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.
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.
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.