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?

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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.

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of February 26-March 4

Who Had a Good Week: 

Daniel Sedin- With 46 points in 64 games, Daniel has already eclipsed his point total from last season with more than a month remaining. He had a goal in every game this week, and added two assists for a good-looking total of five points in three games. With so many young players being auditioned in the near future, it’s nice to have the Sedins leading by example on the ice.

Brendan Leipsic- Leipsic has already become a bit of a fan favourite in Vancouver after just two games with his new club. He fit in very well with Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser on the top line, where his energy and speed proved infectious. With two points in two games and a boatload of minutes, look for Leipsic to remain in the top-six for the rest of the season.

Alex Edler- This week, Edler became the all-time highest scoring defenseman in Canucks history, which is more than enough to qualify him for this list. However, he had a great week aside from the milestone, picking up three assists and a number of monstrous, but clean, hits. More on him later!

Brock Boeser- Two goals and one assist in three games seems like a mundane week for the Brock Star, but it gets him back within shouting distance of a 40 goal season and the Calder Trophy. After a mild cold snap, a strong finish to the year is exactly what Boeser, and Canucks fans, need.

Bo Horvat- Horvat’s injury was obviously devastating for the Canucks, but it seems to have had the unintended side effect of reminding everyone just how important he is to the franchise. Horvat has been the team’s best player since returning, and he piled up four points in three games this week. To boot, he was named to Craig Button’s preliminary 2022 Canadian Olympic roster, a testament to how high his reputation has climbed.

 

Who Had a Rough Week:

Michael Del Zotto- With more young defenseman incoming next year, and recently improved play from Ben Hutton and Derrick Pouliot, Del Zotto might just be the odd man out on the backend. He’s not playing atrociously, but his offensive contributions have all but disappeared, and he’s not strong enough defensively to be a stay-at-home type.

Sam Gagner- With the younger forwards primed to pick up more minutes as the season concludes, Gagner seems like a logical candidate for reduced ice time. He hasn’t been contributing much of all lately, ending this week with zero points, a minus 4 rating, and an average of about 14 minutes per game.

Sven Baertschi- Baertschi was having a bad week even before he picked up a season-ending injury. He’s gone cold of late, and was bumped off the top line by the newly-acquired Brendan Leipsic. Here’s hoping for a bounceback year from Baertschi in 2018-19.

 

Roster Talk:

Since I took last week off, I never got a chance to report on the Erik Gudbranson re-signing. While regular readers of this column will know that I was very much in the “trade Gudbranson” camp, I find it very difficult to be upset about this contract. Gudbranson signed at quite a bit below his market value, and Jim Benning only had to commit for three years, meaning that Gudbranson compromised on both salary and term to remain in Vancouver. Gudbranson has been playing his best hockey as a Canuck recently, and fans can hope that the stability of a new contract will translate into greater consistency and stability in his game.

Since the deadline, coach Travis Green has made several comments about the importance of auditioning young players for the remainder of the season, which is no doubt exciting news for rebuild-supporting fans. Players like Nikolay Goldobin and the newly acquired Brendan Leipsic and Tyler Motte are obviously on the list, but there are a number of players in Utica that might deserve a look, too. Zack MacEwen is one definite contender, with Michael Carcone, Cole Cassels, Guillaume Brisebois, and Jalen Chatfield as other possibilities.

Here’s what I love about re-signing Alex Biega for two years—sure, Biega is a borderline NHLer, but he’s easily the hardest working player in the franchise. This contract sends a message that hard work and consistent effort will be rewarded in the Vancouver Canucks organization, which is a positive message to send to the team’s young players.

 

2018 Trade Deadline Report:

This is going to take the place of the 2018 Draft Report for this week, but I’ll be looking at the last few notable prospects during the last five reports of the season.

Philip Holm for Brendan Leipsic- It’s hard to judge this trade objectively now, a week after the fact, given that Leipsic has already performed very well for the Canucks. However, fans had little reason to be upset about this deal from the get-go. Holm did show some promise down in Utica, but wasn’t exactly blowing anyone’s doors off. While he likely would have received a few more stints with the Canucks as the season ended, he was still a longshot to stick with the team, especially with players like Olli Juolevi coming over next season.

Leipsic, on the other hand, has received nothing but rave reviews from fans in both Toronto and Vegas, but seems to have been a victim of forward depth with those franchises. In other words, Leipsic still has plenty of upside as an NHL player, probably more so than Holm.

