After an ugly 10-0 loss to the Calgary Flames in their first game of the preseason, the Vancouver Canucks made the first cuts to their roster.
Only, those cuts didn't include anyone who actually played in that game.
Instead, the first cuts from the Canucks training camp roster are the usual suspects: the prospects who were guaranteed to be spending this season in junior hockey. The Canucks reassigned five players to their junior teams in the CHL: Kirill Kudryavtsev, Sawyer Mynio, Hunter Brzustewicz, Ty Young, and Vilmer Alriksson.
None of those five prospects will get to play a preseason games this year but at least two of them are not leaving empty-handed: Mynio and Young were both signed to three-year, entry-level contracts. Those contracts will slide for at least a year while Mynio and Young are in junior hockey and won't kick in until they graduate to the professional game.
As always, PITB is here to break down every cut, even if the early cuts are pretty obvious. For all five of these prospects, getting them back to their junior teams as their regular seasons begin will be key to them getting off to a strong start.
Kudryavtsev had a strong showing at the Young Stars Classic despite not hitting the scoresheet. His vision in the offensive zone was exemplary and he set up several grade-A scoring chances with backdoor feeds after activating down the wall from the point.
The 19-year-old defenceman was a seventh-round pick in 2022 but is looking like a much stronger prospect than his draft position would suggest. He had 50 points in 67 games in the OHL last season, which was tied for 12th in scoring among OHL defencemen. He ought to be one of the best defencemen in the OHL this season.
It was a pretty quiet camp and Young Stars Classic for Mynio, but that's not necessarily a bad thing for someone whose signature is his defensive game. Mynio also showed some playmaking chops, suggesting there might be more offence to his game than his paltry point totals last season would suggest.
Mynio had 31 points in 68 games last season, then 4 points in 19 playoff games. He'll be looking to make some major improvements on those numbers and he may very well do so. He's got the tools to produce more offence, with a hard slapshot and decent vision: he just needs to take a step in his skating and puckhandling.
The entry-level contract for Mynio was a bit of a surprise. Third-round picks don't often get signed so soon after getting drafted and the Canucks could have taken a wait-and-see approach to make sure he progressed in his development this season. It's a sign of how much this management team likes Mynio.
It would have been nice to see a bit more from Brzustewicz at the Young Stars Classic. He's got the ability to jump up in the play and produce points but was held off the scoresheet in Penticton.
The prospect tournament also illustrated some of the weak areas of his game that need improvement, as he got beaten several times in the defensive zone. Taking a step forward this season in his puck battles and keeping his feet moving while defending the rush will be key to his development.
Brzustewicz was a high-scoring defenceman in the OHL last season with 57 points in 68 games and could be competing with Kudryavtsev to be on of the top point producers in the OHL this season.
Young had a decent showing at the Young Stars Classic and he has all the attributes that goaltending coach Ian Clark loves to see: ideal size at 6'3", strong athleticism, and a competitive nature.
Even with that in mind, it was somewhat surprising to see Young get an entry-level contract, as his numbers in the WHL are severely underwhelming, with an .889 save percentage in 34 games last season, then an .873 save percentage in 8 playoff games. That said, those numbers came for a Prince George Cougars team that didn't give him a lot of defensive help.
As for why they didn't wait to see how Young performed this season, one potential reason is that signing him now allows his entry-level contract to slide one year. If he was signed in the new year, his contract wouldn't slide, as he will turn 20 next year, making his contract ineligible to slide.
There are small cap benefits to signing entry-level contracts that slide. A player's signing bonus is paid immediately upon signing the contract. When the contract slides, those signing bonuses no longer count toward the player's remaining camp hit. That gives the player a lower cap hit on their entry-level contract, which can be beneficial if that player makes the NHL during that contract.
Is Young likely to make the NHL in the next four years? That's always tough to tell for goaltenders but the Canucks clearly believe in Young.
Before heading to training camp this year, Vilmer Alriksson thought he would be heading back to Sweden this season. Instead, Alriksson was selected by the Guelph Storm of the OHL in the CHL Import Draft and he committed to playing in Canada.
It's an interesting step for Alriksson in his development path, as he said that he wants to learn to use his size more effectively. Transitioning to the smaller rinks in North America could be exactly what he needs to better leverage his 6'6" stature as opposed to the larger rinks in Sweden, where he might be tempted to play more on the perimeter with his skill.
Alriksson is one of the most intriguing prospects in the Canucks system, as he's utterly unique in his combination of size, speed, and skill. Refining those raw tools into a gem of a hockey player will be a major goal for the Canucks' development team.