Weekly Canucks Report: Week of December 25-31

Who Had a Good Week:

Thomas Vanek- I’ll come right out and say it: I was dead wrong about Thomas Vanek. Vanek’s scoring has been a pleasant surprise, but the way he is getting those points is even more impressive. Vanek battles hard and works well with a variety of linemates, but especially well with Brock Boeser. Even though Vanek and his linemates went pointless on Saturday after his five point outburst against the Blackhawks, the new “top” line still looked dangerous.

Brock Boeser- Everyone should be fully aware by now that Brock Boeser can score goals, but his three assist effort against the Blackhawks also showed some serious playmaking skills. The drop pass to Vanek was one for the ages, and it’s all further proof that Boeser is far from a one-trick pony. It seems that, from here on out, the Canucks’ top line will be whichever line Boeser is playing on.

 Sam Gagner- Gagner had a tough start to the year, but these past two weeks have seen him step up into the top line role vacated by Bo Horvat, and Gagner is thriving. The line of Vanek-Gagner-Boeser has definitely clicked, but improved offensive play by Gagner is a major part of that. His defensive game still needs some work, but this sort of depth scoring is exactly what the Canucks signed Gagner for.

 Nikolay Goldobin- Goldobin played two games this week and didn’t crack 20 minutes of ice time, but he still put up a goal and an assist. Goldobin is the sort of player that plays best when he’s confident, and his goal against the Kings was the most confident move he has made as a Canuck. Goldobin is a player who looks ready to breakout.

 Troy Stecher- Stecher also had a tough start to the year, but his confidence seems to returning in a big way. Stecher is rushing the puck with more frequency, and effectiveness, than he ever has before, and he got results this week with two points in two games. Stecher has finally seen his ice time increase as a result of his improved play.

 

Who Had a Rough Week:

 Erik Gudbranson- Gudbranson is the sort of player that needs to be tuned into the game to be effective, and he simply looks disengaged out there. Perhaps Gudbranson knows that a trade is imminent, but he certainly isn’t doing much to increase his market value. Gudbranson may be putting up plenty of “hits” in the stats department, but he’s not being the kind of physical presence he needs to be to make a difference.

 Ben Hutton- The Hutton-Gudbranson pairing has been a real disaster, and it’s hard to separate the performance of one from the other. However, it seems obvious that the play of Hutton hasn’t been helping matters. Hutton did put up two assists against LA, but his defensive game has completely fallen apart. Fresh off a healthy scratch, Hutton needs to rapidly improve his defensive positioning to hold on to his spot on the roster.

 Alex Biega- Let this be the end of the “Biega as a winger” experiment. He’s a fine depth defender, but there’s no reason to be playing him at forward with other forwards available.

 

Roster Talk:

All signs point to an Erik Gudbranson trade in the near future. There was the mysterious “trade imminent” tweet by JD Burke that was quickly deleted, along with apparent changes to Gudbranson’s social media bios. Aside from the internet evidence, there’s the simple fact that Gudbranson doesn’t seem to have much of a future with the Canucks, and other teams appear to have an interest in him. The word on the street is that Gudbranson is likely going to a team in the Atlantic Division.

With Gudbranson on the market, there’s little chance the Canucks healthy scratch him, so it will probably be Ben Hutton sitting out again whenever Chris Tanev returns. All the more reason to get a Gudbranson trade done sooner rather than later. Hutton needs a fresh start with a new partner to salvage his career.

The topic of whether or not to trade Thomas Vanek at the Trade Deadline came up this week, spurred by Vanek’s five point game against the Blackhawks. While some Canuck fans wouldn’t mind seeing Vanek re-signed, this should definitely be a “sell high” sort of scenario for Jim Benning. Vanek is outperforming expectations, but he was signed as potential trade bait, and now it’s Benning’s job to cash in on the return.

 

Comets Report:

The Utica Comets are officially slumping, and another winless week has dropped them out of a playoff spot in the North Division of the AHL.

The first loss came on Wednesday with a visit to Providence to take on the Bruins. The Comets dropped the contest 5-4 in a shootout, with Thatcher Demko tending the net. New addition Dylan Blujus had a two point night with a goal and an assist, as did Michael Carcone. Ashton Sautner and Joe LaBate had the other goals for the Comets. Single assist came from Patrick Wiercioch, Zack MacEwen, Alexis D’Aoust, Cole Cassels, and Tony Cameranesi. No Comets were able to score in the shootout.

The Comets faced the Bruins in Providence once again on Friday, and the result was a 3-1 loss in regulation. This time, it was Richard Bachman in net. MacEwen had to lone Utica goal, assisted by Cassels and Philip Holm.

Utica finished off the week with yet another loss, but this one came in an amazing Saturday shootout against the Syracuse Crunch that went an astonishing 11 rounds before Ben Thomas scored to give the Crunch a 3-2 win. Michael Carcone, who was been hot of late, scored in regulation for the Comets, as did Marco Roy. Darren Archibald, Guillaume Brisebois, and Jalen Chatfield had the assists. Archibald, Holm, and Cassels were the only Comets to score in the shootout.

 

The Week Ahead:

The Canucks are definitely enjoying the quietest portion of their schedule, with only five games over the course of two weeks. This week sees:

Canucks hosting Anaheim on Tuesday, January 2 at 7:00PST.

Canucks at Toronto on Saturday, January 6 at 4:00PST.

Canucks at Montreal on Sunday, January 7 at 4:00PST.

 

2018 Draft Eligible Prospect of the Week:

Rasmus Kupari, C-

I wanted to pick a prospect that for this week that fans can watch in the World Juniors, and I’ve already covered the top few like Dahlin, Svechnikov, and Tkachuk, so Kupari will have to do!  Kupari is currently playing for Team Finland alongside Olli Juolevi.

Although Kupari is thus far pointless in four games at the World Juniors, he is described as a talented player who can make plays a top speed. He only has four points in 19 games in the Finnish Liiga for Karpat this season, but he has 11 points in 14 games at the junior level. Most of Kupari’s most-discussed traits, like being “slick” and “dangerous,” are extensions of his skating ability, so his lack of eye-popping offensive numbers may be the result of hands that haven’t yet caught up to his feet.

