Four battles to watch heading into Canucks training camp

It’s the start of training camp, which means it’s time for rampant speculation. Who will shine in the pre-season? Who will fall flat on their faces? Which player will excel, looking to have a spot sewn up, then get a brutal injury in the final game of the pre-season and never play for the Canucks again?

The truth is that we have no earthly idea what’s going to happen, particularly in this coming training camp and pre-season. Thanks to the off-season shake-up both on and off the ice, my Canucks-branded Magic 8-Ball keeps returning “Reply hazy, try again.” Admittedly, that’s better than when it was telling me, “You know what to do: burn ‘em all!”

Here are four training camp battles to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.

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Did Frank Corrado’s decision to attend the Youngstars Tournament backfire?

Frank Corrado didn’t have to head up to Penticton last weekend to play in the annual Youngstars prospect tournament. He had already been to two of them: he was a standout in his first tournament back in 2011, then was dominant at both ends of the ice in 2013. With a full season of professional hockey in the AHL — along with a total of 22 NHL games, including 4 playoff games — under his belt, another Youngstars tournament didn’t seem to be necessary.

But the Canucks reportedly asked Corrado if he’d like to participate in the tournament and he said yes. One can understand why: with a new management team and coaching staff in Vancouver, Corrado has an all-new group of people to impress if he wants to make the Canucks out of training camp, and what better opportunity to make a good first impression than dominating a tournament featuring younger, smaller prospects, many of whom will never play even one game in the NHL, let alone 22?

Only, it didn’t work out that way. Instead, Corrado struggled to establish his game, looking a lot more like a raw kid than someone ready to make the jump to the big leagues.

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The PITB Podcast, Episode 2: Youngstars Tournament and the Meaning of Life

The Canucks prospects are in Penticton, working like mad to impress an all-new management group. Meanwhile, we’re sitting on our behinds judging those prospects, their skill, and their effort. In general, we’re pretty positive about the prospects of these prospects.

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Canucks prospects to watch at the 2014 Young Stars Tournament

I love this time of year. The lead-up to training camp and the start of the NHL regular season is a time of positivity and optimism. After a long off-season with no Canuck hockey, the wait is finally over. Sort of.

Tonight is the start of the annual Young Stars prospect tournament, as the Canucks prospects take on the Oilers prospects at 7:30 pm. The game will be streamed live on and the Canucks’ YouTube channel, which means that even if you can’t make it out to Penticton, you can still watch the game.

Normally, this is when we’d get our first look at the Canucks’ recent draft picks, but, for a variety of reasons, that won’t really be happening this year. Just two of the Canucks’ seven 2014 draft picks will be at the tournament and they were the Canucks’ last two picks of the draft. Neither of the Canucks’ first round picks will be playing: Jake Virtanen isn’t cleared for contact yet after his shoulder surgery and Jared McCann has mononucleosis.

The Canucks’ second round pick, goaltender Thatcher Demko, is already back at Boston College, while their third and fifth round picks, Nikita Tryamkin and Gustav Forsling, are back in Russia and Sweden. That leaves just sixth round pick Kyle Pettit and seventh round pick Mackenze Stewart from the Canucks’ most recent draft.

Fortunately, there are many other Canucks prospects to get excited about, from the obvious to the more unheralded.

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When will we see Frank Corrado this season?

Up until December, the Canucks were extremely fortunate with their injury situation on defence — they didn’t have one. The Canucks had been able to keep a stable 6-man defence corps consisting of Alex Edler, Kevin Bieksa, Jason Garrison, Dan Hamhuis, Chris Tanev, and Ryan Stanton. The only game action Yannick Weber and Andrew Alberts received was as forwards on the fourth line.

In the last two weeks, that has all changed, leaving the Canucks with a somewhat unstable defence. Meanwhile, Frank Corrado, who many expected to make the Canucks roster out of training camp, has yet to receive a call-up from the AHL.

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The Prospector: Shinkaruk and Horvat impress, Gaunce and Corrado hold steady, Jensen still on shelf

It’s easy to lose track of how the Canucks’ prospects are doing during the regular season. After all, the Canucks play a game every couple of days and every spare moment in-between is full of fretting over what the result of the previous game meant for the team’s chances of winning another game ever again. All that fretting doesn’t leave a lot of time for anything else.

That’s why we’re starting a semi-regular feature on the blog called The Prospector, where we’ll take a look through the Canucks’ system and give you an update on a few select prospects. For the first edition of The Prospector, we’re going to start with the big names. There were five prospects that had a real shot at starting the season with the Canucks, but for one reason or the another didn’t make the cut: Frank Corrado, Brendan Gaunce, Hunter Shinkaruk, Bo Horvat, and Nicklas Jensen.

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Camp Cuts: Frank Corrado and Brendan Gaunce get the axe, Zach Hamill gets double-axed

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.

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How big a role will Frank Corrado play for the Canucks this season?

One of the main concerns I’ve heard from Canucks fans about Frank Corrado starting the season in the NHL is what it will do to his development. The thinking is that Corrado would be better served playing 20+ minutes per night in the AHL with the Comets than playing third-pairing minutes with the Canucks.

It’s an understandable concern, particularly when you look at how John Tortorella deployed his defencemen in New York. His top defenceman — Michael Del Zotto, Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, and Marc Staal when he was healthy — played big minutes, averaging 23+ minutes per night. His bottom pairing, however, saw far fewer minutes. While Anton Stralman oscillated between 10 and 20 minutes throughout the season, the Rangers other defenceman averaged under 13 minutes per game.

With Corrado assumed to be sixth at best on the depth chart, he might end up with minimal minutes in his first professional season, which would be far from ideal. But there’s reason to believe that Tortorella won’t be deploying the defence in the same way he did with the Rangers and, if Corrado makes the opening night roster, he may be in for a lot more ice time than expected.

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Young Stars Three Stars: Canucks prospects vs Flames prospects, September 6, 2013

If you’re eager for the return of our regular I Watched This Game feature, you’ll have to wait a little longer. Since the game itself isn’t really the point of the Young Stars tournament, we’re instead looking at the games with a three stars format looking at individual performances and who stood out the most. We’ll be looking at the three best players from among the Canucks prospects as well as making a few other observations.

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Spitballin’ on Alberts re-signing, snarky Whitecaps, and prospects scoring beautiful goals

Spitballin’ (or Super Pass It To Bulis: All In, if you love adventurous acronymizing) is a feature that allows us to touch on a multitude of things really fast, because in the world of hockey, there are always lots of things to find and colour. Here are a few quick topics.

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