High School Is A Different Experience When Your Weekend Job Is Bare-Knuckle Brawling On Ice

Thanks to movies like Goon and Slapshot, even the non-hockey-watching portion of America is well aware of the existence of “enforcers,” those hockey players whose sole job it is to fight other enforcers, on ice, and hand out hockey justice to protect their teammates.

Doing a job like this as an adult is extreme enough, but enforcers don’t come out of nowhere. First, they’ve got to work their way up through the ranks of junior hockey, a system they can start in as young as 15 years old. In other words, for a select group of teenagers, their weekend job entails traveling around Canada and northern USA and fighting a bunch of other massive teenagers in front of thousands of screaming fans. On skates. Over and over and over again—in the ‘90s and 2000s, designated hockey fighters were expected to tussle dozens of times per season.

That was how Myles Stoesz spent his formative years–as a junior hockey enforcer.

 

The Interviewee:

Myles Stoesz, former WHL, ECHL, and AHL enforcer, who also attended multiple NHL training camps.

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In his four-season WHL career, Myles fought more than 80 times, according to hockeyfights.com.

 

It’s The Kind Of Life One Just Falls Into

Most junior hockey enforcers had to be superstars in minor hockey just to get a shot at making a team. However, once they’re in training camp, players quickly carve out roles for themselves—and a select few find themselves in the role of the “designated fighter.” Few grow up hoping to become an enforcer.

Says Stoesz, “So fighting, going into your first junior hockey camp, everyone talks about fighting. ‘It’s gonna happen, be careful, watch out for the 20-year-olds.’…My first camp. I was 15 years old and I fought a 17-year-old…can’t remember his name…I just played hard and somehow we got into a fight in front of the bench and I did really well, I beat him up. And I remember, after fighting, I tried leaning on the bench and standing, and I was shaking so much from the adrenaline.

“I could describe it, I guess, as the high drug addicts get from crack or something like that. I’ve been chasing that high ever since. I’m still chasing that high. The closest I’ve got is going sky-diving.”

There’s rarely a moment where a player chooses the path; they’re often just responding to the positive reactions they get from coaches and teammates for fighting.

As Stoesz explains, “I went to Spokane camp after, and I just played hard. I hit guys in every practice every shift. Every game was a tryout for the next one. I practiced like I played. Some guys in training camp, they took exception to it, and I wouldn’t back down. So I ended up fighting a lot, and I did pretty well.”

Players can play a handful of games as a 15-year-old, and start fulltime in the WHL at 16, playing against players as old as 20.

Stoesz continues, “[I] Came back at 16 …there was a 15-year-old, Mike Reich, he got ran by one of their 20-year-old guys. He had a cage on and I came flying in and started a line brawl. I found out a few years later that I was actually supposed to go home after this tournament…and because of that, because I stuck up for a teammate who was a 15-year-old against a 20-year-old as a 16-year-old, they kept me.”

 

It Can Be Hard To Make Friends When Your Job Is To Prove How Tough You Are

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Myles expressed having a tough time making friends with his teammates early on in his career, as his continued employment as a WHL enforcer relied on him continually proving his own toughness.

“[At first] I wasn’t really well-liked on my team. I had a few close friends. I was a young rookie who didn’t take crap from anybody. I fought 13 times in my first year in practice alone. So I essentially worked my way from the 17-year-olds to the toughest 20-year-old, and did well against em all, and then once I did that, I kinda got the respect of my teammates. By that point I probably already had ten fights in my regular season, sticking up for teammates, so they started to be like, ‘Alright, this guy’s not here to be a dick. He works hard, he sticks up for us.’

“… But I just practiced my ass off, and I hit just as hard, if not harder, in practice than I did in a game. And guys hated that. Coaches loved it. So that was a big learning curve for me.”

 

Being An Enforcer Makes For A Uniquely High-Pressure High-School Situation, With Fear And Pain An Everyday Part Of Life

High school can be tough for most kids. High school students deal with an inordinate amount of fear and anxiety—and most of those students don’t have to regularly fight other teenagers on skates!

Stoesz, on facing fear, says, “You get more used to it. As a 16, 17-year old you still get the nerves before the games. You know who the tough guys are on the other team coming at you, whether they’re the same age as you or 20-years-old. The big thing as a 16 or 17-year-old is you think age. Oh, they’re 20, they’re gonna be tough, they’re gonna annihilate you. So the nerves before the game—because, really, you think you’re tough, but you don’t really know, you haven’t been tested.

“…but then you get to 18 or 19 and you got a lot of fights under your belt, then you start to feel confident. Then you just play the game and if it happens it happens.”

Aside from fear and anxiety, pain is an everyday factor for a teenage hockey enforcer. A designated fighter can expect to fight dozens of times per season. Myles Stoesz averaged 20 fights per year during his WHL career:

On dealing with the pain, Stoesz says, “It’s interesting. I tried not to think about it too too much. The hardest part is actually the day after you fight. If you get into a scrap and get punched in the head, you might have a black eye or feel a little wonky. Then you’re trying to focus. Nowadays you’d probably classify that as a mild concussion; back then it was just a little bit of a ‘bell rung.’”

Junior hockey players don’t get much to help them manage the pain, either.

“Basically just Advil and ice. In high school and junior they’re pretty strict with handing out any prescription pills, pain pills, and all that stuff, so you’d take an Advil and you’d go ice it. And hope for the best. There were days, you know, my hand looked like there was a softball on the end of it. Usually around the 20th fight of the year, almost every fight after that your hand swells up like a balloon, depending on what you hit, and it sucks. But you just keep going.”

All of that fear, anxiety, and pressure is combined with a busy hockey schedule…and then junior hockey players are on top if it all also expected to attend high school classes.

According to Stoesz, that can take a toll. “That was tough, the day after, you could be in Tri-City or Portland on a Wednesday, and then fight, and then be in class on Thursday morning after being up until 3 in the morning. So that’s tough. I don’t know how I did it, you’re essentially just running on adrenaline.”

On focus, said Stoesz, “Me personally, I was more…’high school is high school,’ I tried not to think too much about it. Unless I was trying to pick up girls or your typical high school boy kind of thing. Then when I went to the hockey rink it was a hockey focus. So I didn’t worry too much about it until later when I’m driving to the rink and I’m like, ‘Ah, shit, I’ve got to fight [Aaron] Boogaard.’”

 

It Makes For A Strange Dynamic With Coaches, Who Must Encourage You To Fight Other Teenagers Without Directly Telling You To Do It (For The Most Part)

Most teenagers can rely on some sort of adult authority figure to guide them through life, and for junior hockey players that adult is their coach. However, for junior hockey enforcers, this can make for an interesting dynamic—their authority figure needs to encourage them to engage in a dangerous activity regularly. Most coaches avoid directly instructing teenagers to fight, and find other ways to encourage the behavior that they’re looking for.

As Myles explains, “I just fell into it. My first year, nobody really told me how… You kind of knew, I guess, without them telling you. You’re good at this, so this is why you’re here.”