Kupari has good physical traits, standing at 6’1” with a frame that is described as strong. Kupari has a great shot, although he’s not a natural goal-scorer, and his work ethic is frequently complimented. Kupari is also versatile, able to play both center and the wing. Kupari looks to be a classic middle-6 Finnish forward, offering a blend of offense, speed, and defensive effort.

Currently, Kupari is ranked somewhere around 10th for the 2018 Draft.

Here’s a five point game for Kupari against Slovaki at the Ivan Hlinka:

 

 

 

Top 10 Canuck Moments of 2017:

-Instead of Bits and Bobs this week, here are my top ten Canuck moments of 2017, off the top of my head:

10) Thomas Vanek’s five point night.

9) Derek Dorsett returns from injury to shutdown McDavid.

8) Hotdog Horvat.

7) The hiring of Travis Green as head coach.

6) The trade for Derrick Pouliot.

5) The 2017 Trade Deadline yielding Goldobin and Dahlen.

4) Drafting Elias Pettersson, and the 2017 Draft as a whole.

3) Daniel hits the 1000 point mark.

2) Brock Boeser, destroys Matt Murray’s confidence with his “comedy” routine.

1) Henr1k.

 

Bonus World Junior Update:

-As expected, Elias Pettersson is absolutely dominating the World Junior Championships. He currently sits tied for third in tournament scoring with six points in four round robin games, and he did this:

 

 

-Jonah Gadjovich has looked strong for Canada, both figuratively and literally. He has two goals and an assist in four games, and has been a constant physical presence.

-Olli Juolevi has looked fine, although his production is a little bit below where fans would like it to be. He currently has two assists in four games, but the Finns have been disappointing overall, so that’s not entirely on Juolevi.

-William Lockwood was always destined for a grinding role with Team USA, and he was held pointless in three games. His tournament ended with an injury in the outdoor game against Canada, however, he did have a few moments of brilliance before that happened.

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Weekly Canucks Report: Week of December 11-17

 Who Had a Good Week:

Brock Boeser- Well, Boeser made a real honest attempt to carry the team on his back. The young stud had three points in three games before being felled by a foot injury against Calgary. Before his injury, Boeser was nearing a 50 goal pace, but any significant loss of time will kill that dream for Canuck fans.

Markus Granlund- Granlund has always been a streaky scorer, but he picked the right time to streak this week. After going scoreless in the first two games, Granlund potted three goals in the next two, piling up the goals when the Canucks need him to the most. Suddenly, Granlund is back on pace for 20 goals after seeing his offense dry up for a while.

Alex Biega- With 11 hits in two games this week, Biega really did play like he’d been shot out of a cannon. This ability to play at maximum capacity after having sat out for so long is part of the reason why Biega is an ideal seventh defenseman, and a valuable asset to keep around.

 *The Sedins- I’m not sure what I was thinking in not initially including the Sedins in this column for the week. The Twins were both over a point-per-game this week, stepping up when the team needs them the most. Perhaps I just overlooked them because Canuck fans are used to Henrik and Daniel coming up big when the situation calls for it.

 

Who Had a Rough Week:

Jacob Markstrom- The Canucks goaltending wasn’t the only reason for their loss-laden week, but it was definitely a major factor. In three appearances, Markstrom let in 13 goals against on 80 shots, for a weekly save percentage of 0.838. Markstrom received little offensive or defensive support from the team, and the Canucks can’t expect him to stand on his head every night, but they should be expecting stronger play than this.

Anders Nilsson- Nilsson isn’t off the hook this week, either, despite only appearing in one game and change. Over four periods of play this week, Nilsson let in eight goals, including an impressive (for the wrong reasons) seven in one game against Nashville. This gives Nilsson a nice, round 6.00 goals against average on the week, with a save percentage of 0.881. That’s better than Markstrom, surprisingly, but still well below average.

Alex Burmistrov- After reports came out that the Canucks were looking to move on from Burmistrov, he unexpectedly got another chance at the lineup with injuries piling up. Unfortunately, he did not make the most of it. Burmistrov did get a goal this week, but he was on the ice for goals and chances against far more frequently. In general, Burmistrov’s appearance in the lineup seems to affect the team mostly negatively.

Jake Virtanen- Virtanen’s stats in four games this week: zero points, four shots, three hits, a minus seven rating, and 22 penalty minutes, especially rough for a guy who entered the week penalty-free. In other words, Virtanen isn’t doing enough positive things, and is contributing too much on the negative side at the moment.

Sam Gagner- Aside from Gagner’s impressive overtime winner against San Jose, he’s not doing anything with his opportunity as the Canucks’ leading offensive center. Obviously, it’s a role that’s more-than-a-little over Gagner’s head, but the team was likely expecting at least a little more production out of him.

Ben Hutton- The Canucks’ defense as a whole was putrid this week, but Hutton was probably the worst of the bunch. His positioning seems to have improved, but Hutton remains ineffective even when he’s standing in the right spot. Too many opponents skated right around Hutton this week.

 

Roster Talk:

This may seem like the perfect time for the Canucks to finally sign Darren Archibald and give him another shot at the NHL, but unfortunately he’s currently injured. Luckily for Archibald, the Canucks are almost certain to still be beset by injuries whenever he recovers.

Word has already come down that Reid Boucher is getting the callup to replace Brock Boeser in the lineup. Beyond Boucher, Utica’s forward corps are suddenly looking a little thin, with Michael Chaput and Nikolay Goldobin already up, so expect a more unexpected callup next. Jayson Megna is always an option, but Zack MacEwen or Michael Carcone could get the call.

A reactionary trade might not be a great idea at this point. The Jordan Subban for Nic Dowd deal came about because the Canucks had a superfluous asset that could be exchanged for NHL-ready talent. They’re not deep in superfluous assets, and it would be disappointing to see more draft picks traded, given Jim Benning’s proven proficiency at the draft table. Perhaps it’s best to just wait it out for the time being.

 

Comets Report:

The Comets fell to .500 this week, dropping two of three contests. The first loss came on Wednesday against the Rochester Americans, with Thatcher Demko in net. Utica fell 3-1, with Michael Carcone scoring the only Utica goal, assisted by Wacey Hamilton and Cole Cassels.

