Potential Professional Tryout Invites for the Vancouver Canucks

Every year, most NHL franchises bring in a number of players on Professional Tryout Contracts during training camp and the exhibition schedule. Notable PTOs in recent Canucks history have included Brendan Morrison, Owen Nolan, Peter Schaefer, and the great Todd Fedoruk.

This season, the World Cup of Hockey runs concurrent to the NHL’s preseason, which means that a lot of teams are going to be short of bodies. This is as true for the Canucks as it is for anyone, with six of their players scheduled to take part in the tournament. That means that PTOs will be in vogue around the league like never before, so let’s take a look at who Vancouver might invite. As the team is set in goal and overloaded on defense, we’ll focus solely on forwards.

 

Steve Bernier, RW, 31

Last Three Seasons:

Games Played Goals Assists Points
47 8 7 15
67 16 16 32
24 1 5 6

Pros: Bernier is huge, and sometimes plays a physical game. He has some scoring pop to go along with it, although he’s very streaky. Bernier has played all over various lineups, so he has versatility.

Cons: Strangely, Bernier has never regained the heights of his rookie season, where he got 27 points in 39 games. He’s only topped those totals twice, both times with a lot more games played. Bernier is just not that good offensively, and fairly average everywhere.

Intangibles: Bernier went to the Finals with the Devils. That’s good. He also pretty much single-handedly lost them Game 6. That’s bad. Other than that, Bernier has experience with the organization, and seemed to be well-liked during his time with the team.

Final Say: MAYBE INVITE. Since he’s familiar with the organization, maybe Bernier would be amenable to trying out for an AHL spot, too. If that’s the case, he seems like a non-intrusive camp invite.

 

Brad Boyes, 34, RW

Last Three Seasons:

Games Played Goals Assists Points
78 21 15 36
78 14 24 38
60 8 16 24

Pros: Boyes is obviously on the downside of his career, but he’s remained remarkably consistent, ending up on pace for around 40 points nearly every season since turning 30. By bouncing around a lot, Boyes has proven that he can mesh with a variety of players.

Cons: Boyes isn’t very fast, and the modern game can leave him behind at times. His defensive game is adequate, but nothing special, and he adds next to nothing physically. It’s questionable if Boyes is anything more than a complementary piece at this point in his career, and he wouldn’t be elevating any linemates’ games.

Intangibles: Boyes has been all over the league, and he seems to be well-liked everywhere. Boyes also has a proven track record of returning assets at the trade deadline.

Final Say: INVITE. For a player like Boyes, every new season could be the season he’s no longer able to keep up with the NHL game. Still, no harm in trying Boyes out in training camp to see if he finds chemistry anywhere.

 

Steve Downie, RW, 29

Last Three Seasons:

Games Played Goals Assists Points
62 4 20 24
72 14 14 28
26 3 3 6

Pros: Downie can hit like a truck, which means hard but frequently illegally. He’s occasionally shown scoring ability, but not for awhile. At this point, he is what he is, a pest who can provide energy.

Cons: Downie is simply undisciplined. His penalty totals are always high, and his antics have painted a target on his back for refs and opponents alike. He is also questionable defensively for a bottom-6 forward.

Intangibles: Downie is a former World Junior star and has a truly tragic life story, but he’s also a total jerk on the ice. A player like him can be an outright distraction.

Final Say: DON’T INVITE. We’ve seen what Downie is willing to do when he has an NHL spot locked down. I don’t want to see what he’s willing to do when a contract is on the line. Avoid this potential PR disaster completely.

 

Tomas Fleischmann, LW, 32

Last Three Seasons:

Games Played Goals Assists Points
80 8 20 28
66 8 19 27
76 14 11 25

Pros: Fleischmann is a proven playmaker, topping 20 assists in almost every full season he’s played, with last year being a notable exception. He can also score goals, having put up some pretty impressive totals during his prime. He carries a diverse offensive skillset.

Cons: Fleischmann is one of those “top-6 or bust” sorts of players. He doesn’t have the defensive skills to play lower in the lineup, as evidenced by his playoff healthy scratches last year. He is a very streaky scorer, which means he’ll be putting in a lot of nearly useless performances.

Intangibles: Fleischmann has seemed to fit in well on most teams that he’s played on, and generally sticks around for awhile with each franchise. Overall, he seems like a mild-mannered guy who could fit in to most dressing rooms.

Final Say: INVITE. While the Canucks would probably prefer someone with more impressive recent goal totals, Fleischmann’s ability to go on scoring streaks is a fine enough reason to give him a try. If he finds chemistry somewhere in the lineup and lights it up in the preseason, it’s a free asset.