 

Thomas Vanek for Tyler Motte and Jussi Jokinen- This trade represented a disappointing, but not unexpected, return for Vanek. For whatever reason, it appears that Vanek’s previous playoff performances have made him an undesirable deadline rental, and there were reportedly no better offers made for his services. Without any draft picks on the table, the next best option was a young player with potential, and the 22-year-old Motte is exactly that. However, Motte doesn’t look like he’ll be anything more than a bottom-six forward at best, so it’s hard to get excited about this one.

Jokinen is nothing more than a cap dump, and is unlikely to see much, if any game action, but perhaps he can help the team as a shootout coach for the remainder of the year.

 

No Other Trades- I don’t know if there were any other “smart” deals left for the Canucks to complete on this particular deadline. With Chris Tanev injured, his trade value was obviously decreased, and that’s not the sort of player the team should be selling low on. With Jim Benning committing to Erik Gudbranson, that left young defenders like Ben Hutton and Derrick Pouliot as the only remaining trade chips, and a rebuilding team like the Canucks is better off auditioning those players during the stretch run to see if they can reach their potential.

 

Comets Report:

The Comets’ lengthy point streak ended last week, and it was the start of an unfortunate slide for the team. The good news is that this section of the report was incredibly easy to write this week. The bad news is that it’s easy because the Comets barely scored a goal this week.

The Comets opened up the week with a 1-0 shutout at the hands of the Belleville Senators. Richard Bachman put up 27 saves in the losing effort.

Utica made it two shutouts in a row on Saturday, falling 3-0 to the Hershey Bears. Thatcher Demko was back in the net to match Bachman’s 27 saves, but nobody else did much of anything.

The Comets finally scored a couple of goals on Sunday against Binghamton, but unfortunately their opponents scored seven. Bachman started the game, but was pulled after four goals against, leaving Demko to finish the 7-2 blowout. Reid Boucher scored a goal and was later kicked out of the game for a crosschecking incident. Andrew Cherniwchan had the other goal, and Adam Comrie, Michael Chaput, and newcomer Zac Lynch each had an assist.

 

The Week Ahead:

After a weekend off, the Canucks have a busy, four-game week ahead:

Monday, March 5 at home against the New York Islanders with a 7:00PST start time.

Wednesday, March 7 at home against the Arizona Coyotes with a 7:00PST start time.

Friday, March 9 at home against the Minnesota Wild with a 7:00PST start time.

Sunday, March 11 at Arizona Coyotes with a 6:00PST start time.

 

Bits and Bobs: 

-When all is said and done, Alex Edler may go down in history as the most underappreciated Canuck of all-time. I know I’m certainly guilty of downplaying his long-term contributions, but the numbers certainly speak for themselves. Edler just passed Mattias Ohlund to become the highest scoring defenseman in Canucks history, and he has probably solidified his future as a member in the Ring of Honour.

-I think the biggest reason that Edler is underrated is because he is constantly compared with a better, stronger, more consistent defenseman—young Alex Edler. He definitely became a different player after his back troubles took their toll, and it’s hard not to imagine what could have been had he remained healthy. Still, the fact that Edler has been able to adapt his game to remain a valuable NHL defender is commendable.

-A couple of quick prospect hits to close out the week:

-Elias Pettersson passed Peter Forsberg to become the second-highest scoring teenager in SHL history, and he has a real shot at beating Kent Nilsson for the all-time record before the season is done. Hopefully, Pettersson is able to continue his season at the World Championships for Sweden this summer.

-Michael DiPietro is also on the verge of claiming the modern record for OHL shutouts, needing one more on the season.

-Adam Gaudette seems like a shoe-in for a Hobey Baker nomination, and a potential playoff run in the NCAA will be the only thing standing between him and a late-season NHL audition.

-With both Loui Eriksson and Sven Baertschi now done for the year, it’s also entirely possible that the Canucks sign an NCAA free agent and pop them into the lineup for the last few games, a la Griffen Molino last season.

-The Canucks signed Kole Lind to an entry-level contract, and he hasn’t missed a beat since missing time with a concussion. He’s still in the top-ten in WHL scoring despite his time away.