Utica notched their only win of the week on Friday against the Binghamton Devils and their creepy logo. It was a low-scoring affair that saw the Comets walk away with a 2-1 win on the strength of a Brendan Woods winner in the third period, assisted by Cassels and PTO Cliff Watson. Philip Holm had the opening goal, with Reid Boucher and Zack MacEwen getting the assists. Demko was in net again, making 20 saves on 21 shots.

It looked like the Comets may be in line for another win on Saturday against the Rochester Americans, as they had a 2-0 lead early in the third period, but they gave up three straight goals to lose 3-2 in overtime. This time, Richard Bachman was tending the net. Cole Cassels had a goal and an assist, making this three straight games with a point for him. Michael Carcone had one and one as well. Patrick Wiercioch and Griffen Molino each had a single assist.

 

The Week Ahead:

The Canucks have three games in the upcoming week-

Tuesday, December 19 at home against Montreal with a 7:00PST start.

Thursday, December 21 on the road against San Jose with a 7:30PST start.

Saturday, December 23 back at home against St. Louis with a 7:00PST start.

 

2018 Draft Eligible Prospect of the Week:

Bodie Wilde, D-

Right off the bat, Bodie Wilde has one of the greatest hockey names of all-time, although not the greatest name in the 2018 Draft (that honour goes to Jett Woo). His name may cause one to envision a lackadaisical, offense-first defender, but Wilde is more of an all-around threat. He’s got great size at 6’2” and is described as strong, allowing him to be effective at both ends of the ice.

Wilde’s offense is steady, even if he doesn’t put up eye-popping numbers. His offense is described as “instinctual,” with effective vision and decision-making allowing him to jump whenever opportunities present themselves. Playing as a part of the US National Development Team, Wilde has put up 20 points in 32 games, and he’s committed to the University of Michigan for the 2018-19 season. He’s described as a puck-mover and a difference-maker on the powerplay.

Defensively, Wilde is quite strong, using his large frame to effectively box out opponents and shut them down. Wilde is described as “calm” and “poised,” allowing him to make good decisions in the defensive zone and effectively move the puck out whenever it reaches his stick. Wilde is said to have those all-important intangibles, too, meaning he can lead a team from the backend.

Wilde isn’t currently predicted to go in the top ten of the draft, and is instead expected to fall somewhere in the middle of the first round.

A great highlight package:

 

 

 

Bits and Bobs:

-The freaky nature of the injuries to both Brock Boeser and Sven Baertschi proves that injuries are often a result of nothing more than bad luck. Unfortunately, it sure seems like the Canucks have had far more than their fair share of said bad luck over the years.

-Despite the worst-case scenario that Boeser’s injury represents, how cool is that he even managed to look badass while scooting to the bench? Easily the coolest Canuck in recent memory.

-What a strange year for Nikolay Goldobin. He goes from being cut in training camp to suddenly being thrust into an offensive leadership role at the NHL level. He’s now one of the main reasons fans will be tuning in to games.

-Fans wanting revenge against Calgary for this week’s drubbing will have to wait a while…this was the last meeting between the two teams for the entire season, unless they meet in the playoffs. A weird scheduling quirk.

-It was undoubtedly disappointing for Canuck fans to see Kole Lind and Michael DiPietro cut from Team Canada, but that still leaves the franchise with one player each on arguably the top four teams in the tournament—Jonah Gadjovich on Canada, Elias Pettersson on Sweden, Will Lockwood on USA, and Olli Juolevi on Finland.

-I’ll be too busy with holiday stuff this week to do a report, so I’ll see you all in two weeks time for a New Year’s Day special! Best wishes to everyone this holiday season, stay safe and have fun out there!

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of December 4-10

Who Had a Good Week:

Brock Boeser- As good as Boeser has been in his young NHL career, he’s definitely been at an advantage by playing with Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi, two skilled players with established chemistry. Now that both are out, we’ll see whether or not Boeser can carry the team’s offense on his own—and the early results are promising. Boeser’s two goals this week came from in tight, proving that he’s far from a one-trick pony.

Jake Virtanen- Virtanen is making the most of his limited ice time, and is in line for an increased role after Baertschi’s injury. Virtanen had a nice goal this week, but he also did more good things in general. Virtanen generates shots on net at a good rate, and is finally playing physical with some consistency. He appears to be catching up to the NHL game.

Derrick Pouliot- Pouliot has been a revelation since being acquired from Pittsburgh for relatively cheap. Pouliot had a huge night against Carolina, notching a point on all three goals, but he moved the puck effectively in each game. He and Michael Del Zotto saw limited minutes against Calgary, but that’s probably more on Del Zotto than Pouliot.

 

Who Had a Rough Week:

Alex Burmistrov- The Canucks chose to acquire Nic Dowd and call up Michael Chaput rather than inserting Burmistrov back into the lineup. It seems that the team has seen enough of Burmistrov, and have chosen to go in another direction. Look for him to hit waivers soon.

Ben Hutton- Hutton had a decent game against Calgary, but in general he’s seen his minutes drop due to ineffective play. He and Troy Stecher are the definitive third pairing at this point, and it’s not hard to imagine Hutton getting scratched when Gudbranson returns. 

Sam Gagner- Gagner is getting a huge opportunity with Bo Horvat out for a while, but he doesn’t look like he has what it takes to fill that gap. Gagner just doesn’t have the drive to create chances for his linemates like Horvat does, and provided little support for Boeser when they played together. Gagner remains a questionable choice on the powerplay’s point.

 

Roster Talk:

The trade of Jordan Subban for Nic Dowd was obviously controversial due to the high hopes that some Canuck fans still harbour for Subban, but the fact is that Subban was rapidly slipping down the depth chart. Subban had even been healthy scratched for the Comets on a number of occasions, and was having his worst offensive season since turning pro. Dowd is mildly promising, but he can definitely play a role at the NHL level, which is looking less and less likely for Subban.

Baertschi’s injury basically ensures that Nikolay Goldobin is about to get an extended audition with the Canucks. He and Boeser together on one line would mean two dangerous players for opponents to attempt to cover. Unfortunately, outside of Henrik Sedin, their aren’t any great options to center the two of them.

