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.

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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.

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of January 29-February 4

 Who Had a Good Week:

Bo Horvat- Only scoring two goals in three games doesn’t represent the best week of hockey that Bo has ever played, but his return has highlighted just how important he is to the Vancouver Canucks. He certainly adds another gear to the Canuck offense, and his skating strength creates more space and opportunity for the rest of the team. One gets the feeling that Horvat is just getting his game back after his absence, and will begin to pile up the points once again. 

Brock Boeser- What slump? Boeser only scored one goal this week, which was a beauty, but he padded his assist totals with two to bring himself to a point-per-game in three games. Boeser obviously appreciates the return of Bo Horvat, and the two are once again proving they could be the foundations of a future first line. 

Jake Virtanen- The calls from the fanbase, and more importantly the coaching staff, for Virtanen to increase his physical play were obviously heard. Jake threw some big checks this week, and it’s clear that doing so will continue to create space on the ice for him. Adding two assists to the week was just an added bonus. 

Brandon Sutter- Sutter has quietly been playing great since his return from injury, piling up points and playing effective defensive minutes. Sutter had three assists in three games this week, and looked dangerous even when matched up against some truly dominant offensive talents.

Chris Tanev- Anytime Tanev puts up a three-point night, it makes for a special week. However, that’s not the only reason he’s on the list. Tanev’s recovery from his dental injury seems to be progressing well, and his ice-time is starting to creep up gradually. He played over 22 minutes in the last two games of the week, and the more time Tanev spends on the ice, the better the Canucks seem to do. 

Troy Stecher- Stecher is rebounding from his sophomore slump before his sophomore season is even over. Stecher racked up three assists in three games this week, but his defensive play and decision-making have also noticeably improved, which is likely the main reason his ice-time has steadily increased.

 

Who Had a Rough Week: 

Sven Baertschi- Baertschi was given a bit of a break coming off an injury, but his offense has dried up for the time being. Baertschi was eventually bumped from Horvat’s line this week, and his ice time has been low for a supposed top-six forward. Baertschi needs to bump this slump in a major way. 

Ben Hutton/Derrick Pouliot- These two have been trading healthy scratches, but neither has managed to give the coaching staff reason to pick them over the other guy. In fact, it’s arguable that Alex Biega has been the more effective defenseman, which doesn’t bode well for these two young D. 

Markus Granlund- There has been some trade talk surrounding Granlund, but it’s obviously based on his performance from last year, since his offense has since taken a nosedive. Granlund is still receiving a ton of minutes, including the most among all forwards against Tampa Bay, but he just isn’t doing much out there. He’s quickly entering Nic Dowd territory in terms of non-productivity.

 

Roster Talk:

The Trade Deadline countdown officially begins now, with three weeks and exactly ten games left before the fateful date. There’s not much doubt left that the Canucks will be sellers, so right now what they need most is for players like Thomas Vanek, Erik Gudbranson, and any other trade chips to stay healthy.

The report that Jim Benning was hoping to re-sign Erik Gudbranson, rather than trade him, was disturbing to a lot of Canuck fans, but it can be taken with a grain of salt. Benning has proven before that he’ll do what he needs to in order to boost the trade value of his players, and this seems like another case of that. Benning is essentially telling potential trade partners, “I’m fine with keeping him, so you’ll really need to pony up if you want him. 

Something to keep in mind with Thomas Vanek is that, although St. Louis may look like the best potential fit for him at the Deadline, he has a bad history with Head Coach Mike Yeo. That likely takes the Blues out of the running for him, which may slightly decrease his market value.

 

Comets Report: 

The Utica Comets had a relatively short week thanks to the 2018 AHL All-Star Game, which was hosted in Utica. Thatcher Demko and Reid Boucher helped lead the North Division to victory, much to the delight of their hometown fans.

