Vancouver Canucks Head Coach Travis Green said it as recently as yesterday (Wednesday) about the club’s 2nd-round draft pick in 2017, Jonah Gadjovich, who by the time the coach was speaking had been placed on waivers and sent to the Abbotsford Canucks AHL training camp.
“He worked hard on his skating, I think he’s still gotta continue to work on that,” Green said.
“The last four or five years I’ve been spending a lot of time working on that,” Gadjovich said postgame back on September 27th in Abbotsford after a 4-2 win over the Calgary Flames, in which he had an assist and two shots on goal. “It’s not something that’s going to change overnight, but I’ve stuck with it. The Canucks have given me a lot of resources. I spent a lot of time this summer with (Skating Coach) MacKenzie Braid, doing a lot of skating in Toronto, working on my stride, just working on my quickness and I think it’s come a long way. It’s something I’m going to continue to work on and continue to get better at.”
Just not with the Vancouver Canucks.
“He’s a great kid, had a decent camp, but every decision is not easy,” added Green.
The decision seems particularly difficult now, with Gadjovich getting plucked off waivers Thursday by the San Jose Sharks. Essentially from practice in Abbotsford to the airport. On a crowded and talented forward roster, full of special teams players of which Gadjovich is not, the 22-year-old, left shot seemed somewhat expendable when it came right down to it. And it did.
“I’m just gonna show up every day, do what I have to do,” Gadjovich said last week. “I don’t want to go down to the AHL, my goal coming into camp is to stick up here and I’m going to do whatever it takes to stay, and it’s up to them (management) after that.”
Reaching that goal might come easier with the Sharks. One of the three re-building California teams, they’ll be anxious to see what the 6-foot-2, 205 pounder can do on the wing. He had 15 goals and 18 points in 19 AHL games last season. That’s the part of it that stings for Vancouver … the potential.
“I think another thing that I’ve improved on is my wall work, I think I’m pretty strong in battles and I think I won a lot of puck battles tonight,” Gadjovich added last week. “Made a lot of nice passes out front, sometimes they go in, sometimes they don’t, but yeah, I think I can be a bit of an under-rated playmaker I guess.”
Gadjovich also had the Canucks lone goal in just under ten minutes of ice time in their 4-1 loss in Calgary on October 1st. That was his 2nd and final preseason game appearance.
Depending on where a roster’s strengths and weaknesses sit, this is something that happens around the league year in and year out. Teams have to make tough calls about a lot of players, including some that might be considered prospects, or in this case, development prospects. As the forward line-up got thicker, and it’ll get thicker still as veterans return or new ones stick, the Vancouver Canucks were forced to make one of those “never easy” decisions.
27-year-old Phil Di Giuseppe has arrived on the scene on the left side, and brings penalty killing to the equation. Personal preference also factors in sometimes. Green has a close relationship with another left shot forward Nic Petan, who he coached in Portland of the Western Hockey League, a player that brings more of an energetic water-bug approach and size to the game, similar to a Conor Garland on the opposite side of the ice. Petan’s energy in camp has been dynamic.
In San Jose, Gadjovich might ultimately be competing for a spot with 34-year-old Andrew Cogliano, another player who has an advantage because of a career spent on the penalty kill. 24-year-old Latvian Rudolfs Balcers is another bottom-six lefty for the Sharks.
Before the Vancouver Canucks game in Edmonton Thursday evening, Travis Green said he knew there was a risk the team could lose Gadjovich, a player he felt the Canucks would utilize at some point this season.
“But on the other hand, you’re always happy for people when good things happen to them,” Green said, “and he’s going to get a good chance to play there and I’m happy for him because he’s a good kid and you want the best for your players.”
— In a bit of irony, or maybe it’s just a coincidence, Mackenzie Braid was officially added and announced Tuesday as Abbotsford’s skating coach, a job he held previously in Utica. He’s the son of highly respected skating instructor Dawn Braid who has trained some of the best players in the game.