For a team that suffered through Covid more than any other in the NHL, the Vancouver Canucks hope they’ve seen the last of it. Justin Bailey rekindled the lingering memories of the club’s hellacious spring as he showed up ten days late for training camp because of two positive tests. Post quarantine, post mild symptoms, he dressed for the BC boys Thursday night in Edmonton after addressing the media upon his official return on Wednesday.
“I thought I had kind of a little allergy thing, a little stuffed up,” Bailey said. “I remember I was skating with a junior team and I remember kind of doing a tough skate at the end of practice and feeling a bit more tired than usual, but other than that, I felt fine.”
That was the great news, minimal symptoms. The tough news; showing up with less than a week left in the preseason and trying to make the team over a handful of hungry, versatile, veteran forwards.
“I play with a lot of speed, obviously I have a lot of size, and I want to make sure I’m hard on the forecheck, hard on the backcheck and making my presence known, shift in and shift out,” Bailey stated.
Obviously overshadowed by the arrival and participation of the two young stars, Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes, Bailey handled himself rather well in his 11:24 of ice time, with 2 shots on goal, one hit, and two takeaways. He was noticeable on a couple of backchecks as well, on one occasion hustling back to break up what would have been an A-1 scoring chance for Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl.
Bailey played on the left side with Jason Dickinson at centre and Will Lockwood on the right.
“I thought that line had a strong game tonight,” Canucks Head Coach Travis Green said after the 3-2 loss to the Oilers. “Bailey and Lockwood can both skate.”
Last season Bailey made it into the Canucks NHL line-up for three games before injuring his shoulder on February 11th against the Calgary Flames. He was hit from behind by Flames beast Milan Lucic.
“Of all the guys, that’s probably the last guy I want a hit from behind from,” Bailey smiled. “It was one of those situations where I thought I was playing well, it had been awhile since I had played and I was really starting to catch my stride. It was one of those bang-bang plays, obviously he’s a heavy player who finishes his checks and just one of those situations where my arm was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
He’d miss the rest of the campaign and have surgery.
Previously he had just two games of experience with Vancouver in the ‘big show’ the season before, along with 53 at the American League level in Utica. Prior to that Bailey played 52 NHL games for the Buffalo Sabres over three seasons and then eleven more for the Philadelphia Flyers. The 26-year-old native of Buffalo, New York, who joined the Vancouver Canucks organization in July of 2019, is ready for some good luck, rather than more of the same.
“A lot of that stuff is out of my control now, I’m just looking forward to getting a couple of games in and showing what I can do,” Bailey said.
He’s on a one-year, two-way contract that he signed on July 28th. Barring some bizarre occurrences, he’ll begin the season playing for the Abbotsford Canucks, but this is a player you’ll likely see in the Vancouver Canucks line-up at some point in 2021-’22.