The news that Erik Karlsson may be on the trade block sent ripples of excitement through every fanbase, but the Canucks aren’t in a place where acquiring him would make sense. A Karlsson trade would gut Vancouver of some vital prospects and draft picks, which they’d be better off holding onto. The smart move for most teams, including the Canucks, is to sit tight and see if Karlsson hits the free agent market in a year’s time. Who knows, maybe the Canucks will have a shiny new Rasmus Dahlin at that point to further entice Karlsson.

 

Comets Report:

The Comets opened up a rough week by taking an absolute pounding from the Syracuse Crunch, 6-1. Richard Bachman was in bet for all six goals against. Patrick Wiercioch scored the only Utica goal, assisted by Jayson Megna and the red-hot Cameron Darcy. Jordan Subban was healthy scratched, although this may have been related to his upcoming trade.

Next, the Comets were in Providence to take on the Bruins in the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday. On Friday, Thatcher Demko was back in net, but Utica still fell 3-2 in overtime. Darcy had a goal, assisted by Guillaume Brisebois and Zack MacEwen, and then Michael Carcone scored unassisted.

Utica concluded the week with their third loss in a row, dropping another contest against the Bruins by a score of 4-3. Once again, Demko was in net for the loss, and once again it came in overtime. Reid Boucher put up two goals, and Alexis D’Aoust had the other. Brisebois, Darcy, Megna, Wiercioch, and Brendan Woods had single assists.

 

The Week Ahead:

The Canucks play four games this week—

Monday, December 11 at Winnipeg with a 5:00PST start.

Wednesday, December 13 at home against Nashville with a 7:00PST start.

Friday, December 15 at home against San Jose with a 7:00PST start.

Sunday, December 17 at home against Calgary with a 5:00PST start.

 

2018 Draft Eligible Prospect of the Week:

I didn’t have time to do one of these this week, but let me know in the comments who you’d like me to do in the next couple weeks!

 

Bits and Bobs:

-Enough time has passed to start getting really excited about Brock Boeser’s goal-scoring pace. Before the season, 30 goals would have been thought of as a best case scenario, but that seems like a near-certainty at this point. Boeser is on pace for a 45 goal, 82 point season, which would be absolutely insane. He’s currently seventh in the league for goals-per-game.

-The prospect of expansion to Seattle seems to be becoming more and more realistic with each passing day. An ownership group, which includes Jerry Bruckheimer, was granted permission to start the bid process this week, with the aim of joining the NHL for the 2020-21 season. Unfortunately for Canuck fans, that means that the team will likely actually have some valuable assets to lose during the new expansion draft.

-We should hear either this week or next which of Olli Juolevi, Elias Pettersson, Kole Lind, Michael DiPietro, Jonah Gadjovich, and Will Lockwood made their respective World Junior teams. The first two are locks, while the rest are on the bubble.

-As injuries continue to pile up, some have already questioned whether the team’s preseason trip to China is playing a role. It’s a legitimate question whether or not it was wise for a franchise that always struggles with the wear and tear of travel to start their year with an intercontinental trip.

-I’m very glad that Jacob Markstrom got his first career shutout right after the media caught on the fact that he was approaching the record for most games without one. That would have been an unnecessary distraction for a young team to have hanging over it.

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of November 27-December 3

Who Had a Good Week:

Daniel Sedin- A few weeks ago, 1000 points seemed impossibly far away for Daniel Sedin. Since then, the Twins have been on fire, with Daniel leading the charge. This week saw Daniel put up four points in three games, including the three-point effort that cinched his milestone and boosted the Canucks over the defending Western Conference champs.

Henrik Sedin- Although Henrik was overshadowed by his brother this week, for obvious reasons, the captain also had great production, with four assists in three games. Something certainly seems to have clicked in the Sedins’ gameplay, as they are pacing the team’s offense as if they were in their prime.

Loui Eriksson- The promised chemistry between Loui and the Sedins seems to have finally arrived. With two goals and an assist in three games, Eriksson continued his point-per-game play this week, and actually looks dangerous out there, something that couldn’t be said during his first season with the team.

Alex Edler- I ragged on Edler a lot last week, but credit must be given where it is due. Edler’s game-winning goal against the Leafs was vintage Edler and capped off perhaps his best game of the season. Edler led the team in ice time this week against some high-powered offenses, and while he had a rough game against the Islanders, he generally maintained positive stats and minimized his dumb decisions.

 Chris Tanev- Tanev wasn’t incredibly noticeable this week, but that’s a good thing for a player of his ilk. Tanev put in some important minutes against some high-octane offenses from Toronto and Nashville, and shut them down effectively. Tanev continues to be a short-handed star. He’s probably a large part of the reason why Edler made the list this week, as the two looked very strong when paired together.

 

Who Had a Rough Week:

Troy Stecher- It has become quite obvious that Travis Green doesn’t trust Troy Stecher the way that Willie Desjardins did. It’s not that hard to see why. Stecher is definitely going through a sophomore slump, and has only been visible when making errors lately. This week, he received far and away the least ice time of any Canuck defender, and didn’t give Green much reason to change that. 

Michael Del Zotto- Del Zotto’s offense is currently slumping, which has the unfortunate side-effect of making the flaws in his overall game stand out even more. Del Zotto had some noticeably weak moments this week, including falling into Anders Nilsson during a goal against versus the Islanders and being lazily danced by Craig Smith of all people. The best term to describe Del Zotto’s current  play is probably “ineffective.”

Alex Burmistrov- Did anyone notice Burmistrov when he was in the lineup this week? With Goldobin’s success thus far, it might not be long before Burmistrov hits waivers.

 

Roster Talk:

It’s time to give Darren Archibald a shot. He’s the only player in the organization that could realistically replace what Derek Dorsett brought to the team. In fact, Archibald’s supreme hitting prowess would add an “intimidation factor” to the Canucks’ lineup that they’ve been missing all year.

Some Canuck fans have discussed the possibility of moving Loui Eriksson now that his offense has woken up, but I don’t think the Canucks are all that interested. I’m a firm believer that the next CBA agreement, scheduled before or after a lockout in 2020, will include amnesty buyouts, just like the last agreement did. That would provide the Canucks a convenient opportunity to ditch Eriksson’s lengthy contract without it costing any assets.