Stoesz continues, “My first year, nobody really told me to fight. My coach was Al Conroy and Jamie Huscroft, my first year, and Al was really good, he would never tell me to fight. Jamie would kind of give me ‘the look,’ like ‘hey, you’re up.’ And he’d give ya a little wink, like now was a good time.

“Essentially, they don’t want to see a guy laying on the ice with seizures or anything like that, but if you can make a guy’s nose bleed, or whatever, I’m sure they’re pretty happy inside about that.”

Not every coach avoids instructing teens to fight, however, as Stoesz notes, “My…third year, [name redacted by request] was my coach and…me and him didn’t see eye to eye. It was, whatever, I don’t think he ever liked me for whatever reason. He was the only coach who actually told me I had to fight. I remember one time, he asked me why I didn’t fight Frazer McLaren. And Frazer McLaren… So I grew up playing against Frazer and training with him in the summers. We were buddies. At the time, there was just something about fighting friends, I just couldn’t do it. And I remember, I actually got benched in a game against Kootenay, and [the coach] pretty much told me, ‘Hey, you gotta learn to fight your friends, otherwise you’re not going anywhere.’

“At the time, it was a shock. I was just like, ‘What are you talking about?’ And it was good, looking back…you eventually are gonna have to fight your friends. And you’ve just gotta get used to it. It was a good realization. But he was one of the only ones who tapped me on the shoulder to say ‘Go fight this guy,’ or whatever. I felt more like his pawn, I guess. He would use me just as a fighter, essentially, and it sucked.”

 

There’s No Instruction Manual To Becoming A Good Hockey Enforcer, Just A List Of Responsibilities (It’s Not As Simple As ‘Goon’ Made It Look)

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The role of a hockey enforcer is ever-evolving, and there’s no convenient instruction manual for would-be fighters to follow. It is up to them to figure out when to fight, when not to fight, and how to handle the pressure of the job.

Stoesz elaborates that, “They definitely never communicated it, but it was just, I wasn’t going home and I was staying there, and I was doing what I was doing…Nobody ever told me ‘You’re going to be the designated fighter,’ but once you’re a teammate of mine or a friend of mine kind-of-thing, I will take a bullet for you. Especially on the ice.”

Many enforcers, including Stoesz, detest the term “Goon,” despite it being the name of a hit film about hockey fighting, because it belies the respect most enforcers have for the game and its “code.”

“I would say enforcer is fine. I hate the ‘goon’ thing. I guess there are some goons out there, but I always tried to be respectful and not take cheapshots on goalscorers. For the most part I went with players who wanted to fight me. I wouldn’t go after their number one player or star…unless he wanted to, and then I wouldn’t say no.

“It’s trial and error, right? So yeah, nobody really told me, like, this is who you are. There’s no right and wrong answer, you could fight when you’re up 3-0 and totally destroy the guy, and it’s the nail in the coffin for their team. Flip-side, if you lose, the other team has the momentum back and could potentially come back and win the game, or score a couple goals.”

 

In Many Ways, Hockey Fighting Is An Excellent Outlet For A Teenage Boy To Have

Many teenagers have issues with anger and frustration, and Stoesz admits that hockey enforcing actually provided him with an excellent outlet for these issues, saying, “I describe it to my co-workers now as if it’s the best job in the world because, in your office life, if you disagree with somebody, you can’t beat them up and then go spend five minutes in a penalty box and get back to work. You’re gonna get fired or assault charges and all that, so. If you just disagreed with someone, you’d just go fight them. It’s quite simple.”

 

Hockey Fighters Aren’t Super Well-Informed Of The Risks

Public knowledge about the dangers of head injuries has come leaps and bounds in recent years, but athletes aren’t always informed of the risks. Myles Stoesz was no different.

Asked if he received adequate warning of the risks, Stoesz replies, “No, not at all. Not at all. I wouldn’t go change anything I did, again, but I, knowing now what I know, I would think twice about getting my kids into something like that. That kinda role, right? I wouldn’t necessarily want them doing that.

“So my test, when I was playing in my career, was if I could tell you what day it was, what the score was, who we were playing, what city we were in, all that stuff, then I wasn’t too bad. Just had my ‘bell rung.’ ‘Just a bell rung.’ That was my excuse.

“So I think I was maybe diagnosed with three, maybe four, concussions tops, but I guarantee you I had upwards of a dozen or more if you were actually using today’s standards.”

 

Upon Leaving Junior Hockey, Enforcers Must Quickly Decide Between Academic Pursuits Or Slowly Climbing The Ranks Of Professional Hockey Fighters, As Their Scholarship Opportunities Disappear Fast

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The WHL touts its education packages for players, but there are some stipulations that force players to make life-altering decisions before they are ready to give up their dream of pro hockey.

As Stoesz explains, “I feel like everybody’s pushed to go pro…everybody talks about going pro, and thinking about going to the Coast [ECHL] or the American League….

“I wish there was something after to give the guys, after like three years. Like let them play out their first NHL contract and to try and make it if they want to make it, and then have that education option. I would have taken it then, if it had been available.

“… You have a year to play professionally, and then it’s gone. So that’s something that the WHL preaches so much, that there’s an education package for every player. What they don’t mention is that it’s gone after playing a little professionally. And every kid’s dream is to play pro, though not many make it.”

 

Once The Career Is Over, Adjusting Can Be A Struggle

As much as hockey fighting can provide an excellent outlet for teens, the adjustment to regular life once their careers are over can be difficult, as Stoesz explains, “At the time, I don’t think I really knew what it was, but yeah, looking back, I think I did. Even now, I’m so high-strung…you’re running on an…adrenaline rush all the time. Even now, ya know, it’s tough. I look back and, little things will just make me snap now and I just wanna punch something…and that was my outlet, back then. Little things like that, I could go fight somebody if I wanted to release some aggression. Whereas now, I struggle some days to keep it together. And I think it definitely relates to fighting.

“Because you’re so wound tight, all the time for ten years essentially, I was wound tight, and now I try to keep up with my actions. It’s like, ‘okay…’ And that’s why now, a lot of the fighters, you see the stories about how they’re struggling…you’re so wound up and you don’t have that outlet anymore. I just recently started training for a triathlon, and it’s been helping a lot. Just going out and running or biking or whatever, just some kind of outlet and a goal to be training toward.”

He’s referring to a recent spate of ex-hockey enforcers dying unexpectedly due to consequences from their career of getting punched in the head, including Wade Belak and beloved former Canuck Rick Rypien.

Myles is luckier than most, as he retired from hockey without any debilitating injuries, and with a healthy perspective on it all, but as he says, “I don’t miss the…I dunno, it’s hard, I guess I do. Parts of me miss the fighting stuff. Like I said, I’m still trying to chase that adrenaline rush, and there’s no rush like fighting in front of ten thousand fans, where they’re screaming for the other guy to rip your head off or screaming for you to rip the other guy’s head off. That is, absolutely, as cool as it comes. So part of me does miss that, but I also wouldn’t necessarily want to do that over, or do it again.

“I have two girls now, three and almost five, and a boy on the way in August. I’ll definitely talk about it. I’m proud of what I did. I don’t regret it, like I said. I’m not afraid to talk about it and show them. I’ve already shown them most of my fights a few times…they’re scrappy little girls, too.”