The rest of the week consisted of a back-to-back weekend home-and-home with the Syracuse Crunch, and the Comets came away with two victories. The first came on Friday in a 3-1 win, with Richard Bachman filling in for the All-Star weary Demko. Alexis D’Aoust, Nikolay Goldobin, and Dylan Blujus each scored for the Comets. Guillaume Brisebois, Jaime Sifers, Reid Boucher, Philip Holm, and Darren Archibald each had single assists.

Saturday night saw Bachman staying in between the pipes, this time for a 4-2 victory on the strength of his 34 saves and four unanswered goals from the Comets. Philip Holm starred on offense with two goals, including the game winner, and an assist. Blujus and Wacey Hamilton had the other goals. Archibald and D’Aoust each had two assists, while Boucher, Goldobin, and Michael Chaput had one each.

 

The Week Ahead:

The Canucks have a busy week with four games coming up, all of which are on the road.

Tuesday, February 6 at Florida with a 4:30PST start.

Thursday, February 8 at Tampa Bay with a 4:30PST start.

Friday, February 9 at Carolina with a 4:30PST start.

Sunday, February 11 at Dallas with a 1:00PST matinee start.

 

2018 Draft Eligible Prospect of the Week: 

Oliver Wahlstrom, C-

2018 is shaping up to be the Year of the Defenseman, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some great forwards available, and Oliver Wahlstrom is one of them. The American-born center, who holds dual citizenship in Sweden, is described as a natural goal-scorer, and his numbers certainly back that up. This season, Wahlstrom has 15 goals and 24 points in 15 USHL games, along with 29 goals and 50 points in 37 games for the US Under-18 Development Team.

Wahlstrom has solid size at 6’1” and 205 pounds, but it’s his mind that makes him such a dangerous threat every time he’s on the ice. Wahlstrom knows where to go on the ice and has a knack for anticipating the play, meaning he’s often in a scoring position before anyone else recognizes the potential of the play. He seems to have the sort of scoring instincts that just can’t be taught, making it more likely that his numbers will translate to the big league.

Wahlstrom’s skills are all geared toward his goal-scoring prowess. His shot is strong, with a quick release. He is able to move his feet quickly to swiftly jump into a scoring chance. According to Dobber Prospects, he “Owns some of the best pure puck skills in the draft.”

Of course, Wahlstrom wouldn’t be consistently ranked in the draft’s top ten if he were a one-trick pony. His playmaking skills are also elite, with the ability to “thread the needle” on cross-ice passes consistently. He’s a regular penalty-killer, showing some defensive skill, and he even has a physical element to his game that allows him to use his impressive frame.

Here’s a great Draft Analyst video on Wahlstrom:

 

And a feature on his past as a young viral hockey sensation:

 

Bits and Bobs: 

-Brendan Gaunce nearly made my “Good Week” list, and not just because of his unexpected two-goal game. That performance obviously gave Gaunce a boost in confidence, because his next game, against Tampa Bay, was one of his best of the year, and definitely his most physical.

-It was obvious that Travis Green had a talk with the team prior to their game against the Lightning about physicality and laying the body. The whole squad made more of an effort to consistently hit their Tampa opponents, and it seemed to be effective at keeping their offense at bay, for the most part. Virtanen was hitting, Gaunce was hitting, even Henrik Sedin was hitting!

-The application fee has been paid and the season ticket drive is on, and it sounds like NHL hockey in Seattle is closer than ever. Canuck fans can probably bank on a brand new geographical rival in the near future, although they can also bank on a more painful expansion process given Vancouver’s current trajectory.

https://www.tsn.ca/nhl/video/nhl-agrees-to-accept-and-consider-seattle-expansion-application~1280161

-Darren Archibald’s offense is heating up again. Sign him!

-Todd Bertuzzi had a great piece this week about his struggles with mental health, and how he overcame those struggles. An inspiring read inspired by Bell’s Let’s Talk campaign:

http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/todd-bertuzzi-opens-mental-breakdown-getting-help/

-Major props to those of you who donated to the Canucks For Kids Telethon this week. Each year, I donate a measly $37.28 (in memory of Rick Rypien and Luc Bourdon), but every little bit helps!

