VICTORIA — The Vancouver Canucks opened training camp for the 2019-2020 season in Victoria over the weekend, giving team staff their first opportunity to get a glance at the players looking to crack this year’s main roster.
Unlike years passed, this year’s training camp has had a much different feeling. The Canucks entered camp boasting what could be the most depth they’ve had in years, as the team’s front office addressed several long-seeded concerns over the summer.
Despite heading into camp without one of their star players in Brock Boeser, the Canucks took the ice at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre this passed weekend looking bigger, faster, and more skilled, while optimism in the dressing room continues to grow.
Notable off-season additions on forward include Michael Ferland, a tough and skilled left-winger whose averaged over fifteen goals the last three seasons, and former Lightning J.T. Miller.
Both players add a dimension of grit to the Canucks forward group, and will help greatly with puck retrieval — something the team has struggled with for the better part of three seasons.
On the blueline the Canucks added 6’8 defenceman Tyler Myers as well as Saanich-native Jordie Benn. Myers and Benn will both supply a degree of sandpaper, with Myers being the more offensively inclined of the two.
In addition, both players will also help address a key problem for the Canucks in recent years — a lack of organizational depth on defence.
It’s not just the off-season additions however, as a good number of the Canucks’ younger talent are beginning to come of age. Bo Horvat and Jake Virtanen both look like they’re ready to take a major step forward offensively this year, while last year’s Calder Trophy winner Elias Pettersson is already poised for another explosive season.
On defence, Troy Stecher has been one of the team’s most noticeable players at training camp so far, looking stronger than ever and making excellent reads with the puck on offence and defence.
Quinn Hughes, the Canucks’ seventh overall draft pick from 2018, has also had a very strong showing at this year’s training camp. Though it’s not currently known what the immediate future holds for Hughes, the former Michigan Wolverine has displayed a high-end level of skating and puck moving, and has looked right at home playing on a defence pairing with veteran blueliner Chris Tanev.
One player that has been flying under the radar through the first few days of camp however has been veteran forward Brandon Sutter, who returns to the Canucks after an injury riddled 2018-2019 campaign.
Sutter was forced to miss the final two months of last season after sustaining an abdominal injury, which led him to require surgery in the off-season. Over the course of the season the 30-year-old also sustained an injury to his shoulder, and also underwent sports hernia surgery.
Needless to say, Sutter has battled through a lot over the last twelve months.
At training camp on Saturday the veteran centre skated as part of ‘Group 2′ during the day’s scrimmage portion, scoring once on a perfectly place wrist shot, while skating well in all zones and looking healthy as ever.
Sutter confirmed his clean bill of health following the day’s sessions.
“My body feels a lot better than it did last year for sure,” said the former Red Deer Rebel. “So far i’m feeling healthy so that’s all I can worry about for now.”
Sutter also said he’s been given new exercise routines for pre-game workouts, which include activities that are meant to reduce tension on his core and lower body.
Sutter is entering his fifth season with the Vancouver Canucks, and the second-to-last year of the five year contract he signed back in 2015. Over his first four seasons with the club, the native of Suffolk County has seen injuries restrict him to just 188 of a possible 328 games played.
Despite being sidelined for large stretches during his time in Vancouver, Sutter has been extremely effective as a two-way forward whenever he has been in the lineup.
A perennial 50% plus face-off man, Sutter has seen three of his best seasons in the circle be with the Canucks. In addition, whenever the centreman has been able to stay healthy, he’s been good for an average of 30-40 points a season while in a defensive capacity and matched up against the other team’s top forwards.
He’s also a second-generation member of one of hockey’s most famous families — The Sutters — a family that has a decorated hockey history and knows the game on a genetic level.
With a number of new faces at Canucks training camp Sutter then spoke about who has impressed him so far.
“I think Tyler Myers has been looking pretty big back there,” said Sutter. “I’ve played against him a lot, he’s a big, rangey guy.”
He added that Myers ability to move the puck up ice will also help the team generate more offence this season.
As a player that’s seen a lot of change in the Canucks’ dressing room over the last four years, the 30-year-old Sutter then spoke about his level of optimism ahead of this season.
“A lot of excitement and optimism in the group,” said Sutter. “First couple of years we knew we were going through a bit of a transition, I think our mindset is a little different now than it’s been in the past.”
He also notes that as one of the team’s few veterans, part of his efforts at training camp involve helping the younger players find their legs in a stressful and competitive environment.
The Canucks have hosted their annual training camps at a variety of different locations over the last few seasons, including Penticton, Kelowna, and even China.
However — for Brandon Sutter there’s a local connection on the Island.
“I actually have a cousin who works as a firefighter out here,” said Sutter. “It’s the perfect spot for training camp. The hotel, the restaurants, the rink, the setup is unbelievable.”
The Canucks will host the Calgary Flames tonight to officially open their pre-season, and will be then return to Vancouver to continue preparations for the 2019-2020 campaign.