Whatever one thinks about the role of fighting in hockey, one can certainly respect how dedicated a player like Myles Stoesz was to defending his teammates and honoring the traditions of the game. He took on a difficult job at a very young age, and he came out of it with a unique perspective and a career full of memories. Whether or not one thinks fighting needs to be removed from hockey, most would have to agree that the sport needs more people like Myles in it, not less.

Some of his fights:

 

In an NHL jersey:

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Vancouver Canucks RFAs and UFAs: Should I Stay or Be Let Go Now?

 With the end of June rapidly approaching and the Stanley Cup now residing in, of all places, Washington, the offseason has begun and it is time for the Vancouver Canucks to make decisions on all of their impending free agents. This list will take a look at those free agents, their potential future roles with the team, and whether it’s best to retain their services or release them to sign with another organization.

 

Restricted Free Agents—these players must receive a Qualifying Offer (100-110% of their current contract value for another year), or else be released into Unrestricted Free Agency. Players can accept this offer, or negotiate an entirely different contract with the team.

Sven Baertschi-

Baertschi had a difficult season, but he still put up more than 0.5 PPG over 53 games, further cementing himself as a top-six forward. Even if he’s not in the Canucks’ long-term plans, such players always hold value around the league, so there’s absolutely no reason not to lock Baertschi up, assuming his demands are reasonable.

KEEP and SIGN LONG-TERM

 

Troy Stecher-

Stecher had a pretty good sophomore season, and he looks to be a long-term top-4 option for the Canucks. With the potentially-traded Chris Tanev and the questionable Erik Gudbranson the only right-side defenders competing with him on the roster, Stecher should be looking to land a lengthy contract. The Canucks should give it to him, and they can probably keep the value down thanks to a slow start last season.

KEEP and SIGN LONG-TERM

 

Jake Virtanen-

This could be an important contract for the Canucks. Virtanen seems like he’s on the verge of breaking out, but he doesn’t have the numbers to back up any serious contract demands quite yet. If the Canucks can sign him to a multi-year contract at a low rate, it could end up being a real bargain. At the very least, Virtanen has shown that he can contribute in the bottom-6, so there’s little risk to such a contract.

KEEP and SIGN LONG-TERM

 

Markus Granlund-

This was a trying year for Granlund, who only put up 12 points in 53 games, but his strong season in 2016/17 suggests he may bounce back. If he does, he’ll make a solid trade chip for the Canucks in a year or two, and there is little reason to throw away such an asset. However, committing to Granlund long-term would probably be a mistake.

KEEP

 

Derrick Pouliot-

Pouliot didn’t light the world on fire as a Canuck, but he did show some offensive potential—something that is sorely lacking on the Vancouver blueline. He’s likely to be very willing to re-sign with a Travis Green-coached team, but probably won’t earn a contract any longer than two years.

KEEP

 

Reid Boucher-

Boucher didn’t look good in any of his NHL auditions this season, and the Utica Comets have a number of incoming winger prospects, including Jonathan Dahlen, Kole Lind, and Jonah Gadjovich, that will need playing time. The Canucks can afford to cut ties with Boucher.

LET GO

 

Michael Chaput-

With all those wingers heading to Utica, a veteran center is a necessity, and Chaput has done a decent job in that role in recent seasons. The Canucks should explore a few other options on the free agent market, but there’s nothing wrong with doing that and also retaining Chaput. Center depth is never a bad thing.

KEEP

 

Cole Cassels-

Cassels finally showed some pro hockey potential when he was pressed into top-line duties for the injury-and-callup-riddled Utica Comets. His numbers still aren’t all that impressive, but there’s once again reason to believe he could be an NHL fourth-line center, and that’s enough to justify another contract.

KEEP

 

Griffen Molino-

After playing a few games with the Canucks last year, Molino was a real letdown in Utica. With only 10 points in 46 AHL games, there are plenty of better players out there for Vancouver to stock their farm system with.

LET GO

 

Anton Cederholm-

Cedarholm was pointless in 12 AHL games this year, but he had a decent season at the ECHL level with Kalamazoo. Cederholm might earn himself a contract with the Wings or Comets, but there’s zero reason to think the Canucks will re-sign him at this point.

LET GO

 

Mackenze Stewart-

Most fans were mystified when Mackenze Stewart was signed by the Canucks, and he’s done nothing in his pro career to justify that strange decision. Stewart will be lucky to land an ECHL contract, never mind an NHL deal.

LET GO

 

Unrestricted Free Agents—as of July 1st, these players can sign with any organization they choose, as the “Unrestricted” title suggests.

Jussi Jokinen-

Jokinen had a surprising resurgence after being acquired by Vancouver as a cap dump, and it likely earned him one last NHL contract. However, it will likely be with another organization. With several young forwards vying for more ice-time, Jokinen would just be taking up space.

LET GO

 

Nic Dowd-

Center depth is always valuable, and Dowd is certainly a depth center. However, there should be some options on the free agent market that offer more offensive potential than Dowd does, and the Canucks should probably pursue one of those options. Dowd is likely Europe-bound.

LET GO

 

Darren Archibald-

Archibald’s effort level seemed to wane as his NHL audition wore on, but that could be chalked up to a difficult adjustment to the big leagues. He’s still one of the best hitters in pro hockey, and a valuable veteran on the farm, so there’s no reason not to retain his services, unless he is seeking an opportunity elsewhere. Whether in Utica or banging and crashing on the fourth-line, Archibald is a useful guy to have around.

KEEP

 

Richard Bachman-

Michael DiPietro isn’t eligible for pro hockey until 2019/20, so the Canucks will need some goaltending depth on the farm. If Bachman is willing to stay, that’s great, but he is reportedly heading to Europe. Vancouver will likely need to look for a similar replacement.

KEEP (if possible)

 

Patrick Wiercioch-

Wiercioch turned out to be a solid addition to the Utica blueline, and played important minutes for them all season. If he’s willing to return to a similar role, he’s definitely worth keeping around as an organization depth defender.

KEEP

 

Jayson Megna-

Megna has definitely wore out his welcome in the Canucks organization and its fanbase, and after a dismal and injury-plagued season with the Comets, now is the perfect time to officially cut ties.

LET GO

 

Joe LaBate-

LaBate may be a solid Fortnite streamer, but he’s not showing much growth as a professional hockey player. There are others who can play a similar physical role to LaBate’s while carrying more potential, and he should be let go to make room for them.

LET GO

Hockeytalkie’s Yearly Report: 2017/18 Edition

Who Had A Good Year?: 

Henrik and Daniel Sedin- The Sedin twins ended their career in Vancouver with a wonderful bounceback season, and with Daniel tying for the team scoring lead. It was a remarkable sendoff for the greatest players in franchise history, and it culminated with a game against Arizona that will go down as one of the most memorable ever. The Sedins left Vancouver fans wanting more, but they also couldn’t have asked for a more fitting final year. 

Brock Boeser- Expectations were high for Boeser coming into the season, and he still managed to blow them away. Aside from his (admittedly major) injury, nothing could slow down the Brockstar this year, and he has essentially already established himself as a 30-goal guy. Tied for the team lead in scoring in just 62 games.

