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Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

WWYDW: Where Does Thomas Vanek Play?

Since Jackson McDonald last asked what would you do, on a Wednesday, the Vancouver Canucks have added another to the fold, signing unrestricted free agent winger Thomas Vanek to a one-year deal valued at $2-million. So it should be no surprise to you that this week’s query is about the newest Canuck.

Now that the Vanek signing is official, let’s have a game of armchair coach. Where would you slot him in the Canucks lineup? Does he play a role on special teams? There are so many different ways you can answer this, so I’m curious to see where you all go with the question. Feel free to speculate on his linemates and how they’ll perform as a unit next season.

Last week I asked: Who’s your dark horse candidate to make the team out of camp?

MoanElisa:

Dark horse pick, surprisingly, is Jake Virtanen. Watching highlights of the tail end of his season in Utica I forgot just how fast he really is. And he can still shoot the puck quite well. If he comes into camp throwing his body around he could very well be the type of fourth line player we need right now, and could see some second unit PP if things go well.

Nucklehead:

I would say Anton Rodin, who’s behind the eight-ball after his complicated knee injury last year. I’m rooting for him for a strong recovery and for him to regain the form that allowed him to capture the SHL’s golden helmet in 2016.

Killer Marmot:

Molino.

This “wasted contract” played well in his five game with the Canucks last spring. His speed and defensive abilities came as advertised. Offensively he was a slippery player that didn’t mind going to the net. In college, his quickness and anticipation made him exceptional at the penalty kill, which the Canucks can use with Burrows and Hansen gone. An excellent line mate for Gaunce on the fourth line.

Do I really think he’ll make it onto the starting roster? Naw. “Asset management” concerns means that most waiver-exempt players will likely start in Utica.

Goon:

My dark horse pick is… no one. There will be no surprise team-makers out of camp this year.

Benning & Co. have made sure the Canucks are overflowing with mid-roster players who the team won’t want to lose on waivers. The goal seems pretty clearly to let their prospects marinate another year in the AHL, SHL, and CHL. Unless someone absolutely blows the doors off, they’re going to stand pat. That means more AHL for Virtanen, more SHL for Dahlen, and more OHL for Juolevi (unless he goes to Europe for a year).

Billy Pilgrim:

For me it is Goldobin. I think there is a place for him on the first line with the Sedins. I think the China trip could be good for some of the younger players. While the vets are off playing LA in Beijing, some of the prospects may get a better shot to prove themselves at home.

GregTheHockeyNut:

Andrey Pedan has shown speed a rocket shot and grit, all of which are needed upgrades for this roster. I think he can make the top four if he gets on a roll. If he makes the six spot paired with Gudbranson they could be a force with their size.

  • On the power play, I see Vanek slotting in where Newell Brown had talked about putting Brandon Sutter – in the old Kesler sniper spot. He’s got the shot and he’s got the skill to cycle with the Sedins. He could potential score 10-15 goals in that position.

    At even strength, it really depends on what the Canucks’ plans for Vanek are. If their intention is to flip him at the deadline, I can see them giving him lots of minutes against softer competition to try and pump his numbers. If their goal is to be as good as they can be and try and scrape into the playoffs, his deficits at even strength will probably keep him down to third line minutes, but still with significant power play time.

    • apr

      I agree with the PP. On 5 x 5, I see him playing the Erickson and Gagne/Sutter. The dark horse is Burmitsov – he’s still young, and him taking a strangle hold on the third line center role would be amazing. Who cares how much Sutter makes. This team played great in WD’s first year when he was rolling 4 lines. If they can get back to that, sure – why can’t this team make the playoffs.

  • Bud Poile

    Vanek had 48 pts in 68 games with two NHL clubs.
    Over 82 games he becomes this clubs top point getter.
    Just place him with two guys that compliment him.
    Eriksson-Gagner-Vanek

  • natevk

    Since the Canucks do not have the top-of-the-lineup talent to compete with most teams in the NHL, I think the best strategy for winning games is to spread the offense across the lineup and roll 4 lines. In that scenario, it doesn’t matter which “line” number Vanek is on. Accordingly, I see him fitting well with Sam Gagner as his center and Rodin on the other wing.

