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Canucks Have Great Top-Line Flexibility with Pettersson, Miller & Boeser

The Vancouver Canucks just finished Day 2 of training camp. What stories are emerging? Who’s playing well and might make the team?

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During the 2019-20 season, Vancouver Canucks’ head coach Travis Greene changed his philosophy about line matchups. Because Bo Horvat was such a strong defensive forward, Green had been relying on the Canucks’ captain in the matchup role. However, during the playoffs, he began to play head-to-head, one-versus-one with the Elias Pettersson line. That move offered the Canucks’ forward lines more flexibility in the deployment of the top two lines.

Related: Canucks’ Pettersson to Canucks’ Hughes: Get Ready to Be Roughed Up

In a Sportsnet video aired today, Satiar Shah and Dan Murphy spoke about the big storylines at the end of Day 2 of Canucks training camp, including the flexibility in the top six. The duo noted that the Canucks’ best two-way player was Elias Pettersson the team’s second-best two-way player was J.T. Miller. So, as they noted, it made sense to use those guys against the other team’s best players if you have them on two lines and moved back and forth.

The Bo Horvat Line and Brock Boeser as a Defensive Forward

The addition of the Horvat line also gives the team more options when the Canucks face really strong teams. In today’s NHL, teams want to utilize their best players in every situation they can. The Canucks are also improving in this area because, last season, another positive was that Brock Boeser became a better defensive player. So, he’s also becoming a two-way factor as well.  

Nils Hoglander and Bo Horvat and Loui Eriksson in Training Camp

Out of the early days of the training camp, when Green skated Nils Hoglander alongside Horvat that turned into a Jake Virtanen story. What happens now to Virtanen is the question. However, the move also has implications for Loui Eriksson.

Nils Hoglander, Vancouver Canucks

Two reasons Eriksson stayed on the roster last season out of training camp is that he played well enough and Green knew he would be able to provide some strength on the penalty-kill. But during this training camp, Eriksson doesn’t look that great. If he can find his game, he also can become a two-way option for the team. Even if he doesn’t score, he could provide some speed, some penalty-killing ability, and some intangibles – the little things that NHL experience can bring.

However, it changes the team’s outlook if Eriksson can no longer be counted on to be an option on the team other than as a 13th forward. If he doesn’t have a better camp, there’s a chance Eriksson might be sent to the Utica Comets.

Discussing Day 2 Training Camp Events

In the video below, Satiar Shah and Dan Murphy talk about the big storylines at Day 2 of Canucks camp, including the flexibility of the Canucks’ top-six forwards.

Possible Extra Defensemen, Jalen Chatfield and Jack Rathbone

Fans can assume the organization will carry extra defensemen; and, if they do, that means some young guys are in line to win spots. Who would have the best chance to land those spots? One obvious candidate is Jalen Chatfield. Chatfield, in a depth role, provides a baseline of safe play that I think Travis Greene and Canucks’ assistant coach Nolan Baumgartner appreciate.

Jack Rathbone, Canucks young defenseman

However, fans should also keep an eye on 21-year-old former Harvard Crimson defenseman Jack Rathbone. Rathbone is already impressing the coaches at the training camp. In the video, Rathbone is compared to Ben Hutton’s experience during the 2015 Canucks’ training camp.

At that camp, young defenseman Hutton had just completed his time at the University of Maine. No one was expecting him to make the team, but he played so well in camp and was so much better than the other options that the team had no choice but to start him when the 2015-16 regular season began. Hutton went on to play four seasons with the team before moving to the Los Angeles Kings.

Related: Building the Canucks Core: Boeser, Pettersson, Hughes & Hoglander

There’s a chance that, if Rathbone continues his strong play at camp, he’ll have a chance to play his way onto the roster. But those questions will be answered during the next few days of the Canucks’ training camp.

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