 

Paul Gaustad, C, 34

Last Three Seasons:

Games Played Goals Assists Points
75 10 11 21
73 4 10 14
63 2 4 6

Pros: Was once traded for a first round pick, so that’s something. Other than that, Gaustad is a 4th line center with size, checking ability, and faceoff prowess. Used to fight lots, although he doesn’t much anymore.

Cons: Gaustad’s game has deteriorated rapidly, and that’s especially true of his speed. Gaustad was never particularly quick to begin with, and he has struggled to keep up with the now faster NHL. Recent goal totals of four and two tells the story.

Intangibles: Gaustad is known as a high-character guy and a good teammate. He is someone that Nashville specifically targeted for his intangibles, which were apparently tangible enough to warrant, again, a first round pick.

Final Say: DON’T INVITE. Gaustad just can’t keep up anymore. The Canucks would be much better off with Markus Granlund or Mike Zalewski playing 4th line center.

 

Cody Hodgson, C/LW, 26

Last Three Seasons:

Games Played Goals Assists Points
72 20 24 44
78 6 7 15
39 3 5 8

Pros: Once considered the greatest player in junior hockey, Hodgson would go on to put up some pretty impressive point totals at the NHL level. Hodgson had a well-rounded offensive game, even though it apparently fell off a cliff at some point.

Cons: Hodgson’s speed and defensive play have always been questionable at the NHL level, and the flaws in his game have become impossible to ignore now that his production has completely disappeared. Often a complete non-factor.

Intangibles: At one time, it looked like Hodgson was the captain of the future for the Vancouver Canucks. Unfortunately, nobody believed that more than Hodgson, except for maybe his dad.

Final Say: DON’T INVITE. At this point, Hodgson is Anakin Skywalker at the end of Episode III, and we’re Obi Wan. We want to believe he’s still the chosen one, somewhere deep inside, but we know he’s gone. He’s now more bust than man.

 

Tyler Kennedy, RW, 30

Last Three Seasons:

Games Played Goals Assists Points
67 4 13 17
38 6 8 14
50 3 13 16

Pros: Kennedy is one of those players that can play anywhere in the lineup. He’s usually an adequate grinder, but has proven that he can keep up with more skilled linemates when called upon.

Cons: Any consistent offensive production is long gone. Kennedy hasn’t cracked double-digits in goals in half a decade, and the days of riding shotgun with Crosby are firmly in the rearview mirror. Not a player that will make a significant impact.

Intangibles: Kennedy has championship experience with the Penguins, and has always seemed to be a popular teammate. Willing to go to the wall for his team.

Final Say: DON’T INVITE. The Canucks have plenty of players that can grind and play in the bottom-6. At this point, they have no reason to invite a player unless they have some sort of offensive potential.

 

Lauri Korpikoski, LW, 30

Last Three Seasons:

Games Played Goals Assists Points
64 9 16 25
69 6 15 21
71 10 12 22

Pros: Korpikoski isn’t too far removed from a couple of 40 point seasons in Arizona. Like many Finns, he’s decently gritty, and has solid if not spectacular defensive acumen. Korpikoski is comfortable moving up and down the lineup. Was selected for Finland’s World Cup team.

Cons: Korpikoski likely isn’t going to create much offense at this point, and will probably required talented linemates to put up any sort of totals. Adding 10 goals to the team isn’t a huge draw, at the end of the day. It’s doubtful that Korpikoski can offer anything that Emerson Etem or Markus Granlund won’t.

Intangibles: Korpikoski seems to be well-liked everywhere he goes. His work ethic seems to be respectable, and his presence on a national team is impressive.

Final Say: INVITE. Korpikoski might be worth taking a look at in training camp. Under the right circumstances, with the right linemates, Korpikoski could shine again, and the Canucks have enough roster flexibility to give it a chance.

 

David Legwand, C, 36

Last Three Seasons:

Games Played Goals Assists Points
83 14 37 51
80 9 18 27
79 5 9 14

Pros: Legwand is a long-time pro who was pretty consistent throughout his career, and although his production has slowed down, he remains cagey enough to be effective. Legwand is strong defensively and is always a major part of his team’s penalty kill.

Cons: Legwand is definitely not capable of filling the top-6 role he once did, and is probably not going to crack double-digits in goals ever again. Don’t expect much offense at all out of Legwand, and don’t expect much physicality either.

Intangibles: Legwand is a trusted veteran who usually wears a letter wherever he goes. Teams have frequently looked to him for steady play and leadership. Willing to do whatever his team needs.

Final Say: MAYBE INVITE. If the team is going to invite anyone to challenge Granlund and Zalewski for the 4th line center role, it should be Legwand. It might not be a necessary move, but he could more than capably fill that position.