-Finally, perhaps the most exciting prospect-related news: Vancouver was officially named hosts for the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. I’ll be there, cheering for Gary Bettman, and I’m willing to bet that a number of my readers will be, too.

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of February 12-18

Who Had a Good Week:

Daniel Sedin- With two goals and two assists in three games, it was an offensively strong week for Daniel. Not only were his numbers impressive, the manner in which he acquired them involved some serious Sedinery. The Sedins’ ice-time has been reduced, but they’re still quite effective in limited minutes. 

Troy Stecher- Stecher is having a true resurgence in the latter half of the season. Of particular note have been his stretch passes—long bombs that seem to inevitably find his teammates’ sticks as they rush into the offensive zone. Only one assist for Stecher this week, but he certainly created more offensive chances than that would suggest. 

Bo Horvat- Horvat hasn’t missed a beat after his lengthy injury. He put up three points against Florida, and then finished the week with a highlight reel goal against Boston. It’s become increasingly apparent just how much the team relies on his presence.

Erik Gudbranson- Those fans hoping to see Gudbranson traded at the deadline will be happy that he’s currently playing some of his best hockey as a Canuck. Gudbranson’s strong play has been recognized by Travis Green, with Gudbranson’s 23 minutes against Boston the most of any player.

Anders Nilsson- Nilsson may have just earned himself the chance to run with the starter’s position for a while. He came in to relieve Markstrom against Florida and did not let up a goal, and then followed a mediocre performance against San Jose with a dominant game against the Bruins.

 

Who Had a Rough Week:

Brock Boeser- Boeser has cooled down a bit and experienced a reduction in ice-time, although he still remains a constant offensive threat. However, this week was especially rough for Boeser because he was potentially robbed of two goals that could have been awarded to him, but went to other players. Conspiracy? Probably not, but you never know!

Ben Hutton- Hutton briefly returned to the lineup this week, did nothing, and was promptly called out by coach Travis Green in the media. If he is on the trade market, he’s not doing a lot to improve his value. 

Jacob Markstrom- It was a short, but awful, week for Jacob Markstrom. He let in four goals on 14 shots in one period of play, and did not see the net again thereafter. Markstrom may have just relegated himself to the backup role for the next little while.

 

Roster Talk:

There’s been plenty of grumbling about Philip Holm’s inability to get in the lineup. Holm has looked quite solid down in Utica, and he was brought in with the promise of an eventual shot at the NHL. He’s certainly not a can’t-miss prospect, and he’s probably a longshot for an NHL career, but it would be nice to see him get a chance. Surely, Alex Biega can sit a game in favour of Holm.

Whether one is in favour of trading Chris Tanev or not, it’s hard to avoid the debate regarding his trade value that is currently raging across social media. To many non-Vancouver fans, the risk of acquiring the injury prone Tanev is too great, but I believe that notion is overblown. Tanev has missed a lot of hockey over the years, but he hasn’t experienced any chronic injuries, and much of his IR time has been the result of bad luck. Though some may disagree, “bad luck” isn’t related to anything other than random chance, and there’s no such thing as a player who is prone to bad luck. I think most NHL teams would still take on the “risk” that is Chris Tanev.

 

Comets Report:

The resurgence of the Utica Comets continued this week, with their point streak extending to an impressive 15 games.

Unfortunately, the week opened up with a 3-2 shootout loss to the Syracuse Crunch in a fight-filled game. Thatcher Demko was in net and stopped six straight shooters in the shootout, before finally letting one in. David Dziurzynski and Patrick Wiercioch each had a goal, with Adam Comrie, Alexis D’Aoust, Cole Cassels, and Tony Cameranesi notching single helpers.

Things got back on track on Friday with a 3-1 win over Binghamton, this time with Richard Bachman tending the net. Guillaume Brisebois, Zack MacEwen, and Michael Chaput all scored, with single assists going to D’Aoust, Cassels, Wiercioch, Griffen Molino, Cameron Darcy, and Dylan Blujus.

Offense was on display for both teams on Saturday night, as the Comets edged out the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in a 5-4 overtime barnstormer. Patrick Wiercioch was the hero with the overtime winner and an earlier assist, while Wacey Hamilton had two assists. Cameranesi, Chaput, Molino, and Cassels scored the other goals, and seemingly everyone else got a single assist, including Dziurzynski, MacEwen, Darcy, and Michael Carcone. Thatcher Demko was in net to make 30 saves and rack up four minutes in penalties for abuse of officials.