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of January 22-28

Who Had a Good Week:

Brock Boeser- Boeser made his All-Star debut this weekend, and most Canuck fans are certain that such visits will likely be a yearly occurrence for Brock. He won the Accuracy Competition with an impressive score and an even more impressive flow, and that alone would be enough for him to make this list. Then he became the first rookie since Mario Lemieux to be named All-Star MVP, and that would certainly have been enough for him to make this list. However, he also turned in one of his best games of the year, and his most memorable goal, against the LA Kings earlier in the week. What a week for Brock Boeser.

Loui Eriksson- Eriksson had perhaps his best game as a Canuck against the LA Kings, notching two big goals and setting up another. Vancouver had to know that Eriksson was going to be a streaky player, but this season has seen more good streaks that last year, and he’ll need to keep this up to end the year with solid numbers. 

Thomas Vanek- Vanek is also a streaky player, but he never seems to go too long without a good offensive game. The match against LA was impressive for Vanek, especially the part where he scored with yet another breakaway slapshot classic. He’s on a nearly 60 point pace, and that’s the kind of bang-for-buck return that everyone should be satisfied with.

 

Who Had a Rough Week: 

Alex Edler- Edler did put up two powerplay assists this week, and is getting close to an important milestone, but his defensive play left a lot to be desired. Edler was on the ice for all three goals against versus Los Angeles (including the one that was called back), and two of them were the direct result of his gaffes.

Jake Virtanen- By all rights, Virtanen should have been benched after this brutal turnover against Buffalo that led to a goal against. That didn’t end up being the case, but it was a relatively invisible week for Jake otherwise, so he may not be far off from a trip to the AHL.

 

Roster Talk:

The real stretch run for the Vancouver Canucks begins now, with less than a month, and only 13 games, until the 2018 Trade Deadline. The Canucks could really benefit from some good luck during this period, including Erik Gudbranson returning to health and Thomas Vanek avoiding any cold stretches.

There were a lot of rumours flying around this week about the Pittsburgh Penguins heavily scouting the Canucks. It has long been known that the Penguins are looking for center depth, so they could be looking at any of Markus Granlund, Nic Dowd, or Brendan Gaunce, with Granlund being the most likely contender. There have also been rumours connecting Gudbranson and Pittsburgh, although their recent acquisition of Jamie Oleksiak may have changed things.

In terms of acquisitions, it was a bit surprising to see the Canucks not put in a claim on Cody McLeod this week, in an attempt to shore up the team’s toughness and grit. Once the Canucks officially declare themselves sellers and give up on the playoffs, it would be surprising to see them not pick up someone to protect Brock and the gang for the rest of the season.

 

Comets Report:

It was another good week for the Comets, who picked up at least a point in each of their three games. The worst came first on Wednesday evening against Hartford, as Utica dropped a 4-3 decision in overtime. Richard Bachman was in net to make 30 saves in the losing effort. Zack MacEwen scored two goals, and Reid Boucher had the other, a game-tying goal with 40 seconds remaining. Adam Comrie, Michael Carcone, Nikolay Goldobin, and Philip Holm each had single assists.

The Comets got back into the win column with a 3-1 decision against Binghamton on Friday. Bachman was once again in net. Darren Archibald paced the offense with a goal and an assist, with the recently-returned Michael Chaput putting up two helpers. Boucher and Carcone also scored, with Goldobin, Wacey Hamilton, and Patrick Wiercioch snagging assists.

Utica wrapped up the week with a 3-2 overtime victory over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, with Thacher Demko back between the pipes. Wacey Hamilton starred with two goals, including the overtime winner, and Holm tied the game with less than a minute remaining. Boucher, Chaput, Wiercioch, and Alexis D’Aoust all had single assists. 

