While asking the question of when will Vancouver Canucks prospect Olli Juolevi play his first NHL game, Ben Kuzma of The Province writes that his chances of making this year’s squad has already been hampered when he suffered a lower-back injury during offseason training. The 20-year–old fifth-overall pick in 2016 had a minimally invasive disk procedure to relieve pressure on his spinal nerve column, which was expected to sideline him for eight to 10 weeks.
Kuzma writes that defenseman Alexander Edler suffered a similar injury back in the 2010-11 season and needed a full 10 weeks to recover. Juolevi likely won’t begin full-intensive training until the end of August, therefore, and will only get about three weeks to get in shape for training camp. With his chances of making the team already a question mark before 2018 first-rounder Quinn Hughes announced he would return to the University of Michigan, what are his chances now?
“He’s on schedule,” said Canucks’ general manager Jim Benning. “He has been working out and will be ready for training camp. We expect him to come to put his best foot forward. We’ll see where he is at and go from there.”
- Eric Stephens of The Athletic (subscription required) writes that with the signing of Ondrej Kase to three-year, $7.8MM deal, the Anaheim Ducks may have quite the logjam at the forward position this year as the team likely will have to find a more prominent role for Kase, which could be challenging. The team has a logjam at the right wing position as many believe that veteran Patrick Eaves could likely join Ryan Getzlaf on the team’s top line next year. The second line will be either manned by Jakob Silfverberg or Corey Perry, which could force Kase to move to the fourth line. That’s not likely to happen. So what can they do for Kase? Move him to the left side? Stephens writes that might work for temporary situations such as injuries that come up, but is hardly a permanent solution for the 22-year-old who is just starting to enter his prime. Stephens adds that a more likely possibility, especially if Ryan Kesler is not ready for the regular season, would be to move Silfverberg off the right side to accommodate Kase.
- Kent Wilson of The Athletic (subscription required) writes that the Calgary Flames may have redesigned their team, but they are taking a big gamble in the net with 36-year-old Mike Smith. The veteran had an amazing first-half of the season before suffering an injury and never looked the same. While the hope is that Smith is fully recovered and should return to form for this season, Wilson writes that he’s entering the “danger age” for goaltenders who have historically fallen off a cliff at 36. If the team can’t get a big year from Smith, the team only has David Rittich and Jon Gillies as insurance, which could crush the team’s hopes for a playoff berth in a very deep Pacific Division.
- Jamie Umbach of NHL.com takes a look at the Edmonton Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom, who regressed last season after a breakout season in the 2016-17 season in which he tallied 12 goals and 38 points. However, a shoulder injury sustained in the Western Conference Finals hovered over him all of last year to the point that he five goals and 21 points in 66 games before he opted to have season-ending surgery to repair his shoulder. Klefbom has been given a clean bill of health this offseason is ready to return for a big season next year. “It feels good going home knowing the shoulder is 100 percent so I don’t have to go through this again with medications and injections,” Klefbom said.