Travis Green deserves a ton of credit for putting Nikolay Goldobin on the first line right away, thus giving him a chance to succeed. There’s something to be said about a player “proving” themselves on a lower line, but Goldobin has already proven that he’s almost exclusively an offensive player. It makes sense to put him in the role where his skills can flourish.

 

Comets Report:

The Comets began the week with a Wednesday home game against the Rochester Americans, and managed to walk away with a 2-1 overtime victory on the strength of 29 saves from Thatcher Demko. The newly signed Cameron Darcy paced the offense with two assists on goals by Jayson Megna and Reid Boucher, the OT winner. Patrick Wiercioch and Ashton Sautner provided the other assists. The Comets had to kill three straight Joe LaBate penalties in the 2nd and 3rd in order to make it to overtime in the first place.

Despite missing star Nikolay Goldobin, the Comets exploded for six goals on Friday against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in another home game. Unfortunately, the Sound Tigers scored seven. Demko saved 33 of 40 shots in the overtime loss, which won’t do wonders for his sparkling statistics. Reid Boucher scored two goals and added two assists, while Michael Chaput also picked up a pair of goals. Wiercioch had a goal and an assist, and Joe LaBate had the other marker, making up for his penalty troubles in the previous game. Zack MacEwen had a multi-point effort with two assists. Jordan Subban added an assist and laid the boots to Stephen Gionta in a battle of diminutive younger siblings of NHL stars. Single assists were also added by Darcy and Megna.

The Comets and Sound Tigers moved it over to Bridgeport for the next game of their home-and-home on Saturday night, and this time the Comets came away with the shootout victory, with a score of 2-1. Demko started his third straight game, making 32 saves and an additional four stops in the shootout. LaBate scored with only 19 seconds remaining in the game to tie it, assisted by Megna and Darcy, and Boucher and Michael Carcone were able to score in the shootout to lift the Comets to victory.

 

The Week Ahead:

The Canucks continue a brief homestand with a game on Tuesday, December 5, at 7:00PST against the Carolina Hurricanes.

There’s often trouble when Philadelphia comes to town, and we’ll see if that continues on Thursday, December 7, when the Flyers visit for a 7:00PST game.

The Canucks then hit the road again, but don’t have to travel far, taking on the Flames in Calgary on Saturday, December 9, with a 7:00PST start on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada.

 

2018 Draft Eligible Prospect of the Week:

Joe Veleno, C- 

Joe Veleno has a lot going for him, and that includes a great “hockey name.” That being said, he’s also a player who has slipped a fair bit in the 2018 Draft Rankings, meaning he could be an example of a prospect who “slides” in the draft.

Veleno came into this season with a fair bit of hype, having put up nearly a point-per-game in his second QMJHL season with the Saint John Sea Dogs, and having dominated the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. Veleno was the captain of the Under-18 Team Canada, and was also named captain of the Sea Dogs for this season, but the expected offensive growth has not accompanied his added responsibilities. Veleno remains just short of a point-per-game, with 27 points in 29 games.

Veleno has plenty of size, as he stands 6’1” currently and is likely still growing. His skillset is described as “multi-purpose,” but he’s definitely more of a playmaker than a goal-scorer. Veleno is quick with both his feet and mind, allowing him to pounce on opportunities and create turnovers regularly. His impressive vision allows him to make plays in any situation, whether on the rush or after a lengthy set-up. Veleno seems to have a future as a powerplay star.

Veleno has somewhat struggled with the various pressures in his career, whether it be his Exceptional Player status at age 15 or the captaincy of the Sea Dogs. However, his compete level is never in question, and he still remains the top-ranked Canadian player in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. His dogged determination and size make him tough to contain in the offensive zone at the junior level, but it remains to be seen if that will translate to the pros.

Ivan Hlinka Highlights:

 

 

A dominant QMJHL shift from this year:

 

 

Bits and Bobs: 

-Long-time readers will know that I’ve long been a supporter of Derek Dorsett and his role on the team, and so this week’s news saddened me greatly. In lieu of going on and on about Dorsett, I decided to do up a top ten list of his greatest moments, which can be seen here:

Top Ten Derek Dorsett Moments

-Dorsett wasn’t the best pound-for-pound fighter (Rick Rypien), the most agitating (Max LaPierre), or the most skilled (Tommi Santala, duh) player that the Canucks have ever had on their fourth line. However, I’d argue that he ranks highly in each of the above categories, and could be argued as one of the best fourth-liners in team history.

-Does a team truly need a fighter? Technically, the answer is “no,” but not having anyone on a roster willing to dish the mitts can lead to some embarrassing situations. Imagine a game like the one against the Leafs last year, only this time there’s no Dorsett, Jannik Hansen, Erik Gudbranson, Alex Burrows, or Ryan Miller to step up for the team.

-The Canucks experienced this a bit last year at the end of the season, and it resulted in Bo Horvat and Ben Hutton dropping the gloves in the final games against the Oilers. Is that really something that fans want to see regularly?

-Major props to whoever organized the ceremony honouring Daniel Sedin’s 1000th point for two main reasons. The first is that incredibly clever “Dan1000l” logo, which cannot be properly replicated via text. Seriously cool.

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-The second reason is the decision to have Dorsett come onto the ice and present Daniel with his silver puck. What a great way to honour Dorsett without having him overshadow Daniel’s accomplishment. 

-Jannik Hansen has been regularly healthy-scratched by the San Jose Sharks and has not scored yet this season. This has led to some speculation that the Canucks might re-acquire the fan favourite, but it’s also a nice reminder of the great return that Jim Benning got in that trade, especially given how well Nikolay Goldobin has played this season.

-A prospect that isn’t talked about as much as Elias Pettersson, Kole Lind, or Adam Gaudette is Jonah Gadjovich, who has been piling it on of late and is now up to 25 points in 19 games.

-ICMYI: The only Canuck rookie to score more goals in a month than Brock Boeser’s 11 in November? Pavel Bure.

-It says a lot that Boeser only had an “okay” week by his standards, and still went point-per-game.