The Comets will now take a break for AHL All-Star festivities, hosted in Utica, which will wrap up on Monday. Thatcher Demko and Reid Boucher are the Comets’ representatives.

 

The Week Ahead:

The Canucks are back to a three-game rotation this week, with games:

Tuesday, January 30 at home against Colorado with a 7:00PST start.

Thursday, February 1 at home against Chicago with a 7:00PST start.

Saturday, February 2 at home against Tampa Bay with a 7:00PST start.

 

2018 Draft Eligible Prospect of the Week: 

Evan Bouchard, D- 

Bouchard is another big riser in the 2018 draft rankings. He’s now routinely ranked amongst the conglomerate of talented defensemen that could go in the top-ten, with some pundits placing Bouchard as high as the top-six.

Bob McKenzie calls Bouchard “one of the best passers of any player in the draft, with an uncanny knack of finding the open man and making an NHL-quality pass.” This was on full display when Bouchard notched four assists in the CHL Prospects Game for Team Cherry. That’s not to say that Bouchard is a designated playmaker, as he’s also reported to have a solid point shot.

Playing for the hockey factory that is the London Knights organization, where he wears the captain’s C, Bouchard has put up impressive numbers this season, with 58 points in only 46 games. He’s dominated at the Under-17s, but had a fairly disappointing showing at the Ivan Hlinka, being held pointless in four games. However, that shouldn’t dissuade anyone from picking Bouchard—he’s absolutely an offensive powerhouse.

Bouchard isn’t a one-way player, either. He’s described as having an excellent hockey sense and a strong work ethic, which he employs to make smart and measured decisions in the defensive zone. His positioning is generally good, and he uses his smooth skating to get wherever he needs to be in the d-zone.

In other words, Bouchard is the definition of an all-around defenseman, and the kind of player that is almost guaranteed to play in the NHL. His 6’2” frame doesn’t hurt, either.

Here’s 15 Bouchard goals from this season:

 

And a really nice goal/assist combo from February:

 

Bits and Bobs: 

-The whole hockey world got an eyeful of Brock Boeser’s amazing release during Saturday’s Skills Competition. I get the feeling that Canuck fans can get used to seeing Boeser compete in that particular competition for many years to come.

-The lack of pushback against Los Angeles for Trevor Lewis’ hit from behind against Boeser was disturbing. The game was a blowout, and the team’s franchise player had just been dirtied, and the only response was a light shove by Alex Edler. Imagine what Derek Dorsett would have done.

-Is it time to give Darren Archibald a shot? I think it is.

-Speaking of the AHL, anyone wanting to watch the All-Star Game on Monday can stream it for free on ahllive.com. Perhaps it’s not the best way to judge Thatcher Demko’s progress, but it should still be a fun event for the very deserving fans of Utica.

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of January 15-21

Who Had a Good Week: 

Brandon Sutter- Canuck fans didn’t seem to miss Sutter much when he was injured, but he’s showing why he’s a much more effective option as a checking center than Nic Dowd. Sutter had a goal against Edmonton and looked dangerous otherwise, all while skating efficient two-way minutes.

Chris Tanev- Against Connor McDavid and the Oilers, Tanev skated three and a half minutes on a penalty kill that went three-for-three, and he even added a rare assist. Travis Green is relying more on Alex Edler for big minutes, but Tanev is still the team’s steadiest option.

Anders Nilsson- Nilsson’s 35 save performance against the offensive potent Winnipeg Jets was the exact kind of game he needed to revive the team’s confidence in his abilities. Nilsson made some big saves, and gave the team a chance to beat one of the top teams in the West. 

Jacob Markstrom- Despite letting in four goals against Edmonton, Markstrom made a number of highlight reel saves and helped a game that should have been a blowout stay close. Now, the trick for Markstrom will be to play this well consistently.

