— What’s the over-under on the number of times Vancouver Canucks defenceman Kyle Burroughs (5 NHL games played) says “holy sh–” when Connor McDavid flies by the bench, and/or hopefully not past Burroughs if he’s caught out there during Wednesday night’s season opener. I’ve been watching hockey since the 1970’s and not much surprises me, yet I still find myself saying it even if I’m just watching McDavid on TV.
Either way it’s a pretty cool situation for Burroughs, playing for his hometown club, in his sixth NHL appearance. With the Colorado Avalanche last season he played against the Minnesota Wild twice, the Anaheim Ducks twice, and once against the San Jose Sharks. Signed as a free agent to a two year, two-way contract on July 28th, Burroughs has quietly and productively gone about his business at training camp, willing his way on to the season opening roster. The 26-year-old right-shot D-man, listed at 6-feet, 195 pounds, has played in 324 American Hockey League games.
By the way, in his partner Jack Rathbone’s eight NHL games played, Rathbone has already faced the Edmonton Oilers three times. In the last match-up back on May 15th, Rathbone had five shots-on-goal in just under 16-minutes of ice time. The 22-year-old is expected to see time on the Canucks 2nd power play unit tonight.
— Alex Chiasson is another impressive story from training camp that we’ve shared and updated a few times along the way. The big forward, 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, is bragged about for his net-front presence, particularly on the power play. He has now been successful with all three of his Professional Try-Out (PTO) bids. In 2017 he earned a roster spot with the Washington Capitals and went on to help win a Stanley Cup. In the fall of 2018 he went on to make the Edmonton Oilers, playing three seasons with the club while spending time with the aforementioned McDavid on the power play.
“I think that group gave me the opportunity to have some of my best years in my career, super grateful for that,” Chiasson said Wednesday morning in Edmonton. “I’m a little bit older now and more experienced, this is one team (Canucks) that I’ve looked at for a long time and it’s an awesome group of guys. I think we have a solid foundation to have success, and obviously first game in Edmonton with a different group is pretty special.”
— The player Chiasson essentially beat out at camp was Zack MacEwen who had previously tallied a total of nine points in fifty-five games for the Vancouver Canucks. The team waived the 6-foot-3, 205 pound winger on Tuesday and he was claimed off waivers by the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday morning. Late last week the Canucks had 2017 2nd-round pick Jonah Gadjovich plucked off waivers by the San Jose Sharks just as he was about to take the ice in Abbotsford for AHL practice. It’s the simple reality that comes with adding and juggling depth on one’s playing roster.
— In preparation for tonight’s opener, we spoke to Canucks Head Coach Travis Green on Tuesday and he described a team’s opening day like a holiday.
“It’s like Christmas,” he said. It’s true, for hockey folks the first day of a new season brings fresh opportunity and excitement, particularly this one. After two abridged seasons playing in front of empty buildings, the energy will be at a different level for the first time in a long time. That said, the preparation coaching protocols remain the same.
“Obviously it’s a challenge every time you play against this team,” Green said. “Arguably two of the top three or four guys in the world (McDavid and Leon Draisaitl) … sometimes you set your group, your line-up, a little bit differently against a team like this. You’ve gotta be ready, your team game has to be sharp if you want to beat this team.”
Early season games are often a bit sloppy and high scoring as players and teams find their footing and grasp their systems in real time. I expect much of the same this October.
Green confirmed Thatcher Demko as the starting netminder and also confirmed the line-up below, reported from the morning skate by Canucks broadcaster Brendan Batchelor on twitter.
Tanner Pearson, Bo Horvat, Conor Garland
JT Miller, Elias Pettersson, Alex Chiasson
Matthew Highmore, Jason Dickinson, Nils Höglander
Juho Lammikko, Justin Dowling, Vitaly Podkolzin
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Tyler Myers
Quinn Hughes, Tucker Poolman
Brad Hunt, Luke Schenn
Jack Rathbone, Kyle Burroughs
Extra forwards: Nic Petan and (injured) Brock Boeser
Extra D: Brad Hunt, Luke Schenn
Back-up G: Jaroslav Halak