankly. “He played much better tonight. I thought his camp started off really well, but in the middle part it looked like he just lost a little bit of the confidence. He has to go play. We’re not going to keep a young guy here to be a sixth or seventh guy and, if he’s playing, it’s 8 or 9 minutes. He can go down there and play 25-30.”
That’s the key for understanding this decision. Tortorella likes to ride his best defencemen and give them a lot of minutes. It means the depth defencemen aren’t going to see a lot of ice time and, at this point, Corrado would be one of those depth defencemen. Instead, the sixth and seventh defencemen will be Yannick Weber and Andrew Alberts.
It’s worth noting, as well, that both Weber and Alberts would have had to pass through waivers in order to be sent down to the AHL. Though the risk is minimal that they would get picked up, they’re both on very cap-friendly contracts, which might have made them attractive to teams looking to add defensive depth.
In any case, it’s not a bad thing that Corrado will be starting the season in the AHL, where he’ll get the opportunity to develop his game by playing big minutes in all situations. It’s disappointing that we won’t see him in the lineup on opening night, but he’ll be the first call-up on defence, so we’re likely to see him in a Canucks sweater again before the season ends.
Heading into camp, Brendan Gaunce was one of the top candidates for the open third-line centre position, competing with the likes of Brad Richardson, Mike Santorelli, and Jordan Schroeder. After a disappointing Young Stars Tournament, where he played it safe instead of asserting himself, he got off to a great start in the pre-season, scoring in each of the Canucks’ first two games.
Beyond those two goals, however, Gaunce didn’t have much of an impact and seemed to lack the foot speed to compete at a high level. More importantly, he was outplayed by his competition in camp. Horvat and Shinkaruk showed why they are more highly regarded as prospects than Gaunce and Richardson and Santorelli showed their experience and skill. Gaunce just wasn’t at that level.
“He had a good camp,” said Tortorella after the game. “I think the tempo and the pace of his game needs to improve. But they’re kids…they need to go play.”
Gaunce is still just 19-years-old, so there’s certainly no need to rush him to the NHL or to be disappointed that he’s not quite ready yet. He’ll return to captain the Belleville Bulls and will be relied upon in every facet of the game. Another year in junior, where he’ll play big minutes and make a case to be on Team Canada for the World Junior Championship, is probably best for him.
After two point-per-game seasons, the Canucks will be looking for him to take the next step and dominate at the OHL-level this year, as well as developing his skating. Gaunce tended to look a little passive during the pre-season, and he’ll need to learn to assert himself more. Belleville is likely the best place for him to do so.Tags: Brendan Gaunce, camp cuts, Frank Corrado, Prospects, Zach Hamill