 

Who Had a Rough Week:

Derrick Pouliot- Pouliot stayed in the lineup ahead of Ben Hutton on Sunday against Winnipeg, but he’s certainly stopped being noticeable for any positive reasons on the ice. Pouliot appears to only be effective when paired with Alex Edler. Pouliot was exposed by the skilled and speedy Oilers.

Thomas Vanek- Players like Vanek are always streaky, and his potent offense was bound to dry up at some point. Vanek was minus three against the Oilers, a fleet-footed team that exposed his slow skating, and he took a physical beating against the Jets.

 

Roster Talk:

Some fans expect Nikolay Goldobin to be called up now that the Canucks are done with their bye week, but I don’t think he’ll make a reappearance until after the Trade Deadline. Goldobin can come up and replace Thomas Vanek’s minutes at that point.

Anyone expecting Nic Dowd to be waived is dreaming. He obviously has the trust of Travis Green, and he’s now the de facto fourth line center. In fact, Dowd may even draw some interest from a contending team seeking center depth at the Deadline.

There were rumours that the Chicago Blackhawks had interest in Michael Del Zotto, and it’s something the Canucks should definitely explore if true. Del Zotto would fit the perpetually cap-strapped Chicago’s budget, and the Canucks need to make room for their young defenseman to play bigger minutes.

 

Comets Report:

The Comets had an intense schedule this week, with four games in six nights with travel in between each game. Luckily, it proved to be a productive week for Utica.

The Comets started off the week with a Monday win against the Rochester Americans for the first half of a home-and-home. Thatcher Demko was in net for the 2-1 shootout win, making 27 saves during the game and stopping all three opponents in the shootout. Zack MacEwen scored the Canucks’ lone regulation goal, assisted by Reid Boucher and Nikolay Goldobin. Boucher and Goldobin failed to score in the shootout, but Darren Archibald shot last and iced it.

Utica faced the Americans again two nights later, this time at home, and again Demko led the way in a shootout victory. This time, the score was 3-2, and both Boucher and Goldobin had to score in the shootout to secure the victory. The red hot Cole Cassels had a goal and an assist, and Michael Carcone had two assists. Archibald had the other goal.

The Comets picked up their only loss of the week on Friday against Hartford, and their third overtime game in a row. This time, Richard Bachman was in net for the 3-2 loss. Boucher and Dylan Blujus scored in the third to tie the game, and Goldobin added two assists. Cameron Darcy and Ashton Sautner had single assists.

Utica finally managed to get it done in regulation with their 4-2 win against Syracuse on Saturday, with Demko back between the pipes to make 40 saves and add an assist. Boucher had two goals, Goldobin had three assists, and Darcy had a goal and two assists to pace the offense. Sautner and Philip Holm had single assists.

As well, for your viewing pleasure, Darren Archibald absolutely pummeled an opposing player:

 

The Week Ahead:

The Canucks’ schedule doesn’t exactly pick up much after their bye week. The team plays just twice this upcoming week, on Tuesday, January 24 against Los Angeles and Thursday, January 26 against Buffalo, both at home and both with 7:00PST start times.

 

2018 Draft Eligible Prospect of the Week:

I didn’t have time to do one of these this week, but feel free to suggest players for next week in the comments.

 

Bits and Bobs:

-I, for one, would be greatly disappointed if Jim Benning’s contract were not renewed. Benning’s best traits are underrated and his shortcomings are often blown out of proportion, but on the whole he’s given the Vancouver Canucks the best prospect cupboard in team history. It would be a shame if Benning weren’t able to stick around for the fruits of his labour.

-Casual fans definitely buy into the “Dim Jim” mentality, but the emergence of Brock Boeser has done a lot to ingratiate Benning with that crowd. If anything, Benning would be replaced as an attempt to appease the portion of the fanbase that is annoyed with the losing record and has stopped attending games.

-On the other hand, the fact that Benning’s contract hasn’t been renewed yet definitely doesn’t bode well, and it’s going to become more of a storyline as time goes on. There may not be an announcement or indication either way until after the Trade Deadline.