 

The Week Ahead:

The Canucks have three games in the upcoming week:

Tuesday, February 20 at home against Colorado with a 7:00PST start time.

Friday, February 23 at Vegas with a 7:30PST start time.

Sunday, February 25 at Arizona with a 6:30PST start time.

 

2018 Draft Eligible Prospect of the Week:

I think I’ve covered most of the prospects that will be in the range of the Vancouver Canucks in the 2018 Draft. I’m looking for any suggestions of players I’ve missed, or a new feature that could potentially replace this one. Let me know!

 

Bits and Bobs:

-I think I’ve said enough about my opinion on Jim Benning, but it’s fair to say that I am ecstatic with his contract extension. As a fan who has always taken a special interest in the prospects and development side of hockey, I can personally attest that there has never been as much reason for positivity about the Canucks’ future. Sure, the Canucks have had decent prospects before, but they have never developed as well as Benning’s draft picks have been.

-This Weekly Report has recently called for both the signing of Darren Archibald and the re-signing of Jim Benning, and both things have now come to pass. Thanks again for your loyal readership, Trevor, and keep on doing what you’re doing.

-There was a ton of great press about Adam Gaudette this week. He won the Beanpot Tournament, was named MVP, and reiterated his loyalty to the team that drafted him. Expect a preview of his talents toward the end of the year. 

-The game against Boston was probably the Canucks’ most physical game of the year, and the team did not look out of place against the big, bad Bruins. It would be nice to see more of this play as the playoffs drop out of reach and the Canucks begin playing for pride alone.

-Next week I’ll be out of town until late Sunday, and then I plan to spend Trade Deadline Day fully enjoying the experience, so there will be no Weekly Report next week. Chances are good I’ll do some sort of wrap-up write-up after the fact. See you in two weeks!

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of February 5-11

Who Had a Good Week:

Darren Archibald- The 28-year-old rookie finally got his long-awaited second chance at the NHL, and he seems to be making the most of it. In his first two games with the Canucks, Archibald made his physical presence felt on every shift and it showed on the scoresheet with eight hits, one assist, and a fight. 

Reid Boucher- The two most impressive players this week were both callups. Boucher did everything that could have been asked of him, putting in a strong performance in a tough game against Carolina before notching two goals against Dallas and an impressive seven shots on net. 

Troy Stecher- Stecher had a tough game against Carolina, along with partner Alex Edler, but he continues to step his game up as the team faces injuries on the blueline. Stecher is proving himself to be one of Travis Green’s most dependable defenders, and is showing the sort of top pairing potential he showed last year as a rookie.

Jacob Markstrom- Like many Canucks, Markstrom had a tough game against Carolina, which led to him calling out his teammates, and himself, publicly. Markstrom then responded with exactly the kind of game he need, with a shutout against the potent Dallas offense.

 

Who Had a Rough Week:

Loui Eriksson- A perfectly invisible week for Loui Eriksson, with no difference made on the scoreboard and little impact on the game overall. Yet, he somehow retains a steady presence on the powerplay.

Henrik and Daniel Sedin- The Twins are still putting up more points on the season than anyone could have realistically expected of them, but their lack of speed is beginning to catch up with them (no pun intended.) The Sedins are currently getting dominated by their opponents at five-on-five, and the Canucks don’t have the offensive horses to shelter them right now.

Markus Granlund- Despite scoring a goal in the opening game of the week, Granlund did not have a great week thereafter. He has not looked strong at all this year, and now his season is likely over—a worst case scenario for a player that really needed a rebound stretch run.

 

Roster Talk:

Darren Archibald should probably stay up with the Canucks for the remainder of the season. Utica Comets fans will not be happy about it, but the Canucks really need his physicality and toughness during the stretch run, especially if multiple veterans are dealt or injured.

There seems to be plenty of trade buzz surrounding Ben Hutton right now. I think other teams are probably intrigued with a defenseman that is struggling on a weak team, but once showed a ton of potential as a rookie. However, for that very same reason, I think it would be best if the Canucks held onto him for now.

Even if the Canucks end up dealing Anders Nilsson, which seems unlikely, they should probably hold off on calling up Thatcher Demko. Richard Bachman can fill in just fine, and Demko will benefit from leading Utica’s playoff push more than backing up Jacob Markstrom.