Bo Horvat- On the whole, Horvat’s numbers stayed steady this season, with a slight uptick in points-per-game but also a significant injury. However, Horvat’s overall game grew extensively this year, including a notably improved defensive game and massive penalty-killing responsibilities. This is a player who is ready for the captaincy.

Alex Edler- Edler was the only player able to bring any sort of consistency to the blueline, given Tanev’s injuries, and he played an astonishing amount of minutes. Rather than buckling under the pressure, Edler put up his best season in years, and even brought back some of the physical presence that had been missing from his game recently. 

Jake Virtanen- Those simply watching stats would call this an “okay” year for Virtanen, but those who watched the games know better. Virtanen clearly established himself as an NHL talent this season, and also established himself as the best skater in the franchise. It seems obvious that Jake has only scratched the surface of his offensive potential.

Thomas Vanek- Few free agent signings from this summer exceeded expectations like Vanek did for the Canucks. Had he remained with Vancouver all year, Vanek would have had a legitimate shot at the team scoring lead, and he showed remarkable chemistry with a number of players. He’s currently also exceeding expectations for the Blue Jackets.

Derek Dorsett- In many ways, this was a very rough season for Dorsett, as his hockey-playing career was ended by a recurring injury. However, that should take nothing away from his performance on the ice, which would easily qualify as his best ever.

Troy Stecher- Stecher’s offensive numbers did not take a step forward this year as some expected, but his defensive game grew steadily and he largely avoided the sophomore slump that so often plagues NHLers. Although he had a few tough stretches, by the end of the season Stecher was one of Green’s most reliable options on defense.

Alex Biega- Once again, Biega played way more than he was expected to, and he earned himself a nice two-year contract by doing so. Biega is the kind of player that gets by on his determination and sheer willpower, and he sets a great example for the younger players in the organization. 

Brendan Leipsic- After a supremely hot start, Leipsic’s offensive contributions slowed down, but he still finished with nine points in 14 games with the Canucks. That’s a great return from a Philip Holm trade anyway you slice it and, at age 23, Leipsic still has time to establish himself as a top-six NHL player. He was also the player whose spin-o-rama magic set the stage for one of the most memorable moments in Canucks’ history, so he gets bonus points for that

Jussi Jokinen- With 10 points in 14 games after being acquired as a cap dump at the Trade Deadline, it’s hard to call Jokinen anything but a success. In fact, Jokinen’s time in Vancouver may have just extended his NHL career by an extra season.

 

Who Had A Solid Year?:

Jacob Markstrom- Markstrom’s numbers are hardly impressive and he didn’t exactly establish himself as a definitive starter this season, but he clearly outplayed Anders Nilsson and steadily improved as the year went on. At the very least, Markstrom has given the Canucks plenty of reason to keep him around as the Thatcher Demko era begins.

Chris Tanev- Tanev’s play was, as always, superb, but injuries affected his game even more than usual this year and his reputation as “injury-prone” is now more clearly established. It was tough to see Tanev’s effectiveness be so limited by factors outside of his control, and his play was obviously affected by injury even when he was in the lineup, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s still one of the best defensive defensemen in hockey. 

Brandon Sutter- Sutter has a lot of detractors in the Vancouver fanbase, but he had a fine season as a checking line center. Sutter played a big role in what proved to be a very solid penalty-killing unit, and his offensive contributions were adequate, if sporadic.

Nikolay Goldobin- Goldobin had, quite literally, an up-and-down season, but his excellent stretch run with the Canucks likely earned him a legitimate future with the organization. Look for Goldobin to be pencilled in to a scoring line next year.

Sam Gagner- Gagner’s numbers took a dip from his career highs in 2016/17, but most people expected that. He was a streaky scorer, but Gagner performed pretty much as expected. His role as a depth veteran becomes more important in the wake of the Sedin retirement.

Derrick Pouliot- Pouliot was a castoff from the Pittsburgh organization, but his performance in Vancouver has earned him at least another year of NHL opportunity. Pouliot was definitely inconsistent, but he showed enough offensive ability to keep him in the lineup ahead of Ben Hutton. 

Sven Baertschi- Baertschi didn’t take a step forward this season as some had predicted, but he remains a solid top-six performer and a valuable member of the team. Although injuries were an issue, Baertschi scored at about a 45-point pace. 

Darren Archibald- Archibald seemed to earn an NHL job during training camp, but it took him several months to actually land a contract. Once he was up with the big club, Archibald looked like a natural fit on the fourth line. His physical contributions were appreciated, and seemed to have a positive impact on the physical games of several other Canucks. Archibald’s offensive numbers were also better than expected. 

Michael Del Zotto- Del Zotto is another player with plenty of detractors, but he was the only Canuck defenseman to play all 82 games, and he performed fairly in regards to his contract. Del Zotto’s offensive numbers may not have been spectacular, but he was fifth in the NHL in hits. 

Erik Gudbranson- Gudbranson is probably the most controversial player on the Canucks’ roster, especially after his contract extension, but this was, injuries aside, a solid year for the big defender. Gudbranson will never be a big offensive contributor, but he was the team’s best defensive defender when Tanev was out.

Nic Dowd- Dowd came to the team at a time when injuries had ransacked any semblance of center depth, and he played adequate while eating some truly ridiculous minutes. After that, Dowd returned to relative obscurity, but he was there for the Canucks when they needed him.

Tyler Motte- Motte represented an underwhelming return for Vanek at the Trade Deadline, but he played moderately well for the Canucks for the rest of the season. Motte found a home on the team’s mostly successful penalty kill, and will offer Utica a nice offensive boost for the playoffs.

 

Who Had A Rough Year?: 

Ben Hutton- A season or two ago, Hutton looked like a potential piece of the future core. Now, he’s a likely castoff who played his way off the team and, potentially, out of the NHL. Travis Green was obviously not a fan of his, but Hutton has no one to blame but himself.

Loui Eriksson- This year may have been a slight improvement over last year for Eriksson, but it was still a mediocre season overall and another in which Eriksson drastically underplayed his own contract. Eriksson remains an anchor.

Anders Nilsson- Nilsson was supposed to compete with Markstrom for the starting job, but that simply didn’t happen. Nilsson had a few good games early in the year, but his play seemed to deteriorate from there, and now the Canucks are likely looking to trade him for any return.

Markus Granlund- Last year was a breakout year for Granlund, but this year couldn’t have gone worse. Granlund didn’t even come close to approaching last season’s offensive totals, and he had his season ended prematurely before he could mount any sort of bounceback.

Brendan Gaunce- This was an unfortunate season for Gaunce, even if he didn’t personally perform poorly. Gaunce’s underlying numbers were actually pretty solid early in the year, but he got injured at the wrong time and has been passed on the depth chart by younger talent. This may be the end for Gaunce and the NHL.

Reid Boucher- Boucher had a couple chances to establish himself with the Canucks this season, and he failed to perform each time. It’s hard to see a spot for Boucher on the team moving forward.

Alexander Burmistrov- Hands up if you remembered that Burmistrov played for the Canucks this season! That pretty much sums up his tenure in Vancouver—invisible and uneventful.