-The Ken Holland rumours should worry all Canuck fans. The Detroit Red Wings have one of the bleakest futures of any NHL franchise, and Holland has shown an inability to adapt to the “new” NHL. It’s hard to see an upside to Holland aside from experience, but that experience comes with a certain stubbornness. Vancouver should take a hard pass on Holland.

-It was certainly disappointing to see Elias Pettersson not make Team Sweden for the Olympics, but here’s hoping he has a Kole Lind-like response to the snub and secures the SHL scoring title.

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of January 8-14

Who Had a Good Week:

Thomas Vanek- Vanek came in with a reputation of being a consistent offensive producer, but he is currently outstripping even the most optimistic of projections. Vanek put  up a goal and two assists this week, but looked even more dangerous than his point-per-game production would suggest. Vanek’s backhand passes are becoming legendary, and the Minnesota game proved he is still a threat to score at any time.

Henrik Sedin- The Sedins are producing about as well as could be expected for their age, and Hank once again had a big week despite his brother’s injury. Henrik put up four points in three games, all assists of course, and continued to eat up important minutes with Bo Horvat out. Brock Boeser may be the big threat on the powerplay, but Henrik is still the guy that the unit is built around. 

Loui Eriksson- Eriksson is also an important part of the resurgent powerplay, and he, too, went point-per-game this week with two assists and a much-needed goal. Eriksson is quietly having a solid season, and although he’s still not earning his contract, he’d be on pace for a 40 point season without his injury.

Alex Edler- Edler has received his fair share of criticism in recent weeks, but the return of Chris Tanev saw Edler respond with a monster week. Edler put up a big four points in three games, played enormous minutes despite a fully healthy D corps, and minimized his mistakes. He even passed to Boeser a few times on the powerplay!

Jakob Markstrom- This was perhaps Markstrom’s best week of the season. Markstrom was solid in the 3-1 loss to the Capitals, and then performed great in the two wins, particularly the one against Minnesota, where Markstrom made a number of impressive saves. Hopefully this is some momentum that Markstrom can build on.

 

Who Had a Rough Week:

Derrick Pouliot- Pouliot was called out by a few regular readers in the comments last week, and it looks like it was rightfully so. With a full and healthy D corps, Pouliot may have a tough time getting back into the lineup anytime soon.

Markus Granlund- Granlund has had a streaky season, and this week represented on of the bad streaks. Granlund’s offense is usually spotty, but his defensive play also left much to be desired this week. Granlund was on the ice for all three goals against when the Canucks played the Capitals, and he looked ineffective despite a bunch of ice time against the Wild.

Nikolay Goldobin- Goldobin got a ton of ice time against Washington, but didn’t do much with it, leading to him be stapled to the bench against Columbus, despite the big lead, and an eventual demotion to Utica. The demotion may be a blessing in disguise, with the Canucks on their bye week, but it’s still apparent that Goldobin has yet to fully earn Travis Green’s trust.

 

Roster Talk:

The offensive reawakening of Thomas Vanek, and the improved play of Erik Gudbranson, bode well for Jim Benning and the 2018 Trade Deadline. The Deadline is deceptively close with the Canucks on the verge of a bye week, and anything that duo does to raise their stock around the league is appreciated.

Speaking of the Trade Deadline, how about a friendly reminder of my theory that the reason Jim Benning performed so well at the 2017 Deadline is because of the reputation he earned in the Dan Hamhuis negotiations. Benning refused to get jerked around by Dallas and established that he’d rather sit on assets than get lowballed, and it resulted in impressive returns for both Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen in 2017. Here’s hoping that reputation carries through to the 2018 Deadline.

