Even with Milos Roman's return and Alex Kannok Leipert's expected return, Vancouver looks like it will be under the standard 20-man game-day lineup
The Vancouver Giants will be running lean to open their Western Hockey League season.
Centre Milos Roman (Calgary Flames) was reassigned to the Giants from National Hockey League training camp duty on Tuesday, and Giants general manager Barclay Parneta believes his club will have defenceman Alex Kannok Leipert (Washington Capitals) back in time for the season opener on the road Friday against the Prince George Cougars.
A Kannok Leipert return would give the Vancouver roster 18 healthy skaters, and that includes four 20 year olds. The Giants have a fifth overage in goaltender David Tendeck, and Vancouver can only dress three 20 year olds of any sort in any one game.
Vancouver has until Oct. 10 to finalize its three overage spots.
The Giants’ manpower trouble also stems from the fact wingers Cole Shepard (hip), Sergei Alkhimov (hip) and Krz Plummer (upper body) are all currently sidelined. Parneta said Tuesday that one of the trio might might be ready to play this weekend, although he played coy on exactly which one.
Either way, because of the injuries and the extra 20 year olds, Vancouver is in jeopardy of being under the standard 18-skater, two-goalie game-day lineup for the opening weekend.
The Cougars also host the Giants on Saturday. Vancouver’s home opener is Sept. 27, when the Portland Winterhawks visit the Langley Events Centre.
Shepard, who is rehabbing from hip surgery this summer, has been cleared for contact and was a full practice participant with the Giants on Monday for the first time. Shepard, 17, signed on with Vancouver over the summer. He was the Giants’ second-round pick in the 2017 bantam draft. He had been committed to Harvard University and spent last season in the B.C. Hockey League with the Penticton Vees.
Alkhimov, 18, who came to the Giants this summer from the Regina Pats in a swap for overage forward Dawson Holt, and Plummer, 17, who was Vancouver’s third-round choice in the 2017 bantam draft, were not skating on Monday.
Meanwhile, incumbent netminders Tendeck (Arizona Coyotes) and Trent Miner (Colorado Avalanche) were reassigned to the Giants on Monday from NHL camps.
Vancouver has been running with Braedy Euerby, 17, and Drew Sim, 16, in goal. Vancouver will keep three goalies to start the season due to Tendeck and the overage situation.
Defenceman Bowen Byram, 18, is age eligible to come back to the Giants but he’s trying to stick with the Avalanche, who used the fourth overall pick overall on him in June’s NHL Entry Draft at Rogers Arena.
Parneta said he expects Byram to get NHL regular season games at the very least. Colorado opens its regular season Oct. 3, hosting Calgary.
Byram can play nine regular season games with the Avalanche before the first year of his NHL entry-level contract kicks in. Colorado’s ninth game is Oct. 21, on the road against the St. Louis Blues. Colorado could extend Byram’s stay by healthy scratching him, though.
Colorado can also still send Byram back to Vancouver past the nine-game threshold. Giants fans might remember that happening when the Tampa Bay Lightning reassigned centre James Wright to Vancouver after 48 games in the 2009-10 season.
Vancouver Giants at Prince George Cougars
7 p.m., CN Centre, Radio: SNET 650 AM
Byram’s too young to play minor pro, so he’s back with the Giants if he doesn’t stick with the Avalanche.
The Giants beat the Cougars 5-3 in a pre-season game on Sept. 7 at the LEC. Vancouver finished the exhibition season 4-2-0-0, while the Cougars were 0-4-1-0.
Vancouver and Prince George play nine times this regular season.
Vancouver was 8-1-0-0 against Prince George last season. Byram had three goals and seven assists in nine games, while winger Justin Sourdif had four goals and two assists in seven games.
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