 

A Speculative 2018/19 Roster: 

Goldobin-Horvat-Boeser

Baertschi-Pettersson-Gagner

Eriksson-Sutter-Virtanen

Leipsic-Gaudette-Archibald

Motte-Granlund

 

Edler-Stecher

Juolevi-Tanev

Pouliot-Gudbranson

Del Zotto-Biega

 

Markstrom-Demko

  

Other Players In The Mix:

Forward- Brendan Gaunce, Reid Boucher, Jonathan Dahlen, Zack MacEwen, Cole Cassels, Lukas Jasek, Kole Lind

Defense- Ben Hutton, Ashton Sautner, Jalen Chatfield

 

2018/19 Standings Prediction:

About the same as this year. The team may briefly flirt with playoff contention, but the loss of the Sedin twins represents a massive loss in offensive depth and stability, which will hurt the team’s ability to survive the inevitable injuries. A ticket in the Jack Hughes sweepstakes seems entirely possible.

 

Trade Chips:

Chris Tanev- Tanev is the most valuable trade chip on the Canucks, untouchable players aside, and the offseason might represent peak value for him. Tanev had yet another injury-plagued year, so trading him at full health would be a smart move. However, the prospect of having Tanev mentor Olli Juolevi is also rather tempting. 

Alex Edler- The ball is firmly in Edler’s court when it comes to a trade. He’s been reluctant to waive his NTC in the past, but with the Sedins moving on, the time may finally be right. Edler had a great year, and he’d still return an excellent value from a contender. Perhaps a 2019 Trade Deadline deal is the most likely scenario.

Sven Baertschi- The plethora of skilled forwards knocking on the door in Vancouver has led to some speculation that Baertschi may be traded after a mediocre year. He would still garner a lot of interest around the league, but he may be most valuable to the offense-starved Canucks next season, and thus is unlikely to be moved.

Ben Hutton- It seems that the writing is on the wall for Hutton. Having been passed on the depth chart by several other defenders, and without much trust from Travis Green, it would be best for Hutton to get a fresh start elsewhere. Don’t expect much of a return.

Anders Nilsson- Nilsson was supposed to compete with Markstrom for the starting job, but right now he’s just standing in the way of Thatcher Demko. If the Canucks can find a taker for Nilsson, they should jump on it.

Michael Del Zotto- If any veteran defender is going to be moved to make room for Juolevi, it makes sense for it to be Del Zotto. He had an unspectacular year, plays the same side as Juolevi, and would likely still hold a bit of value in a trade.

 

Hockeytalkie’s Final 2018 Draft Top Ten Ranking:

(Ranked with consideration to the Canucks and their needs)

  • Rasmus Dahlin
  • Andrei Svechnikov
  • Filip Zadina
  • Adam Boqvist
  • Quinn Hughes
  • Brady Tkachuk
  • Oliver Wahlstrom
  • Noah Dobson
  • Evan Bouchard
  • Ty Smith

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of March 26-April 2

 Who Had a Good Week:

Brandon Sutter- Sutter put up four points in three games this week, played a bunch of shorthanded minutes, and caused an opponent (Ian Cole) to get fined $5000. That probably makes this the most productive week in Sutter’s career as a Canuck thus far!

Jussi Jokinen- Jokinen had a great personal game against Columbus, notching three points versus a club that had previously cast him off as a cap dump at the Trade Deadline. He added an assist against Edmonton for four points on the week, and one wonders if he’s playing well enough currently to earn him one more NHL contract next year.

 Nikolay Goldobin- Goldobin is doing everything he can to prove he belongs at the NHL level. His defensive lapses have been less common and far less noticeable, and he’s looking like a natural on a scoring line. He had a goal and an assist this week, but looked more dangerous than those numbers would suggest.

 Ashton Sautner- Sautner didn’t receive a ton of minutes this week, but he played some safe and efficient defense when he was out there. By the game against Columbus, Sautner was up to 15 minutes, and he may just have more of an NHL future than anyone gave him credit for.

 

Who Had a Rough Week:

Segment Retired For The Season—As Todd Bertuzzi always says, “It is what it is,” at this point, no need for negativity.

 

Roster Talk:

There are a number of players that could join the Utica Comets for their playoffs after the Canucks’ regular season is complete. Thatcher Demko will be returned shortly. Nikolay Goldobin, Reid Boucher, and Ashton Sautner are obvious choices, as they’ve all played the majority of their seasons for Utica. Tyler Motte was also “papered” to Utica at the Trade Deadline, so he’s a good bet.

Darren Archibald would have to clear waivers to go down at this point, so he’s unlikely. Jake Virtanen was never papered, so he can’t go. I’m unsure as to Adam Gaudette’s eligibility. I think he is technically eligible, having signed after the Deadline, but perhaps unlikely to join as Brock Boeser did not last year.

Kole Lind will also be joining Utica shortly, and Jonathan Dahlen remains a possibility. Michael DiPietro’s season just ended, but he has a reported injury and was unlikely to see any time with Utica in any case. It’s still technically possible that Olli Juolevi and Elias Pettersson could sign with Utica if their teams exit the playoffs early, but the World Hockey Championship is a better bet for those two.

 

Comets Report:

Now that the Comets have clinched a playoff spot, the challenge becomes avoiding the powerhouse Toronto Marlies in the first round. Utica took several steps toward that goal this week by putting up three straight wins, bringing them to within a point of passing Rochester for 3rd in the North Division.

The first game of the week was against said Americans, and although the Comets got the 3-2 win on the back of 31 Thatcher Demko saves, it was unfortunately an overtime victory, thus ceding Rochester a point. Michael Chaput scored twice, including the overtime winner, and assisted on Frankie Simonelli’s opening goal. Simonelli also added an assist, while Patrick Wiercioch had two.

Overtime would not be necessary on Friday, with the Richard Bachman-led Comets taking a 3-1 victory from Hersey back at home. Alexis D’Aoust scored twice, while Guillaume Brisebois notched two assists. Andrew Cherniwchan also had a goal, and Adam Comrie, Cole Cassels, and Wacey Hamilton all picked up single helpers.

Things got a little out of hand on Saturday with a 6-5 barnburner against Springfield, but Bachman and the Comets still walked away with a win. The enigmatic Lukas Jasek was signed to a PTO before the game and barely made it in time, arriving before his gear did. Despite the setback, Jasek scored the game-tying goal late in the third and added two assists in his AHL debut. Not wanting to be left out, Jalen Chatfield also scored his first professional goal, but the real heroics were reserved for captain Carter Bancks, who scored two goals, including the winner with 40 seconds remaining, and an assist. Simonelli and Michael Carcone also scored for the Comets, Wacey Hamilton had three assists, and Tanner MacMaster, Comrie, Chaput, Brisebois, and Cassels had singles.

 

The Week Ahead:

The final week of the 2017/18 Vancouver Canucks season is here:

Tuesday, April 3 at home against Vegas with a 7:00PM PST start.

Thursday, April 5 at home against Arizona with a 7:00PM PST start.

Saturday, April 7 at Edmonton with a 7:00PM PST start.

