Meaningful hockey is no longer just around the corner: it's straight ahead, visible on the horizon.
Heck, nearly-meaningful hockey starts tonight, as the Canucks kick off the pre-season against the Sharks in North Saanich, BC as part of Kraft Hockeyville, which is, unless I'm mistaken, brought to you by Kraft.
We have no idea who will be playing for the Canucks and Sharks in this game, because both team's bloated rosters currently bear a striking resemblance to Mr. Creosote. We do know, however, three players who won't be in the lineup for the Canucks, as they have been purged from the pre-season roster: Tate Olson, Carl Neill, and Kyle Pettit.
As always, PITB is here to explain each cut. For the first few rounds of cuts, the explanations are not particularly complicated: these three players are not ready for the NHL. Not even close.
Fortunately, all three are still young and were not expected to make the NHL this season. In fact, it might even be considered surprising that they were brought along to the Canucks' main training camp at all. The only other teenagers remaining on the roster are Jared McCann and Jake Virtanen, both of whom have an outside shot of starting the season with the Canucks.
All of the other teenagers were sent back to their respective teams after the Young Stars Tournament concluded, but Olson, Neill, and Pettit were brought up to Prince George to take part in the Canucks' main camp. It's unclear why they were kept around -- none of the three were particularly noticeable during the Young Stars Tournament -- but it could be as simple as wanting to give these players some specific advice for the coming season.
Pettit is the oldest of the three, having turned 19 in January, and was one of Jim Benning's more baffling selections towards the end of his first draft with the Canucks. The defensive centre has size at 6'4", but hasn't shown the offensive upside in Junior that would indicate he has the skills to make it to the NHL.
Pettit heads back to the Erie Otters, where he may need to show some offensive improvement in a hurry, as the Otters will be losing at least one of their top two scorers last season, both centres. Connor McDavid will obviously be on the Edmonton Oilers' opening night roster, but Dylan Strome might make the Arizona Coyotes as well. That would bump Pettit up the depth chart and force him to chip in a few points.
As for Neill and Olson, both are 6'3" project defencemen with some positive attributes and a few glaring weaknesses, which is to be expected from late round selections. Both were picked in the 2015 draft, though Neill was in his second year of eligibility and just turned 19. He clearly has skill and is a decent skater, but he sometimes makes questionable decisions with the puck and has poor gap control. The Canucks hope that experience will correct some of those issues as he heads back to the Sherbrooke Phoenix in the QMJHL.
Olson, likewise, has skills and skating on his side, but questions have been raised regarding his hockey sense. That said, he's still very young and will hope to take a step forward with the Prince George Cougars after 24 points in 68 games last season. If either Neill or Olson can develop the mental side of their game, they could be useful players for the Canucks in the future.