    In a traditional lineup, that would be a 3rd or 4th line getting fewer even strength minutes, but I’d be hoping for Rodin’s purported two-way ability and the offensive ability of Gagner and Vanek to balance out the trio. That would leave the other lines looking something like Baertschi-Horvat-Boeser; Sedins-Goldobin; Eriksson-Sutter-Granlund, with Dorsett, Burmistrov and the recovering-from-injury Gaunce as the extras to start the year. I don’t know about you, but I think that would be a lot more fun of a forward lineup to watch on each shift than what we saw last year. (Although I’d like to see Boucher get some time with the big club this season too!)

  • peterl

    I would avoid playing Vanek with the Sedin line. The Sedins could use somebody younger/faster (evident from the stream of players on that line last year). I envision one of the younger players, Virtanen, Boeser, Goldobin, or Granlund playing on that line depending on the pre-season chemistry and skillset the Sedins are looking for.

    I see either Thomas Vanek or Loui Eriksson supplying veteran leadership to the Horvat/Baertschi line. Which player ends up on the line I think depends on whether Horvat/Baertschi find chemistry with a left-handed (Eriksson) or right-handed (Vanek) shot. If Vanek does not end up with Horvat, he would likely slot on a third line by committee, playing with any of Brandon Sutter, Markus Granlund, Sam Gagner, or a younger player (e.g. Virtanen, Boeser).

    Vanek will definitely be the “Kesler” trigger man on Newell Brown’s powerplay. I expect him to be on Horvat’s PP unit (and Gagner on Sedin’s PP unit). Vanek and Gagner could interchange based on pre-season chemistry. Eventually we may see Virtanen or Boeser claim the PP trigger man spot from Vanek or Gagner, but initially I see the team starting with veterans in that position.

  • Killer Marmot

    From all reports, Vanek is old school. Good offense, but not great skating nor defense.

    Both him and Gagner belong on the bottom six, with power-play duties. Play him when you’re behind, hide him when you’re protecting a lead. Nor should the Canucks be reluctant to make him a healthy scratch from time to time.

    • Cageyvet

      This makes too much sense, so naturally it’s the only comment with any “trashes” at the time I post this. I don’t understand this site sometimes.

      Killer Marmot, I think your response is solid as you address not only the line-up, but how you’d deploy them. For those of us who shuddered through Willie’s blunders in that area, it’s clear that it’s more than just who is up next (roll 4 lines without logic) and good coaches in all sports seek favourable matchups.

      I can’t improve on your suggestion, that makes sense on game night and for the long term. Top 6 spots available for youth, and not pretending these veterans are more than they really are.

  • Ragnarok Ouroboros

    Vanek will play with the Sedins as a triggerman. Horvat – Baerchi-Boeser will be the number 1 line. The Sedin’s and Vanek will be the Second/Third line taking most offensive zone face-offs (I say third line because they will suck defensively and will have to be sheltered). Erickson-Sutter-Gagne will be the Second/Third line taking mostly defensive zone faceoffs. Rodin-Gaunce-someonelse will make up the fourth line.

  • Rodeobill

    I think Vanek will play with the sedins until that line doesn’t work and then will be put on the horvat line. I think the interesting thing this year is this team is stacked up with “offensively minded” players. Who then “shelters” them all during the rest of the game? Will Green look for help from utica to balance the roster with some reliable defensive play? We have two goalies who have as of yet been unproven as number ones, a defense that has struggled these last few years, and most of our new signings don’t sound like two way studs. At the very least goldy stays in Utica this year… too many offensively minded players on roster already, and maybe JD’s right and Juolevi makes the team just to keep Green’s hair from falling out.

  • Braindead Benning

    If He pulls a L. Erikisson and doesn’t produce at even strength or add a different dimention to the PP then he will be playing for whoever Trent Cull decides in Utica.