 

2018 Draft Eligible Prospect of the Week:

Jett Woo, D-

That’s right, I was saving the best (name) for last. Jett Woo, however, is more than just an action movie moniker. He’s a versatile WHL defenseman who plays a lot bigger than his 6’0”, 205 pound frame would suggest. In his second full season for the Moose Jaw Warriors, Woo has yet to break out offensively, with just 25 points in 44 games, but he’s a defensive rock described as an “old-school” presence on the blueline.

Like many defensemen in the 2018 Draft, Woo’s profile begins with his skating ability, which is described as “mobile” and “efficient” with great edgework. Although his point totals don’t reflect it, he is effective at rushing the puck, and is capable of managing an effective breakout.

Woo is a strong decision-maker who isn’t afraid to jump into the play when he senses an opportunity. That same instinct also allows him to step up and throw punishing checks whenever possible. Woo is the kind of defenseman who opponents always have to keep one eye open for, lest he pop out of nowhere and wreck their whole day.

And no, Jett Woo is of no relation to Mighty Ducks’ legend Kenny Wu, although their skating prowess is a notable similarity.

Here’s a great highlight video from Woo’s current WHL season:

 

Bits and Bobs:

-Many Canuck fans have tuned out at this point, and that’s understandable. However, this final week could be monumental for a couple of different reasons.

-Firstly, the Canucks’ odds in the upcoming 2018 Draft Lottery could be greatly impacted by the upcoming games, particularly the one against Arizona. Last place is almost guaranteed to go to Buffalo, but the Canucks are still in the “running” for second-last.

-More importantly, there have been recent hints that the Sedin twins could be retiring after the season. It’s still undetermined at this point, but if true, that would mean that Thursday’s game against Arizona would be the last home game in the twins’ career. I would hope that an announcement will come either way before the game occurs but, either way, fans might want to mark this one on their calendars.

-I’ll save any remarks on the Sedin legacy until the time they actually announce their retirements, whenever that might be. Suffice to say I’ll have plenty to say about the two best players in franchise history.

-I’ll be back next week with a special year-end wrap-up sort of deal. It will include Who Had A Good Season, Who Had A Bad Season, and a prospective roster for next year/possible offseason moves. Anything else anyone would like to see on there?

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of March 19-25

Who Had a Good Week: 

Henrik Sedin- The captain had gone cold for a while, but he managed to pick up some points this week with a goal and two assists in four games. The Sedins have finished the season strong enough that the question of whether they return next season or not is a difficult one.

Derrick Pouliot- Pouliot had two assists in four games this week, but his attempted defense of Brendan Leipsic against Andreas Martinsen probably did more for his overall reputation. Pouliot is auditioning for a continued role with the team next year, and this week was a step in the right direction. He had a particularly good game against Dallas.

Brandon Sutter- Two goals for Sutter this week was a nice bonus, but a more impressive accomplishment is the important role Sutter is playing on an excellent penalty kill. Sutter may not be living up to his contract, but he’s showing that he can still be a top-notch third line center and a mainstay on the penalty kill.

Tyler Motte- Motte scored his first goal as a Canuck, and was a big part of a Canuck penalty killing unit that was dominant this week. Another player auditioning for a role next season, Motte has shown that he can fill a defensive niche. If he can show any offensive spark, he’ll greatly increase his chances.

 

Who Had a Rough Week:

Segment Retired For The Season—As Todd Bertuzzi always says, “It is what it is,” at this point, no need for negativity.

 

Roster Talk:

It sounds as though a contract for Adam Gaudette is forthcoming, meaning he could enter the Canucks lineup as soon as Tuesday. There’s certainly plenty of room for him thanks to injuries, but that also means there are few skilled and stable wingers to pair him with. Anyone expecting a Brock Boeser-like debut should probably temper their expectations.

Signing Gaudette should allow the Canucks to send Reid Boucher back to the Utica Comets, where his presence is badly needed. The Comets are making it work with a mixture of AHL vets and PTOs, and the sooner Boucher returns, the better.

 

Comets Report:

Still decimated by injury and facing another three-games-in-three-nights weekend, the Utica Comets nonetheless managed to finish the week with a winning record and clinch a spot in the AHL playoffs.

On Friday, the Comets hosted the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and took the win in a 5-4 overtime barnburner. Two highly touted goalie prospects faced off, with Thatcher Demko making 37 saves and Tristan Jarry making 33. Michael Chaput had two goals, an assist, and a fight for a Gordie Howe Hattrick with a little extra. Michael Carcone had a goal and an assist, while Tanner MacMaster and Wacey Hamilton had two assists each. Ashton Sautner had the overtime winner, and Zac Lynch added the other goal. Dylan Blujus, Patrick Wiercioch, and Jaime Sifers all had single assists from the blueline.

Utica slipped a bit on Saturday with a 2-0 shutout loss to the Syracuse Crunch. Thatcher Demko still made an impressive 35 saves and was only beaten once, with the other Crunch goal hitting an empty net with three seconds remaining.

The week got back on track and a playoff spot was clinched on Sunday as the Comets defeated Binghamton 4-3. Richard Bachman took over the goaltending duties and turned in an impressive 38 saves. It was a night for tryout players and late additions , as Lynch, Frankie Simonelli, Andrew Cherniwchan, and Matt Leitner had goals. Adam Comrie, Chaput, and Wiercioch had assists.

 

The Week Ahead:

Three of the remaining six games take place next week.

Tuesday, March 27 at Home against Anaheim with a 7:00PM PST start.

Thursday, March 29 at Home against Edmonton with a 7:00PM PST start.

Saturday, March 31 at Home against Columbus with a 1:00PM PST start.

 

2018 Draft Eligible Prospect of the Week:

Ty Smith, D-

Smith was the first overall pick in the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft, and he hasn’t disappointed since for the Spokane Chiefs. Smith isn’t the biggest defenseman in the draft, but he’s described as an elite skater and speed is the foundation of his game. He’s been an offensive force for the Chiefs this season, with a breakout 73 points in 69 games, more than doubling his production from last year. Smith also has a history of producing for Team Canada on the international stage.

Although Smith is a supreme skater, he still manages to show “patience and poise” with the puck, allowing him to consistently make smart plays. He’s a heads up player, and the combination of skating skill, passing ability, and decision-making add up to a master of the breakout. Smith can also put it all together to effectively quarterback a powerplay.

Smith may not have the upside of the top tier of defensemen in the 2018 Draft, but he’s knocking on the door. Teams are beginning to focus more and more on skating ability on the blueline, and Smith brings that in spades, so it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see him climb the ranks on draft day.

Here’s an extensive and exhaustive highlight compilation for Smith:

 

Bits and Bobs:

-With the impending arrival of Adam Gaudette, there was some speculation that Northeastern linemate Dylan Sikura may eschew signing with the Blackhawks and test the free agent market. That didn’t happen, and Sikura signed with the Hawks on Sunday.

-From new Canucks to old Canucks—Christian Ehrhoff retired from hockey on Sunday. While Ehrhoff’s exit from the Canucks was not entirely grateful, he was a big part of the 2011 run to the Finals and had probably the best offensive season of any defenseman in team history. It’s nice that he got to end his career with Germany’s improbable Olympic Silver.

