Training Camp Storylines 4

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1. Jakub Vrana will have shoulder surgery

The Detroit Red Wings got dealt a significant blow on Thursday when coach Jeff Blashill revealed that Vrana needs shoulder surgery. The 25-year-old forward is expected to be sidelined for at least four months. Vrana was outstanding last season with Detroit after he was acquired from the Washington Capitals in the Anthony Mantha trade. He accounted for eight goals, 11 points and 32 shots on target in 11 games. Vrana was electric and he was going to occupy key roles in the team’s offense this season.

The Red Wings will need other players to step up until Vrana can return to action. Bobby Ryan, who is attending training camp on a professional tryout, could be an option. Talented prospects Lucas Raymond and Joe Veleno will be in the running for those spots as well. Filip Zadina is another player who may get a chance to move up the depth chart. Still, Vrana’s absence will be a big hole to fill for the Red Wings

It could also hurt the draft stock of Dylan Larkin, who was looking like an undervalued gem going into the 2021-22 season for fantasy managers. Tyler Bertuzzi’s decision not to get the COVID vaccine complicates Detroit’s offensive outlook further because of the games that he will miss.

2. Canucks closing in on contracts with Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson

According to multiple reports, Vancouver made significant progress in contract talks with key restricted free agents Hughes and Pettersson on Thursday. Hughes is poised to receive a six-year agreement, while Petersson will reportedly get a three-year deal. Contracts for both players could be announced as early as Friday.

That would leave Ottawa’s Brady Tkachuk as the lone remaining big RFA to be signed.

3. Jonathan Toews returns to action in the preseason

Toews was in the lineup for Wednesday’s exhibition match against Detroit in his first game action since Aug. 18, 2020. That was Game 5 of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against Vegas. Toews missed the entire 2020-21 season because of chronic immune response syndrome. He had one assist and three shots in Wednesday’s 4-3 shootout loss, while logging 22:48 of ice time.

Chicago hasn’t guaranteed that Toews will be in the lineup when the regular season begins, but the hope is that will be available to play at that time. The Blackhawks and their team captain will be patient if the situation calls for it, but Wednesday’s contest was an encouraging first step. Toews also appears to be a good value play in fantasy pools on Yahoo based on his average draft position (average pick 164.8).

4. Jonathan Drouin gets back in the lineup

Drouin sat out the final nine games of the regular season and all 22 playoff games last campaign after taking a leave of absence for personal reasons. He stated that he needed to take some time off because of anxiety and insomnia issues.

Drouin was back on the ice for training camp, working on a line with Josh Anderson and newcomer Christian Dvorak. The trio was together for Monday’s preseason match against Toronto and Drouin picked up a pair of power-play assists in a 5-2 victory. They are likely to be Montreal’s second line going into the regular season, which could make Drouin worthy of some fantasy attention. However, that will probably have to come as a potential waiver wire addition.

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5. More camp line combinations

A week ago, I went over some intriguing lines that were popping up across training camps. Just remember that nothing is set in stone yet and regular-season combinations won’t begin to take shape until final rosters are closer to being finalized.

San Jose - William Eklund - Tomas Hertl - Rudolfs Balcers

New Jersey - Yegor Sharangovich - Jack Hughes - Alexander Holtz

Pittsburgh - Jake Guentzel - Jeff Carter - Bryan Rust

Seattle - Ryan Donato - Morgan Geekie - Joonas Donskoi

Ottawa - Tim Stutzle - Chris Tierney - Connor Brown

Vegas - Peyton Krebs - Nolan Patrick - Evgenii Dadonov

Los Angeles - Alex Iafallo - Phillip Danault - Adrian Kempe

Anaheim - Sonny Milano - Ryan Getzlaf - Troy Terry

Detroit - Robby Fabbri - Pius Suter - Lucas Raymond

Boston - Jake DeBrusk - Erik Haula - Nick Foligno

6. Michael Bunting makes his case with a hat trick

Bunting joined the Toronto Maple Leafs on a two-year contract in the summer after he scored 13 points, including 10 goals, in 21 games with the Arizona Coyotes last season. He said during training camp that the chance to play with caliber players like John Tavares helped lead him to the decision to sign with the Leafs. Bunting has skated alongside Tavares at camp and he is part of the competition for a coveted spot in Toronto’s talented top-six forward group.

He has made a very good impression with four goals through two preseason appearances. Bunting posted a natural hat trick in Wednesday’s 4-0 win over Ottawa, with all three goals coming on Toronto power plays. The 26-year-old left winger would gain plenty of sleeper potential if he lands a spot with Tavares and William Nylander to begin the 2021-22 campaign. Bunting should also be a good source of shots and hits.

7. Washington prospects looking for spots down the middle

Nicklas Backstrom has been rehabbing his ailing hip during training camp, so he hasn’t been on the ice yet. The process was described as “ongoing” by the team and he was listed as week-to-week. Backstrom’s availability for the start of the regular season is uncertain. However, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he was on the sidelines to start the year.

If that ends up being the case then the Capitals will need to fill the void and the organization has a couple of talented prospects who have been excellent during training camp. Hendrix Lapierre, who was the 22nd overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, and Connor McMichael, who was the 25th overall selection in 2019, could be potential fill-ins down the middle.

Lapierre has four assists in two preseason games and he has been turning heads. He has been skating alongside T.J. Oshie and he has impressed coach Peter Laviolette. McMichael has been quiet offensively, but he has played well too and gained some valuable experience last year in the AHL.

8. Semyon Varlamov injury concern?

Varlamov has been rehabbing a nagging injury during training camp. He hasn’t been skating because of what the Islanders have referred to as “soreness.” Varlamov mentioned at the end of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs that he intended to care of an issue he was dealing with before the start of the postseason. It is unclear if this is related to that problem, but if it is then it has lingered for a while.

Either way, Varlamov’s injury is a bit of a concern with the regular season drawing closer. Coach Barry Trotz said the problem is not something major and he isn’t overly concerned about the goaltender’s availability for the start of the year. However, that decision hasn’t been made yet.

Thankfully for the Islanders, the team has Ilya Sorokin as the next goaltender up and he is more than capable of shouldering the load in the crease if Varlamov isn’t ready to go on opening night.