 

Comets Report:

The Utica Comets opened the week strong with a 5-1 thumping of the Laval Rocket. Thatcher Demko still had to make 36 saves in the rout. Adam Comrie had a goal and an assist, as did Cole Cassels, with Marco Roy, Andrew Cherniwchan, and Philip Holm notching single markers. Patrick Wiercioch had two assists, and Guillaume Brisebois, Vincent Arseneau, Reid Boucher, Dylan Blujus, Jalen Chatfield, and David Dziurzynski each getting single helpers.

The next game, on Friday, January 12, didn’t go nearly as well for Demko and the Comets, as they fell 3-2 to the Syracuse Crunch. Recent addition Adam Comrie scored another goal, and Reid Boucher notched his 17th, with Wiercioch, Blujus, Ashton Sautner, and Zack MacEwen scoring single assists.

The Comets righted the ship with a 3-2 win the next night in Binghamton, this time with Richard Bachman between the pipes. Comrie again came up huge with two goals and an assist, while Boucher and MacEwen had two assists each. Philip Holm had the winner, and Blujus had a lone assist.

 

The Week Ahead:

The Canucks only play two games next week, Saturday, January 20, at home against Edmonton, with a start time of 7:00PM PST and Sunday, January 21 at Winnipeg with a 5:00PM PST start time. These bye weeks make for odd schedules.

 

2018 Draft Eligible Prospect of the Week:

Jared McIsaac, D- 

McIsaac is definitely a more classic Canadian defenseman than some of the others that have been highly rated in recent years. He has a solid frame, plays a hard-nosed style, and is known to be extremely competitive. McIsaac played his midget hockey in Cole Harbour, where Sidney Crosby grew up, and was offensively dominant there, but his offense has yet to explode at the junior level.

Scouts really rave about McIsaac’s skating ability, even if he doesn’t always use it for offensive purposes. He’s a two-way guy, and his smooth skating style, described as both “effortless” and “flawless,” makes it a breeze for him to get up and down the ice. His skating skills work in concert with a strong hockey sense, ensuring that McIsaac is always in the right place at the right time. McIsaac plays tough and aggressively, and he’s known to put a ton of pressure on opposing forwards.

Although his numbers aren’t eye-popping, it isn’t that McIsaac brings nothing to the table offensively. McIsaac has a good shot from the point, and crisp breakout passes seem to be his specialty. His skating ability makes him a great breakout player in general, able to bomb the puck up the ice to a teammate or skate it there himself.

Playing for the Halifax Mooseheads, McIsaac has used his sense of timing and a serious mean streak to strike fear into opposing QMJHL players. Physical play may not be the first thing that NHL scouts look for in a defender anymore, but McIsaac’s skating abilities will ensure he goes in the first half of the first round in 2018.

Here’s a good example of McIsaac crunching an opponent, Canuck pick Rodrigo Abols:

 

And a highlight reel of his first QMJHL season:

 

Bits and Bobs:

-There’s one thing for sure about the Nic Dowd ice time controversy—it’s doing some funky things to his stats. For instance, Dowd’s points-per-60-minutes is an abysmal 0.281, ranking him the lowest among regular Canuck skaters, including the defensemen.

-Boeser obviously has the highest points-per-60-minutes on the team, with 3.367, but Thomas Vanek is nipping at his heels with a score of 3.013. Vanek is definitely outperforming expectations.

-Speaking of the Nic Dowd ice time controversy, the game against the Wild seemed to prove that it was simply a matter of circumstances. Dowd only put up 12:30 in that game, while the returning Brandon Sutter picked up almost 18 minutes, and was just a few seconds behind Sam Gagner among the centers.

-Having not looked at team stats in a while, I was surprised to hear how good the Canucks’ powerplay was performing, particularly on the road. The Canucks’ losing record has somewhat masked the resurgence of their special teams, and it’s a testament to the coaching staff that the team is improving aspects of their game without improving their personnel.

-Desperate for hockey during the bye week? Try following the Utica Comets’ twitter feed during one of their games. They post up-to-the-minute highlights and updates, and it’s the closest one can get to watching the Comets without paying obscene prices for low quality feeds.