-After a bit of a slow start, Elias Pettersson is back at a point-per-game for Vaxjo in the SHL playoffs.

-Ashton Sautner has been a reliable and steady presence in Utica for the last couple of seasons, so it was great to see him get a game at the NHL level.

-Might as well post my votes for the team awards here:

MVP: Boeser

Best Defenseman: Edler

Unsung Hero: Dorsett

Most Exciting: Boeser, although I briefly considered Virtanen

-Voting is still open: http://contests.canucks.com/player_awards/

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of March 12-18

Who Had a Good Week: 

Nikolay Goldobin- This was a tough week to draw anything positive out of, except for those on Team Tank, but Goldobin’s strong game against his former team on Saturday was probably the best moment. This “audition” period of the season is important for a number of young players, but perhaps none more so than Goldobin. More performances like this will ensure he gets a real shot with the team next year.

Alex Edler- Edler is putting up ridiculous minutes as the blueline around him falls apart, and his offensive numbers are still decent, with a goal and an assist against San Jose. Most importantly, Edler is still throwing hits and hustling up and down the ice, showing that he still gives a hoot even though the games are now meaningless. This is a player leading by example, and the Canucks need that right now.

 

Who Had a Rough Week:

Derrick Pouliot- The rash of injuries on the blueline has meant more minutes and tougher matchups for Pouliot, and that has meant him getting exposed. Pouliot has probably done enough to earn another shot with the Canucks next year, but his current play demonstrates pretty clearly that any hopes of him developing into a top-4 defender are slim.

Nic Dowd- Has any Canuck seen their stock fall farther over the last couple of months than Nic Dowd? Previously, he was receiving so much ice time that it was proving controversial among fans. Now, whenever he’s lucky enough to be in the lineup, Dowd is putting up single digit minutes and looking relatively invisible.

Pretty Much Everyone- Honestly, I’m thinking it might be time to retire this segment for the rest of the season. The very nature of the Canucks right now—injury-plagued, with nothing to play for and shattered confidence—means that it’s tough to assess who is truly playing poorly and who is being dragged down by the team atmosphere. It’s going to be a tough few weeks for the Canucks, but hopefully the franchise will finally be rewarded for its suffering.

 

Roster Talk:

The pundits on Hockey Night In Canada spoke about the possibility of Thatcher Demko being called up by the Canucks, and they were universally against the idea. It’s hard to disagree with them. The Canucks’ roster is currently decimated and they’ve got a tough slate against teams battling for playoff positions, so it’s entirely possible they don’t win a single one of their remaining 10 games. That’s the kind of situation that can hurt a young goalie’s confidence, so it’s a much better idea to keep Demko in Utica where the games still matter.

The word on the street is that Jonathan Dahlen is more likely to join Utica, rather than Vancouver, when his Swedish season is over. Dahlen is currently crushing the playoffs for Timra, so Comets fans are hoping he can bring some of that momentum over with him when he comes.

That leaves Adam Gaudette as the only real prospect candidate to receive an audition with the Canucks this season, but that still depends on his own playoff performance. If Gaudette and the Huskies make it to the Frozen Four, which conclude on April 7, he’ll miss his chance at any regular season games, although he could still join Utica in the playoffs under that scenario. If that looks to be the case, expect the Canucks to sign a NCAA free agent and give them the audition instead.

 

Comets Report: 

Before we get to this week’s coverage—another week that went rather poorly for the Comets—a note on the roster situation the Comets are currently facing. In addition to the multitude of players currently called up by the Canucks, including Darren Archibald and Nikolay Goldobin, the following players are currently injured: Evan McEneny, Jayson Megna, Yan-Pavel Laplante, Joe LaBate, Alexis D’Aoust, and David Dziurzynski. In other words, the Comets are a hurting unit.

The week consisted of three games in three nights, with things kicking off with a 4-3 loss to Belleville on Friday. Andrew Cherniwchan scored twice, including a goal with 16 seconds remaining to bring the Comets to within one, but it was too little, too late. Cameron Darcy had the other goal, with single assists going to Patrick Wiercioch, Guillaume Brisebois, Griffen Molino, Dylan Blujus, Jaime Sifers, and Wacey Hamilton.

The marathon weekend continued with a visit to the Ricoh Coliseum and the Toronto Marlies on Sunday afternoon. Surprisingly, the Comets came out flying, taking a 3-1 victory with Demko once again manning the nets and earning the first star with 34 saves. Tanner MacMaster, a new PTO addition, opened the scoring with his first professional goal, while Zack MacEwen and Wiercioch also added markers. Brisebois, Darcy, and Michael Carcone all added single assists.

The marathon weekend continued with a visit to the Ricoh Coliseum and the Toronto Marlies on Sunday afternoon.

 

The Week Ahead:

The Canucks only have 10 games remaining on the season, and four of them are this week:

Tuesday, March 20 @ Vegas with a 7:00PM PST start.

Thursday, March 22 @ Chicago with a 5:30PM PST start.

Friday, March 23 @ St. Louis with a 5:00PM PST start.

Sunday, March 25 @ Dallas with a 4:00PM PST start.

 

2018 Draft Eligible Prospect of the Week:

Isac Lundestrom, C-

Sportsnet reports that Lundestrom is the “Swedish Patrice Bergeron,” and that’s a pretty clear and concise representation of what this player brings to the table. At 6’ and 185 pounds, Lundestrom has a fairly average frame, but he’s put it to good use playing in the SHL against men for Lulea, where he’s had a decent amount of success with 15 points in 42 games.

Lundestrom’s numbers are impressive for an 18-year-old in the top Swedish league, but unlike some other young stars, he hasn’t been a scoring star in the lower Swedish tiers. He only had two goals at the World Junior Championships in seven games. Lundestrom seems to have built his reputation on two-way play, which means that the odds of him eventually having success at the NHL level are fairly high. After all, that’s the part of the game that young forwards traditionally struggle with the most.

Like many two-way stars, Lundestrom plays what is described as a “nuanced” game with a supreme attention to detail that sets him apart from others his age. His individual skills may not stand out, but he uses them all to maximum advantage due to his superior hockey sense and vision on the ice. Lundestrom is the kind of player who thinks a few steps ahead of everyone else, and thus is often in the exact right place at the exact right time.

There are those who think that Lundestrom’s offensive game has yet to fully develop, and that there’s a lot of untapped potential there. The thought is that, even if this offensive development never happens, Lundestrom already has the mindset and the instincts to help him to a professional career as a valuable and dependable pivot.

 

Here’s some Under-18 highlights:

 

And a two goal performance from the WJC:

 

 

Bits and Bobs: 

-At this point, is there any reason not to be on “Team Tank.” With the playoffs so far out of reach, and the franchise-changing potential of Rasmus Dahlin, everyone should want the Canucks to attain the best odds possible for the Draft Lottery. Go Sabres/Coyotes!

-On that note, why not bring the much-beloved Schadenfreude Section back for an important note: The Calgary Flames may miss the playoffs, and do not currently own a first round pick, having traded it for the underwhelming Travis Hamonic. Ha!

