Big ques­tions for Cana­dian teams

St. Thomas Times-Journal - - SPORTS - MICHAEL TRAIKOS

With train­ing camps open­ing around the league on Thurs­day, here are seven burn­ing ques­tions fac­ing the seven Cana­dian teams:

CAL­GARY — Will Mike Smith find his foot­ing?

No one is an­tic­i­pat­ing that Smith will have to bat­tle Ed­die Lack for the No. 1 goal­tend­ing job. Then again, no one ex­pected Brian El­liott would tem­po­rar­ily lose the net to Chad John­son at this time last sea­son. If any­thing, the Flames will be look­ing for Smith, who was ac­quired in a trade from Ari­zona, to pro­vide as­sur­ances that he can re­bound from a tough sea­son last year and be the starter Cal­gary needs him to be. If he can’t, Lack might be more just the backup.

EDMONTON — Who will be Con­nor McDavid’s winger?

Play­ing on a line with McDavid turned Pat Ma­roon into a 27-goal scorer (he pre­vi­ously never had more than 12) and pro­pelled Leon Drai­saitl into the top-10 in scor­ing with 77 points. But with Drai­saitl get­ting a chance to cen­tre his own line, last year’s Art Ross Tro­phy win­ner is look­ing for a new run­ning mate. Will it be Ryan Strome, who was ac­quired by the Oil­ers in a trade with the Is­lan­ders? Fourthover­all pick Jesse Pulju­jarvi? Or can some­one, such as Jussi Joki­nen or Drake Cag­giula, win the most cov­eted spot in hockey.

MON­TREAL — Can Jonathan Drouin play cen­tre?

When the Cana­di­ens traded their top de­fen­sive prospect to the Light­ning for Drouin, it heaped more pres­sure on a Quebec-born for­ward who was fi­nally start­ing to find his game. That pres­sure was likely am­pli­fied in the last few days when head coach Claude Julien and gen­eral man­ager Marc Bergevin made it clear that Drouin — and not Alex Galchenyuk — would open train­ing camp at cen­tre. For­get that Drouin is only 22 and still de­vel­op­ing. He’s now be­ing asked to play a po­si­tion he hasn’t played since ju­nior. And he has to do it in Mon­treal? Zut alors!

OT­TAWA — Can Thomas Chabot fill in for Erik Karls­son?

Chabot is not the next Erik Karls­son. He isn’t even his body dou­ble. But with Karls­son ex­pected to miss some time while re­cov­er­ing from off-sea­son surgery, the rookie de­fence­man will get a chance to show whether he be­longs in the Se­na­tors’ top-4. It’s a lot to ask of a 20-year-old who has played just one game in the NHL. But af­ter win­ning the MVP at both the world ju­nior cham­pi­onships and in the Quebec ju­nior league play­offs, ex­pec­ta­tions are sky-high for the early Calder Tro­phy can­di­date.

TORONTO — How will the for­ward pieces fit to­gether?

When the Maple Leafs ac­quired Pa­trick Mar­leau as a free agent, it gave the team a proven 25-30 goalscorer. But it also gave them yet an­other winger. We as­sume that Mar­leau, Wil­liam Ny­lan­der, Mitch Marner, James van Riems­dyk and Con­nor Brown are locked in as top9 for­wards, but we don’t know who’s play­ing with whom and whether Zach Hy­man or Leo Ko­marov will be rel­e­gated to the fourth line. And with so many for­wards on the team, will mi­nor lea­guers Kasperi Ka­pa­nen and Josh Leivo be able to push some­one like Matt Martin out of a job?

VANCOUVER — Will Jake Vir­ta­nen ben­e­fit from Travis Green?

Last sea­son was a dif­fi­cult — some would call it rock bottom — year for Vir­ta­nen, the for­mer first-round for­ward. Af­ter fail­ing to score a goal in the NHL, he was de­moted back to the AHL, where he strug­gled even more, scor­ing nine goals and 19 points in 65 games. The pos­i­tive? He played for Green, who be­came a fan of the 21-year-old’s re­silience, and who now hap­pens to be the head coach of the Canucks. That could help. But first, Vir­ta­nen must show he be­longs in the NHL.

WIN­NIPEG — Will Win­nipeg in­ject more youth?

Ja­cob Trouba is not sit­ting out, Tyler My­ers is healthy and head coach Paul Mau­rice and GM Kevin Chevel­day­off re­cently signed ex­ten­sions. About the only ques­tion now is whether one or more of Kyle Con­nor, Jack Roslovic and Bren­dan Lemieux can win jobs at Jets train­ing camp. Of the three prospects, Con­nor seem­ingly has the best chance af­ter mak­ing the team out of camp last year and ap­pear­ing in 20 games. But that doesn’t mean Roslovic or Lemieux won’t steal a job from a vet­eran like Matt Hen­dricks.


Will young Toronto Maple Leafs for­wards like Kasperi Ka­pa­nen, seen here af­ter scor­ing in over­time to beat the Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals in game 2 of the Leafs’ first round play­off se­ries, push older for­wards like Matt Martin out of a job? Can Thomas Chabot fill in for Erik Karls­son? Th­ese are some of the ques­tions fac­ing Cana­dian NHL teams as train­ing camps open.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.