 

Dominic Moore, C, 36

Last Three Seasons:

Games Played Goals Assists Points
73 6 12 18
82 10 17 27
80 6 9 15

Pros: Moore is great defensively, and usually performs well in the faceoff dot. In many ways, he’s a prototypical 4th line center, who has recent experience going on a long playoff run.

Cons: Moore has put up some decent point totals, but at his age, those totals are firmly on the decline. Moore doesn’t really have much size or physicality to offer, either.

Intangibles: For some weird reason, I feel like there’s an obvious reason that Moore wouldn’t fit in Vancouver, but it just hasn’t hit me yet. It feels like I’m missing something, but I’m sure it will sneak up and grab me eventually.

Final Say: DON’T INVITE. Over-the-top sarcasm aside, inviting the brother of the victim of the worst thing ever done by a Canuck is terrible PR. Why invite the dozens of unnecessarily negative news stories if you don’t have to?

 

Eric Nystrom, LW, 33

Last Three Seasons:

Games Played Goals Assists Points
79 15 6 21
60 7 5 12
46 7 0 7

Pros: A gritty player who has occasionally shown signs of offensive potential, usually in limited scoring bursts. Nystrom can hit hard and fight when necessary, so he plays a role when he’s not scoring, which is most of the time.

Cons: Nystrom has never once cracked 20 goals in a season, so any hope of him playing on a top-6 line is a longshot. He’s still a better goal scorer than he is a playmaker, and his assist totals are generally mediocre.

Intangibles: Nystrom’s father, Bob, won four consecutive Stanley Cups, so winning is in his blood. Eric’s 14 career playoff games suggest that it’s buried pretty deep in there, however.

Final Say: DON’T INVITE. There’s nothing Nystrom can bring that Derek Dorsett or even Alex Grenier can’t do better. No need to add more grinders to the lineup unless they have a history of offense, which Nystrom just doesn’t.

 

Mike Richards, C, 31

Last Three Seasons:

Games Played Goals Assists Points
82 11 30 41
53 5 11 16
39 2 3 5

Pros: At one time, Richards easily had the most talent of anyone on this list. He’s only a couple of years removed from 0.5 point-per-game hockey, and has always been sound defensively. Was once one of the most touted prospects in hockey.

Cons: Injuries have taken their toll on Richards’ ability to keep up with NHL play. Not only has this hurt his production, but it has hampered his ability to take on tough checking assignments like he used to.

Intangibles: 10 years ago, it would have been insane to question Mike Richards’ intangibles. He was Mr. Intangibles before Toews hit the scene. Not so much, anymore. While I personally think the issue regarding Richards’ arrest was overblown, questions about his character had been raised before he even left Philadelphia. Not a personality worth bringing around the youth movement.

Final Say: DON’T INVITE. Not worth the risk, as there’s little actual potential remaining. Let somebody else give Richards another chance.

 

Jarret Stoll, C, 34

Last Three Seasons:

Games Played Goals Assists Points
78 8 19 27
73 6 11 17
80 4 5 9

Pros: Stoll has a long history of playing an important role on a winning team. His offense is long gone, although he used to put up 20 goals fairly consistently. Great on faceoffs, and responsible defensively. Booming shot.

Cons: Stoll’s point totals have been in absolute freefall, and the trend is pretty unlikely to reverse. He can undoubtedly still play a role in the NHL, but it would have to be a limited one.

Intangibles: Dated Stacey’s mom. That’s good. She also dated Rod Stewart and Sean Avery. That’s bad. Jokes aside, Stoll is similar to Richards in that he’s had a drug-related arrest and was specifically identified as part of the culture problem in LA. Championship experience doesn’t make up for that.

Final Say: DON’T INVITE. Basically the same deal as Richards. High risk, low reward, why bother?

 

Alex Tanguay, LW, 36

Last Three Seasons:

Games Played Goals Assists Points
16 4 7 11
80 22 33 55
70 8 27 35

Pros: Tanguay has a long history of providing offense at the NHL level, and has continued to do so even in his twilight years. 8 goals last season doesn’t look too great, but Tanguay has maintained a 0.5 PPG or better. From a purely offensive standpoint, he can obviously add to a team’s stat totals and help out on the powerplay.

Cons: Tanguay’s offensive totals may be a bit inflated due to him receiving sheltered minutes in the past few seasons. Tanguay was never a speedster, but his skating has slowed down dramatically, and his defensive game has similarly deteriorated. Despite continuing to put up points, when he’s not scoring, Tanguay barely looks like an NHL player.