Top Ten Derek Dorsett Canuck Moments

The Vancouver Canucks franchise and its fervent fanbase received horrible news this week when it became clear that Derek Dorsett would be unable to continue his NHL career due to recurring neck issues. Dorsett became a Canuck in 2014 and proceeded to play parts of four seasons in Vancouver, at times as the sole source of pugilism on the team. Despite his relatively small stature, Dorsett never backed down from a challenge, and can now retire knowing that he truly “left it all out on the ice.” Here are ten of Dorsett’s greatest moments in a Canuck uniform.

 

Dorsett’s First Canuck Goal Is a Shorthanded Winner

Dorsett’s very first goal as a Canuck has a lot going for it. It’s a shorthanded snipe that comes after a forced turnover by the opposing goaltender. It also happens to come against the hated Edmonton Oilers, and it would prove to be a game-winner.

 

Setting Up Horvat’s First Goal

Bo Horvat has given Dorsett credit for being an important mentor, and the two spent some time together on the fourth line when Horvat was just breaking into the league. In fact, it was Dorsett who set-up Horvat’s first career goal, with a slick backhand pass into the slot.

 

Derek Vs. Goliath

Dorsett may not have won his fight against John Scott, but is there any moment that better epitomizes his courage than choosing to take on the 6’8” behemoth? At least Dorsett did better than Alex Bolduc did!

 

Taking On Deryk Engelland…Twice!

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a player take two fighting majors in a single play, but Dorsett managed to turn the trick by battling the heavyweight Deryk Engelland twice. Engelland is a top-tier fighter, so for Dorsett to tussle with him not once, but twice, on the same play is an impressive feat. The fact he came back for Round Two to defend Dan Hamhuis is just vintage Dorsett.

 

Shutting Down McDavid

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Fans wondered how effective Derek Dorsett would be after returning from cervical fusion surgery in 2017, and they got their answer in the very first game. Dorsett was at his pesky best, employed by Travis Green to shutdown Connor McDavid. Not only was McDavid held off the scoresheet, he was noticeably frustrated at Dorsett’s efforts.

 

Shorthanded Snipe Against The Leafs

Take a look at all the effort that Dorsett puts into getting ahead of the Leaf defenders to create this shorthanded two-on-one. He then proceeds to snipe the puck top corner with perfect precision. Dorsett was a player who really “earned” a lot of his goals.

 

Dorsett Does His Best Alex Burrows Dragon-Slaying Impression

I love how similar this goal is to Alex Burrows’ famous dragon-slaying goal, which also came against the Blackhawks. It could be seen as symbolic for how Dorsett took over Burrows’ role as number one team troublestarter.

 

Slapping The Bass

This is probably Dorsett’s best fight as a Canuck in terms of sheer entertainment value. It’s a draw, but Dorsett certainly gives Cody Bass all he can handle via a truly ambidextrous assault. What teammate wouldn’t get pumped up witnessing that?

 

Taking On ALL The Bruins

Dorsett never hesitated to protect his fellow Canucks. In this scene, Dorsett immediately responds to a questionable hit on Bo Horvat by Zac Rinaldo, and then gets up from that and tries to fight another stray Bruins goon just for the hell of it. Dorsett’s righteous fury was a sight to behold.

 

Returning From Cervical Fusion To Continue Protecting His Teammates

Some openly wondered whether Derek Dorsett would ever fight again after his serious neck injury and subsequent surgery, but he quickly showed that he was still doing to do whatever is necessary to protect his teammates. When Mark Borowiecki took a big run at Alex Burmistrov, Dorsett was immediately on the scene to hand out some pugilistic justice.

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of November 20-26

Who Had a Good Week:

Brock Boeser- Plenty of people expected Brock Boeser to be good, but I don’t think anyone expected him to be sitting in the top-25 for points-per-game in the league at the 25 game mark. Boeser’s hot start may end up being nothing more than his baseline performance, as this production doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. Boeser’s domination of two-time Stanley Cup winner Matt Murray says a lot.

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The Sedins- The Sedins have, in general, played better this season than last, especially given their ice time, but this week brought something that Canuck fans haven’t seen a lot of lately—Sedinery. The Twins seemed to be putting much more creativity into their game this week, and the result was point-per-game play, effective minutes, and some downright dominant shifts. 

Loui Eriksson- Eriksson has been playing his best hockey as a Canuck since coming back from injury. He went point-per-game this week, and he also had a few near-misses that could have easily boosted his stats. Most importantly, Eriksson is succeeding with a variety of linemates, showing off the adaptability that was promised when the Canucks signed him to his big contract.

 

Who Had a Rough Week:

I was out of town for most of the week, and ended up watching most of the games in a rushed fashion, so I don’t really feel qualified to say who had a rough week. However, I do feel the need to say something about one player in particular:

Alex Edler- Edler just isn’t playing smart hockey. On one goal against versus the Rangers, Edler was inexplicably standing in his own crease, screening his own goalie, with no opposing player anywhere near him. These dumb plays are unfortunately becoming a trademark of Edler’s game. He did put up three points in four games this week, but it still seems like he hurts more than he helps.

 

Roster Talk:

Those upset with Nikolay Goldobin being called up, but not played, should note that the callup came late, and thus Goldobin didn’t really have time to prepare for a game day. However, if Dorsett and Sutter will be out for further games, one has to imagine that Goldobin will be worked into the lineup somehow. Alex Burmistrov or Brendan Gaunce could both come out.

If Derek Dorsett does end up being out long-term, it will be interesting to see if the team makes a move to add more toughness to the lineup. This would obviously become a bigger issue if and when Erik Gudbranson is moved. This could be the perfect time to sign Darren Archibald and give him a shot.

The termination of Anton Rodin’s contract was disappointing, but not unexpected. Rodin, for whatever reason, just didn’t seem to be able to transfer his SHL MVP level of play over to the North American game. At this point, I think fans would have been disappointed to see Rodin called up over Goldobin or even Reid Boucher for any significant stint, and that says it all about where he sat on the depth chart.

 

Comets Report:

The Comets began their tour of Canadian AHL teams with a visit to Toronto to take on the Marlies on Wednesday. Although Thatcher Demko put up 35 saves, Utica was beat by a score of 5-2. Patrick Wiercioch scored, assisted by Michael Chaput and Cameron Darcy. Reid Boucher added a second goal with five seconds left in the game, assisted by Jalen Chatfield and Zack MacEwen.