 

Comets Report: 

The Comets are hot! After falling out of the playoff race, the Comets are now second in the North Division after a lengthy 12-game point streak, and this week certainly helped matters.

The first of two games this week was a Friday home game against the Laval Rocket, and the Comets came away with a 2-1 overtime victory. Richard Bachman was in net, putting up 26 saves, and Michael Chaput scored the OT winner unassisted. Nikolay Goldobin had the other goal, assisted by Zack MacEwen and Adam Comrie.

Utica came up with another one-goal win on Saturday against Belleville, this time a 4-3 victory in regulation. Thatcher Demko was back in net, but this time the well-rounded offense was the story. Zack MacEwen had a goal and an assist, while Chaput and Philip Holm had two helpers each. Andrew Cherniwchan, Cameron Darcy, and PTO Justin Taylor had the other goals, and Patrick Wiercioch, Guillaume Brisebois, and Wacey Hamilton had single assists.

 

The Week Ahead:

The Canucks begin their week with a tough back-to-back, playing at home on Wednesday and then in San Jose on Thursday. The times are:

Wednesday, February 14 against Florida with a 7:00PST start time.

Thursday, February 15 at San Jose with a 7:30PST start time.

They’re back at home to finish the week with

Saturday, February 17 against Boston with a 7:00PST start time.

 

2018 Draft Eligible Prospect of the Week:

Barrett Hayton, C-

There’s only one player ranked in Sportsnet’s latest top ten 2018 Draft rankings that I haven’t covered yet, and that’s center Barrett Hayton. Unfortunately, his profile will immediately set off some alarm bells in the heads of Canuck fans, as he’s best described as a “safe pick.”

Standing at 6’1”, Hayton has an impressive, if not imposing, frame, which he uses to his full advantage. The words that keep coming up in association with Hayton are “steady,” “character,” and “mature.” That means he’s likely a good bet to turn pro, but not exactly a “sexy” or exciting pick. However, that is not to say there isn’t anything to get excited about when it comes to Hayton.

Hayton has plenty of offensive skill, operating at nearly a point-per-game in the OHL for Sault Ste. Marie. This is a massive increase on his 2016-17 numbers, when he finished with a scant 27 points. Hayton’s major breakout came in the Ivan Hlinka tournament, where he put up six points in five games. Hayton is more of a playmaker than a goal-scorer, so the majority of his points will likely come as assists.

There isn’t really any one trait that stands out in Hayton’s game, but there also aren’t any glaring weaknesses. He’s a “jack of all trades” and the classic “prototypical 200-foot game.” Although that may not sound enticing to Canuck fans with bad memories of Nathan Smith, it is very interesting that one comparison keeps coming up in regards to Hayton—Patrice Bergeron. That’s the sort of “safe pick” that any team would be lucky to make.

As a final note, any team drafting Barrett Hayton can look forward to years of “Don’t Be Hayton” headlines, so that’s got to be considered an added bonus.

Here’s a nice highlight feature on Hayton:

 

Bits and Bobs:

-It’s been a while since our last Elias Pettersson update, but the most important development for him has been his move to center. Pettersson has made the transition to center without missing a beat, and that’s very good news to Canuck fans who hope he’ll be the number one centerpiece of the future.

-ICYMI, Pettersson was ranked as the number one prospect in the world by Craig Button:

https://www.tsn.ca/cupboard-is-stocked-for-up-and-coming-canucks-1.989909

 

-Other Vancouver prospects in the Top 50 included Olli Juolevi, Adam Gaudette, Jonathan Dahlen, and Thatcher Demko, in that order. Kole Lind was robbed!

-Apparently, someone in the Canucks front office reads this article. I called for Darren Archibald to be signed two weeks in a row, and, suddenly, it happened. Hi Trevor!

-Canuck fans shouldn’t get too bummed out about Mat Barzal taking a big lead in the rookie scoring race with his third five-point night of the season. Goals are normally weighted higher than points in Calder voting, and even if Brock Boeser finishes in second place, that’s still a remarkable accomplishment. Besides, Barzal is a BC boy, so Vancouver fans should be proud of his accomplishment, too.

-The idea of Todd Bertuzzi joining the coaching staff specifically to train Jake Virtanen is an enticing one. However, Virtanen could benefit plenty just from watching the way Darren Archibald uses his body.