Intangibles: Tanguay was once a part of the Avalanche dynasty, and has been around the NHL for a long time. No reports of character issues have been attached to his name, and the Avalanche thought highly enough of him to bring him back in a mentorship role.

Final Say: DON’T INVITE. Tanguay’s shortcomings make him a liability that must be supported by his teammates. A young team like the Canucks needs a player that can support its newer players, not the other way around.

 

 

Since we’re on the subject of scoring wingers, why not take a look at the most discussed potential trade target?

Evander Kane, LW, 25

Last Three Seasons:

Games Played Goals Assists Points
63 19 22 41
37 10 12 22
65 20 15 35

 

Pros: Evander Kane has talent. The former 5th overall pick brings a rare combination of size, speed, and scoring ability. When he wants to, Kane can play with an edge and physicality that makes him a multi-level threat. Kane has scored 30 goals once before, and has been on pace for totals like that on other occasions. At age 25, there’s reason to believe he can return to those heights.

Cons: Kane has a massive injury history for someone so young. Even when he’s been able to play, Kane has been quite inconsistent. His one 30 goal season featured a higher shooting percentage than his career average, which suggests it may have been an anomaly. Since then, Kane has been in constant decline. His defensive game is fairly weak, he takes plenty of penalties, and struggles with on-ice discipline.

Intangibles: Oof, where to start? Rumours of attitude issues surrounded Kane even before he was drafted, and have continued since, resulting in him practically being ran off of Winnipeg by his teammates. His antics on social media were a source of amusement for many NHL observers, but on several occasions he acted downright disrespectfully to Winnipeg fans. Legal issues are never a good thing, but the allegations that Kane is facing are disgusting, if true, and make him a negative asset in terms of public relations and team morale.

Final Say: DO NOT ACQUIRE. Kane’s potential is great, but his shortcomings are too many to ignore. Even his offensive skill appears to be overrated, and that’s his major draw. The off-ice issues would damage the team in myriad ways. On top of all this, unlike the other players on this list, Kane is not a free agent, and would cost at least some assets to acquire.

 

Bonus Content: As evidence that I started working on this article awhile ago, here’s two entries on potential free agent signings that are no long on the free agent market. I thought these guys merited actual contract offers rather than PTOs, but Hudler signed in Dallas, and Pirri signed in New York. Oh well!

 

Jiri Hudler, C/RW, 32

Last Three Seasons:

Games Played Goals Assists Points
75 17 37 54
78 31 45 76
72 16 30 46

Pros: While Hudler’s career season in 2014-15 was probably an anomaly, Hudler has consistently provided 15-20 goals and 40-50 points. He brings experience from the vaunted Detroit system, and has a proven ability to mesh well with young players. As much offense as Evander Kane would provide, stronger defensive skills, and none of the baggage.

Cons: Hudler is incredibly inconsistent from year-to-year, so you never know what you’re going to get. Streakiness is to be expected in most players, but Hudler has had his work ethic called into question before, which can make for a frustrating player. Hudler is also a very soft player, which isn’t optimal for the Pacific Division.

Intangibles: Former coach Mike Babcock reportedly clashed with Hudler over his work ethic, although it did not seem to be as much of a problem in Calgary. Hudler had a positive impact on Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, helping each take an offensive step forward in their careers.

Final Say: MAYBE SIGN. The worry is that Hudler will be overpaid based on his 2014-15 stats, rather than the career average totals he went back to in 2015-16. At this point in the offseason, however, Hudler may be willing to compromise on his salary demands. If he’s willing to sign something with a low amount of term and a salary around $3 million, it’s a win.

 

Brandon Pirri, C/LW, 25

Last Three Seasons:

Games Played Goals Assists Points
49 13 12 25
49 22 2 24
61 14 15 29

Pros: Pirri has managed to put up points every time he has been given a chance. As the 22 goal, 2 assist season shows, Pirri is more of a goal scorer than a playmaker, which would make a good match for the Canucks and their many playmaking centers. Already averaging about 0.5 PPG, at age 25, Pirri may still have untapped upside.

Cons: Injuries and inconsistency have plagued Pirri’s young career. He’s also a very one-dimensional player, adding little on the defensive or physical sides of the game. His size prevents him from winning puck battles at times, and contributes to his frequent injuries. When he’s not scoring, Pirri might as well not be on the ice.

Intangibles: Pirri doesn’t have too much of a reputation one way or another when it comes to intangibles. That former Chicago GM Dale Tallon sought to reacquire Pirri in Florida speaks positively.

Final Say: YES, SIGN. Pirri should be a cheap signing, and might seek out a team like Vancouver that has a spot open for him in the top-6. With a contract around $1-2 million, Pirri would be an easily moveable asset if he doesn’t pan out. Low risk, high reward.

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