Things went a little better with a trip up the road to battle the newly-launched Laval Rocket for two games on Friday and Saturday. The first game saw the Comets win 3-2, this time with Richard Bachman manning the pipes. Alexis D’Aoust and Nikolay Goldobin scored, before Michael Chaput got the winner in the third period. Griffen Molino, new PTO Joe Faust, Jordan Subban, Carter Bancks, Boucher, and MacEwen each had single helpers.

The Saturday game was also a 3-2 win, with Demko coming in to make an enormous 40 saves in a game that went to a shootout. Reid Boucher was the other star of the game, picking up the tying goal with less than a minute remaining, and then notching the shootout winner. Jayson Megna also had a shootout goal, along with an assist in regulation, and D’Aoust had the other regulation marker. Wiercioch, Goldobin, and Philip Holm added single assists.

 

The Week Ahead:

The Canucks’ lengthy road-trip continues this week, starting with a game against the New York Islanders in the much-maligned Barclay’s Center on Tuesday, November 28 at 4:00PST.

Next up, the Canucks visit the reigning Western Conference Champion Nashville Predators on Thursday, November 30 at 5:00PST.

The road-trip concludes with a game in Toronto against the Maple Leafs on Saturday, December 2, at 4:00PST on Hockey Night in Canada.

 

2018 Draft Eligible Prospect of the Week:

Quinn Hughes, D-

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before—Quinn Hughes is a skill, smooth-skating, puck-moving defenseman eligible for the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. This seems to be the number one sort of player available in the top end of the draft, and any player will have to do a lot to separate themselves from the pack. However, one of these kids is going to end up being “the next Erik Karlsson,” and Hughes could be it.

Hughes’ skating is the number one quality of his play, as he is described as “extremely gifted” and “off-the-charts.” He can skate just as well with the puck as without it, making him a master of moving the puck up the ice. Once there, Hughes is said to have the ability to control the play from the back-end, something that is becoming increasingly valuable in today’s NHL.

Hughes puts up consistently great offensive numbers wherever he goes, including the US Development Program and, this year, the NCAA, where he has 10 points in 14 games for the University of Michigan. He doesn’t seem to have a fantastic shot, although it’s not a weakness, but he relies on creativity and vision to create offense.

At only 5’9”, Hughes is small, but his skating should more than make up for it. Size may be the one reason Hughes drops in the draft, if he drops at all.

Interestingly, Hughes comes from a big hockey family and his brother, Jack, is touted as the de facto number one choice in the 2019 Draft, and perhaps the greatest American prospect ever.

Here’s a highlight compilation:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BFDIwf65G_8

And here’s a game in which Hughes notched five assists, and showed up his supreme skating:

 

 

Bits and Bobs: 

-I’m sure everyone has seen this already, but if not, do yourself a favour:

https://streamable.com/iva1g

-Speaking of entertaining, here’s Kevin Bieksa putting the Superman punch to work once again:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wp0yjwuuvi0

-Not to dogpile on Alex Edler, but there’s something to be said about his refusal to stand up for himself after crunching Nico Hischier from behind. That turned up the temperature in the game, and resulted in New Jersey taking runs at Brock Boeser and other valuable players.

-Have we talked Olympic hopefuls yet? There are a number of Canuck prospects on the radar for various national teams, including Elias Pettersson for Sweden, Olli Juolevi for Finland, and Adam Gaudette for the USA.

-Petterson continues to roll, with 25 points in his last 14 games. This is starting to look like the best Draft+1 season for any Canuck draft pick ever.

-With injuries starting to pile up, it’s entirely possible that the Canucks’ expected slide in the standings begins now. Two points separate the 14th place team in the Western Conference, Anaheim, and the Canucks, and the Edmonton Oilers, second-last, are only six points back.

Weekly Canucks Report: Week of November 13-19

Who Had a Good Week:

Brock Boeser- After a brief blip, the Boeser Hype Train continues to gather steam, and rightfully so. Few could have predicted that Boeser would become the team’s offensive leader this early in his career, but he continues to create chances at will, and it’s already apparent how much opposing teams fear his shot. 

Bo Horvat- It seems like each and every week, a different skillset of Horvat’s is emphasized in his play. This week, it was his net-front presence, as Horvat put in the dirty work to get into tough areas and bang in some greasy goals. The chemistry on the top line is something to get excited about, and it all begins with Horvat, the center.

Sven Baertschi- Baertschi had seemed to be lagging a bit behind his linemates in previous weeks, but is now playing with the same quality that he showed last year. The uptick in Sven’s play is most obvious in the little bit of extra room that Boeser and Horvat enjoyed this week. 

Loui Eriksson- Eriksson may not ever be worth his contract, but Canuck fans would rest easier if he maintained the level of play he displayed this week. Eriksson quietly put up three points in three games, and his playmaking skills were on full display with multiple dazzling dishes. 

Thomas Vanek- Vanek was the fifth Canuck forward to go point-per-game this week, and that’s even with him being robbed of a legitimate goal against St. Louis. The most surprising thing about Vanek’s play this season has been his drive and determination, which has allowed him to succeed with a multitude of linemates.

 

Who Had a Rough Week: 

Alex Edler- Edler got the benefit of the doubt last week due to just coming off the IR, but his play this week was not encouraging. Edler was a ghost defensively, often appearing in the periphery of chances against to wave his stick at a defender ineffectively. He also got caught on bad pinches multiple times, and seemed to drag down the play of partner Derrick Pouliot, who had been looking very effective of late.

Ben Hutton- A quick review of the goals scored against the Canucks this week will reveal far too many shots of Ben Hutton looking completely lost in the defensive zone. The fact he was partnered with Erik Gudbranson for much of the week probably didn’t help, but Hutton was made to look silly on multiple occasions. 

Erik Gudbranson- Gudbranson has this nasty habit of having his back to the play, only to turn around just in time to see the opponents score a goal or generate a chance. Often a step behind, Gudbranson made an absolute boat anchor of a partner for the struggling Hutton, and wasn’t even particularly physical this week. 

