The Canucks have made their final cuts and there were some surprises. Both 18 year old first round draft picks, Hunter Shinkaruk and Bo Horvat, will start the season in the NHL this year. Meanwhile, Frank Corrado has been assigned to the Utica Comets of the AHL and Brendan Gaunce is on his way back to junior in Belleville.
As expected after Zack Kassian’s 5 game suspension, Hunter Shinkaruk will start with the Canucks. Shinkaruk didn’t look too out of place during the preseason and had 2 goals and 1 assist in six preseason games. When Zack Kassian returns, Shinkaruk will no longer be a top 9 forward and is likely destined to return to junior. I think it’s debatable that he’s a top 9 forward even without Kassian.
Assuming full health, the Canucks are likely to dress these forward lines to start the season:
More surprising than Shinkaruk was Bo Horvat making the team. Even though Horvat was drafted higher than Shinkaruk, he didn’t impress as much. He wasn’t given prime ice time like Shinkaruk, playing mostly with the likes of Dale Weise and Tom Sestito. Those are the types of guys that Horvat will likely start the season with too, on the Canucks fourth line. Playing an 18 year old on the fourth line all season would be lunacy and I have to believe that he will be headed back to junior in a couple of weeks.
Horvat and Shinkaruk can play 9 games in the NHL before the first year of their entry level contract gets burned. Unless the Canucks think that either 18 year old is going to be a 20 goal scorer this year, it would be wise to send both back to junior before game #10. Having an 18 year old at a cap hit of $1.7 million (Horvat) or $1.1 million (Shinkaruk) playing a minor role is not cap friendly. If the Canucks can resist the temptation to rush Horvat and Shinkaruk into the lineup this year, they will get the benefit of having them at age 21 on entry level deals while playing a more important role on the team.
Brendan Gaunce’s demotion to junior came as no surprise, he simply isn’t quick or strong enough to play at the NHL level yet.
Most surprising of all to me was the demotion of Frank Corrado. I believed that Corrado had outplayed his competition (Andrew Alberts and Yannick Weber) for the #6 defenceman spot. I thought Corrado showed great poise and was excellent in both ends of the rink. Corrado, unlike Horvat, Shinkaruk and Gaunce, is eligible to play in the AHL, so perhaps the team wanted him to get more minutes early on. It’s the same thing the Canucks did with Chris Tanev in 2011-12, calling him up late in the season. Corrado will probably be a full-time NHLer by January. It’s probably a wise move, which makes me think the team will eventually use a similar thought process with Shinkaruk and Horvat.