 -With various leagues wrapping up their seasons around the world, look for a lot of positive Canuck prospect news in the coming weeks, like:

-Jonah Gadjovich being named the OHL’s Hardest Working Player.

-Adam Gaudette being name a Hobey Baker finalist.

-Olli Juolevi and Elias Pettersson being considered for their country’s World Hockey Championship teams.

-Jonathan Dahlen leading Timra to promotion to the SHL.

-The future is bright, ignore the negativity of the present!

-Or is it?

gruplan

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of March 5-11

Who Had a Good Week: 

Brendan Leipsic- Leipsic has been an absolute revelation for the Canucks. In the first two games of the week, Leipsic put up four points, and although he went scoreless in the next two, he still had chances. His energy is infectious. With Brock Boeser out, Leipsic is giving Canuck fans a reason to tune in for the rest of the season.

Jussi Jokinen- When Jokinen was picked up at the deadline, he wasn’t expected to play, but injuries have necessitated putting him into the lineup. Jokinen responded with two goals in four games and a moderate amount of chemistry with the Sedins, which is more than anyone could have hoped for. 

Jakob Markstrom- Markstrom played well in a win and two losses this week, making a number of highlight reel saves. Meanwhile, Anders Nilsson had a fairly weak game in his only start. Markstrom hasn’t solidified himself as a legitimate starter yet, but he has at least proven that he’ll prevent the team from embarrassing itself as the season wanes.

Jake Virtanen- I hesitated to put Virtanen on the list this week, as he had a rough game against Minnesota and may have been injured against Arizona. However, most would agree that Virtanen is finally doing the kind of things that he needs to do in order to succeed at the NHL level. He’s carrying the puck with impressive speed and being consistently physical, and his two-point effort against the Islanders was a tantalizing taste of his remaining potential.

 

Who Had a Rough Week: 

Ben Hutton- Hutton’s game has completely eroded. Being in and out of the lineup isn’t always easy, but Hutton hasn’t done enough when playing to stick around. He’s a nonfactor at best and a liability at worst, and he’s the only Canuck, other than Alex Biega, that is not trusted with any special teams time.

Nikolay Goldobin- Goldobin is looking less and less likely to stick around with the organization long-term. He obviously doesn’t have the trust of coach Travis Green, who pulled Goldobin from the lineup this week after a couple of lackluster efforts. Goldobin returned to the lineup on Sunday and received ample icetime, but still didn’t get much done.

Reid Boucher- Boucher has been virtually invisible since his callup, and his game hasn’t had as much “jump” in it as in previous NHL stints. Boucher really needs to make the most of the opportunity that injuries have afforded him, and he’s not getting it done thus far.

 

Roster Talk:

Canuck fans are understandably excited at the prospect of giving Adam Gaudette or Jonathan Dahlen an extended pro audition at the end of the season, but the timing will depend on how far each player makes it in the playoffs. Dahlen is likely to be finished earlier than Gaudette. It’s entirely possible that both see time with the Canucks this season.

The Brock Boeser injury is obviously the worst imaginable thing that could have happened to close out the season, but the overall injury list is starting to become a bit ridiculous. Canuck fans are unlikely to see any of Boeser, Chris Tanev, Sven Baertschi, Markus Granlund, Loui Eriksson, or Brendan Gaunce for the remainder of the season. That means guaranteed extended auditions for players like Brendan Leipsic, Tyler Motte, Nikolay Goldobin, and Darren Archibald.

 

Comets Report:

The Comets’ week consisted of a good ol’ fashioned Friday/Saturday home-and-home series against the Springfield Falcons. Utica won the first game in their own barn with a 3-2 overtime victory. Thatcher Demko was in net to make 25 saves, and Adam Comrie was the offensive hero with two goals, including the overtime winner. Cameron Darcy had the other goal, Michael Chaput and Patrick Wiercioch had two assists each, and Cole Cassels, and Zach MacEwen had single helpers.

Things did not go nearly as well the next night in Springfield. The Comets failed to register a single goal, and Richard Bachman stopped 29 of 33 shots in a 4-0 blowout. Worst of all, the team has a week off to think about this stinker.

 

The Week Ahead:

This week, the Canucks will complete a classic California roadtrip, with a bit of a twist ending.

Monday, March 12 @ Los Angeles with a 7:30PM PST start.

Wednesday, March 14 @ Anaheim with a 7:00PM PST start.

Saturday, March 17 @ Home against San Jose with a 7:00PM PST start.

 

2018 Draft Eligible Prospect of the Week:

Dominik Bokk, LW- 

The German-born Bokk was by far the most requested player for this section, so it’s his turn to be profiled. Bokk, an onomatopoeic left winger, is generally ranked in the bottom-half of the first round, so there’s a chance the Canucks could pick him up with their early second.

Bokk plays for the Vaxjo Lakers, the same team that Elias Pettersson plays for, which explains the requests. However, Bokk has only played 15 games thus far at the SHL level, playing most of the year in the top junior division. He’s got a solid frame at 6’1” and 180 pounds, but has yet to put up much offense in the SHL with only one goal and one assist. However, he’s proven himself defensively sound.

In theJ20 SuperElit, however, it’s an entirely different story. There, Bokk is an offensive dynamo, with 41 points in 35 games and one of the top ten points-per-game in the league. He’s competent on either wing, and occasionally plays center. His skating abilities are impressive and diverse, with words like “agile,” “quick,” and “elusive” all applied to him by various scouting reports. His quick hands can operate at high speeds, making him a dangerous player in any situation. He can make plays, but his shot is particularly “deadly.”

While most rankings have Bokk somewhere in the 20s, a few scouts are extremely high on him, and have him ranked in the top ten. Due to his rather unorthodox development path—playing his youth hockey in Germany before transferring over to the Swedish system—Bokk may have a lot of unscratched potential, and he could be another Kole Lind-type pick for Jim Benning and the Canucks.

Here’s Elias Pettersson assisting on Bokk’s first SHL goal:

 

And a three point performance from the SuperElit league:

 

Bits and Bobs:

-Elias Pettersson hit two important milestones when he finished the SHL season with 56 points—he led the league in scoring and broke the all-time record for under-20 scoring. It’s hard to imagine a better Draft+1 season than the one Pettersson is having.

-Speaking of leading leagues, Adam Gaudette is also the NCAA scoring champ with 59 points in 36 games.

-It’s been a great year for Canuck prospects, but these two players in particular have really separated themselves from the pack.

-On the prospect front, let’s give a stick tap to the Utica Comets, who are battling to maintain a playoff spot with their roster absolutely decimated by trades and call-ups. They’re currently missing Darren Archibald, Reid Boucher, Nikolay Goldobin, and Philip Holm, to say nothing of their own injuries.

-Is there any silver lining to the dark, dark cloud that is the Brock Boeser injury? Probably not, but perhaps Boeser coming into next season with “something to prove” isn’t the worst thing in the world.

-Still, there couldn’t be a better example of “Canuck luck” then a newly-minted franchise superstar being hurled spine first into an open gate while being one goal shy of 30. Oy vey.

-With the loss to the Coyotes, the Canucks are currently four points out of last place in the NHL.