Daniel Sedin- After two assists against Calgary on November 7th, Daniel has gone pointless in five straight games. Brother Henrik is still proving to be effective in limited ice time, but Daniel has rarely been noticeable, and just isn’t generating much in the way of offense. The 1000 point milestone feels miles away at this point.

  

Roster Talk:

The impending decision about which extra forward to send down to Utica continues to be a difficult one. At this point, Jake Virtanen going down to Utica or Alex Burmistrov going on waivers seem like the most likely options. Brendan Gaunce has done enough to earn an extended look.

With parity again on display in the NHL, Canuck fans should almost be hoping that the team puts themselves outside of a playoff position over the next three months. That could result in a particularly lucrative trade deadline for the Canucks, with plenty of rental assets and plenty of contending teams to purchase them. All of Thomas Vanek, Erik Gudbranson, Alex Burmistrov, Derek Dorsett, and Michael Del Zotto could move.

It is probably time for GM Jim Benning to start applying pressure to Alex Edler to waive his no-trade clause. Edler’s play has deteriorated, and it is probably best for him to get a fresh start somewhere else before he hits the UFA market in 2019 as a totally depreciated asset. Edler still has enough of a resume to demand a solid return at this point, and the team would be better off for it.

 

Comets Report:

The Comets don’t seem to play on a lot of Sundays anymore, making this intrepid weekly reporter’s job much easier! It’s also probably a major plus for the actual players, too.

Utica started off the week with a Wednesday visit to Laval to face the newly-formed Rocket, and they ended up dropping a hotly contested decision by a score of 5-4. The Comets were down 4-2 late in the third and surrendered an empty net goal to make it 5-2, but then Utica notched two late goals to bring things tantalizingly close. Reid Boucher and Michael Chaput each had a goal and an assist, with Alexis D’Aoust and Michael Carcone getting the other markers. Zack MacEwen, Cole Cassels, Cameron Darcy, Jaime Sifers, and Jayson Megna each had a single assist. Thatcher Demko only stopped 20 of 24 shots against.

Things went significantly better when the Comets visited another new franchise, the Belleville Senators, on Friday. This time, Demko and Utica would walk away with an impressive 7-1 win. Boucher notched two goals, and the other five were supplied by Chaput, Philip Holm, Ashton Sautner, Jayson Megna, and Griffen Molino. Jordan Subban finally got his scoring kickstarted with three assists, while Nikolay Goldobin and Cameron Darcy each added two.

Utica came back down to Earth the following night in Hartford, with Demko in net for his third straight game in a 4-1 loss. Carter Bancks had the lone goal for the Comets, with Goldobin and Jalen Chatfield assisting. It was Chatfield’s first professional point.

 

The Week Ahead:

The week begins with back-to-back Pennsylvania road games, as the Canucks travel to Philadelphia on Tuesday, November 21, for a game at 4:00PST and then have one the following night at the same time in Pittsburgh.

The roadtrip continues to New Jersey on Friday, November 24 for a game at 4:00PST against Cory Schneider and the Devils. A short trip to New York City later, and the Canucks will be taking on the Rangers for an 11:00AM PST game on Sunday, November 26.

It’s another week with four games in six nights for the weary Canucks!

 

2018 Draft Eligible Prospect of the Week:

Brady Tkachuk, C/LW-

Think of Matthew Tkachuk, but bigger, stronger, and more of a prick, and you’ve got Brady Tkachuk. With Brady’s older brother destined to be a thorn in the side of the Vancouver Canucks for years to come, it might be a good idea to fight fire with fire—or, in this case, douchebag with douchebag.

Although the instigation abilities of the Tkachuk siblings can sometimes overshadow their skill levels, Brady is undoubtedly a top-notch offensive prospect. As a freshman, Tkachuk is currently sitting at a respectable nine points in 14 games for Boston University. He also went a point-per-game at the Under-18s for Team USA, where he earned the team captaincy.

Tkachuk is described as a player who plays hard in every zone, and is not afraid to go to the tough areas to make something happen. Expect Brady Tkachuk’s forechecking to annoy the hell out of opposing defenders, and his backchecking to annoy just about everyone else.

If Tkachuk has a weakness in his game, it’s probably speed, although his tenacity tends to make up for that. Tkachuk is a natural goal scorer, with a lethal shot and quick hands that make him a threat in front of the net. Like his older brother, Tkachuk is also prone to laying huge open-ice hits, which will make him an instant fan favourite.

Highlights of Tkachuk can be hard to come by, but here’s his best work from the US National Team Development Program last year:

 

 

Bits and Bobs: 

-This week highlighted exactly what Chris Tanev brings to the Vancouver roster—calm and steady play under pressure. Twice this week opposing teams cranked up the pressure after the Canucks jumped out to an early lead, and twice the Tanev-less defense completely crumbled.

-The Canucks will face interesting dilemmas whenever Tanev and Troy Stecher return to the lineup. Scratching Alex Biega to make way for Tanev is an easy decision, even if Biega has outplayed other defenseman, but is the team really prepared to scratch Derrick Pouliot to clear space for Stecher. Perhaps someone like Gudbranson or Hutton will receive a “wake-up” scratch instead.

-The fact that the Canucks still within shouting distance of the top of Pacific Division shouldn’t be taken as a measure of success at this point. With the exception of Los Angeles, the entire division appears to be struggling this year. For comparison, note that the bottom two teams in the Central, Minnesota and Colorado, are both within two points of the Canucks, and both have games in hand.

-When things look dire at the NHL level, it’s time to talk about Elias Pettersson. It is still early, but folks in the know are starting to talk about Elias like he’s the top prospect coming out of the 2017 Entry Draft.

-Currently, Pettersson has the highest points-per-game of any under-20 player in SHL history. It’s a pace that has actually accelerated after his red hot start. If he maintains this scoring pace, it will put him head and shoulders above the Draft+1 seasons of notables like Markus Naslund, Peter Forsberg, the Sedins, and, more recently, William Nylander.

-For a more direct comparison, Pettersson has also moved into a tie for the SHL scoring lead, something that is again nearly unprecedented for someone his age. He’s tied at 23 points with veterans Joakim Lindstrom and Ryan Lasch, and Pettersson has a game in hand.