The Vancouver Canucks’ first set of cuts was a big one, sending 16 players packing from their roster. Their second round of cuts was definitely smaller, with just two players removed from the roster, but it was also a big cut because of who those players are: Jonah Gadjovich and Danila Klimovich.
The wingers were two of the bigger players at Canucks camp in terms of size but they’re also big names in another sense. Klimovich was the team’s top pick from their most recent draft and Gadjovich had a realistic shot at making the roster.
Let’s break down these two cuts and why they’re so significant.
Wrong role at the wrong time for Gadjovich
Jonah Gadjovich took a massive step last season, tearing up the AHL — or the portion of the AHL that the Utica Comets played in — with 15 goals in just 19 games. That performance earned him a call-up to the Canucks, where he played less than five minutes before a fighting major and 10-minute misconduct for instigating essentially ended his night.
There seemed to be a path to Gadjovich making the Canucks out of this year’s camp, particularly with bottom-six forwards like Tyler Motte and Brandon Sutter out of the lineup. He had a strong training camp and made an impression in the preseason with a gorgeous setup to Chase Wouters for a goal.
There’s just one major problem: Gadjovich’s path to making the Canucks would have been on the fourth line and what the Canucks really need from their fourth line is someone who can play on the penalty kill.
That’s not Gadjovich.
“In Owen Sound, I penalty killed but I haven't done that in the American League yet, in pro hockey,” said Gadjovich after his second preseason game. “If I get the opportunity to do that, that's something that I'm going to try to work into my game.”
Head coach Travis Green confirmed that Gadjovich’s lack of penalty killing experience “for sure” was a factor behind him getting cut at this point in the preseason and also spoke to what he’ll need to do in Abbotsford to get another shot in the NHL.
“Just play well,” said Green. “I thought he worked hard on his skating last summer, I think he's still got to continue to work on that — you could say that about a bunch of guys. He's a great kid, I think he had a decent camp. Every decision's not, it's not easy.”
While Gadjovich did look noticeably faster on the ice, it’s clearly still his biggest trouble area and one of which he’s well aware.
“The past four or five years I've spent a lot of time working on that and it's not something that's gonna change overnight, but I stuck with it,” said Gadjovich about his skating during camp. “I think it's come a long way, and it's something that I'm going to continue to work on and continue to get better at.”
Another thing Gadjovich said during camp was, “I don’t want to go down to the AHL this year.” There’s still a chance he won’t. The big winger is on waivers, which means he could potentially get claimed by another NHL team.
The odds of that happening are not great, partly because of the time of year. This is when NHL teams are trying to get down to a 23-man roster. Very rarely do they have a spot open on their roster for a player on waivers. Better players than Gadjovich regularly get through waivers at this time.
If Gadjovich clears waivers, he’ll report to Abbotsford, where he’ll just be a short drive away if he does enough to earn a call-up.
Where will Klimovich play?
Speaking of Abbotsford, the most intriguing aspect of Danila Klimovich getting cut is that he’s heading there.
Klimovich was selected 41st overall in the second round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft and the general consensus of scouts and industry experts is that he has a lot of great tools but is also very raw and unrefined.
Coming from Belarus, Klimovich has options for where he’ll play this season. Unlike players coming from Major Junior, Klimovich can play in the AHL despite being only 18. The other option is to join the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in the QMJHL, which was the original plan heading into training camp.
“I think the plan’s gonna be for him to go to Rouyn’s camp and then come to our training camp and we’ll see where he’s at,” said Benning. “It’d probably be best right now playing in the Q.”
Klimovich’s performance in camp, however, turned some heads and had some wondering if the AHL might be a better spot. There, the Canucks could take a closer hand in his development and potentially get him into the NHL more quickly if he’s ready.
“Possibly,” said Green when asked if Klimovich could play in Abbotsford. “We'll see how it goes down there for him but for a young kid, I thought he had a pretty good camp. I like his size, his skill level. For a big guy, he skates pretty well.
“It's not always that you see a younger kid like that go down to the AHL but just out of what I've seen so far, I think he has a chance to play there this year and hopefully that fast-tracks him.”
While it certainly wouldn’t be bad for Klimovich to adapt to playing in Canada in the QMJHL but it would be tremendously exciting to see him in a Canucks jersey in Abbotsford.