I’d love to be able to tell you guys differently, but BC is still on fire… So, as Canuck fans patiently wait for the smoke to subside, we continue to eagerly await the arrival of Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, and other notable prospects in the Vancouver system. With this current group of future prospects and current young players, I wondered if the Canucks could build a contender from within. Going through the system, I came to the realization it’s entirely possible. I’ve come up with a roster of young players that the Canucks could see in their lineup by 2022-2023 (When the Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel contracts expire).
For this exercise, we will only be using players already in the Canucks system, and we won’t be contemplating any new young players the Canucks could potentially draft (Sorry Jack Hughes). Finally, we’re going to use the Sporting News prospect ranking the most, as CanucksArmy haven’t released their pre season prospect list quite yet. We’ve touched on the goaltenders, and in the last piece I went over who would round out the top 6. Today, I’m going to touch on my ideal shutdown pair for the Canucks in 2022-2023.
2022-2023 ROSTER (PROGRESS)
Left Wing 1 – Center 1 – Right Wing 1
Left Wing 2 – Center 2 – Right Wing 2
Left Wing 3 – Center 3 – Right Wing 3
Left Wing 4 – Center 4 – Right Wing 4
Wildcard F 1
Left Defense 1 – Right Defense 1
Left Defense 2 – Right Defense 2
Jack Rathbone – Jalen Chatfield
Toni Utunen – Matt Brassard
2nd Pair D Men
Left Defense #2
(Photo Creds to Bruce Bennett/Vancouver Sun)
Decided to switch things up and start on the left side today, and low and behold here’s Olli Juolevi. A much maligned Canucks prospect from the moment he was taken with the 5th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry draft over fellow London Knights prospect Matthew Tkachuk. Now, it’s not Juolevi’s fault he was drafted 5th overall, and I’m not going to fault him for the selection; only talk about what he has going for him, what I believe his role will be on this 2022-2023 team, and why he’ll be an important piece moving forward. Juolevi’s going to make it in the NHL, and I’m going on record saying he’s going to be a top 4 defenseman. Olli Juolevi is 5th on the top 10 of Sporting News Canucks prospect list, behind only 1 other defenseman in the Canucks system in Quinn Hughes. Juolevi’s ability in the neutral zone to break up plays, and immediately utilize his brilliant transition game will be his calling cards. His offensive toolkit is better than most give him credit for, and the work he put in with Sami Salo in the defensive end while with TPS Turku will show as soon as this upcoming year. Ideally, Juolevi pans out as a better version of prime Alex Edler (Lots of similar comparisons between current players and the prospects, hmmm) without the obvious gaffs that have plagued Edler during his time with the club. Down below will be statistics and a highlight video for Olli Juolevi.
(Olli Juolevi’s stats from his draft year while in the OHL, courtesy of Eliteprospects.com)
More switches to the series for Juolevi, I’m not going to go super in depth into his statistics as Canucks fans have DISSECTED him. Everyone wonders what he’ll become, who he is, is he a bust, and so forth. This past year while with TPS Turku, he really came alive in the second half of the season, and that was brought up by Sami Salo, and his quotes are down below.
Putting a team on your shoulders is a lot of weight on your back, and that cheesy pun leads us to the fact that Juolevi underwent a back surgery this offseason. It’s impressive enough to hear Salo come out and admit that Juolevi was the number 1 D man for the team when they had someone go down. Meaning Juolevi was a force on both special teams, and soaking up a ton of minutes. The news of the back surgery also begs the questions how much better COULD he have been last year, and how long was he playing with the back injury that required surgery. With this line of thinking, I’m all the more impressed with his strong showing during the 2nd half of the 2017-2018 season after another incredible showing at the World Junior championships. Last point, I hear people saying Juolevi needs to get acclimated with North American ice, but I don’t believe that will be an issue. He played 2 seasons of major junior with the London Knights before last year, and he played in Buffalo this year at the WJC.
Juolevi would be the best left side defenseman on the Canucks roster in 2022-2023 IN THE DEFENSIVE ZONE. Juolevi’s game is effortless, and while he’s been criticized before for looking like he’s disengaged, that won’t be the case after working with Salo and understanding how tough it is to make the NHL. Juolevi will also be entering his prime at the age of 24, becoming a huge factor at even strength, and on the penalty kill unit. For all the talk, all the negativity surrounding Olli; we gotta remind ourselves that not all defenseman break into the league at 18/19 years old. It’s ok for Juolevi to have been taking his time developing in the Canucks system even after being drafted 5th overall, hell Matthias Ohlund didn’t play his 1st NHL game until his D + 4 season at the age of 21 and he was pretty darn good. Juolevi will become a top 4 defenseman for this team, anchoring the 2nd pair and making the selection look MILES better than how it looks right now. For this season, although I believe Juolevi is ready to play in the NHL on opening night, the best course of action should be to start him in Utica for the 1st part of the season. Then, when he shows he’s ready for the bigs, bring him up full time and have him play as a Vancouver Canuck. He’ll be with the team full time by 2019-2020 and rocking the 2nd pair and the penalty kill, while possibly getting some time on the PP2.
Right Defenseman #2
Nikita Tryamkin (Left shot)
(Photo creds to Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY sports)
A take hotter than the fire’s blazing in BC (OK, not really) Nikita Tryamkin slots in as the right side defenseman on the 2nd pair in 2022-2023. The towering 6’7 defenseman drafted in the 3rd round of the 2014 NHL entry draft, Tryamkin is a player in the Canucks system unique in every way. For a 6’7 defenseman he’s fairly mobile, has a great slap shot, and uses his long reach to get his stick in passing lanes opposing forwards may not suspect. He’s also able to throw the body, and while he’s not a nasty player he knows how to use his size to his advantage. Due to Tryamkin having already played a full season with the Canucks, he doesn’t count as a prospect anymore, but we are going to delve into how he did in Russia this past year. There have been rumours that Tryamkin won’t return unless he’s given a top 4 spot on the Canucks blue line, and even next season that wouldn’t be an issue for the Canucks (talent wise). Down below are his statistics and a highlight video.
(Tryamkin’s stats from when he first appeared with the Canucks via Eliteprospects.com)
Tryamkin was an all star in the KHL this past season with his hometown team Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg in addition to being an assistant captain. The gentle giant also made a point of trying to shoot more as his season went along, which in turn helped develop his offensive game to a level that should make Canucks fans giddy for when he arrives. There is so much to like about what Tryamkin brings to a defense core, and it was a surprise that we didn’t see Tryamkin named to the Russian Olympic team that won gold in South Korea this past tournament. While the snub may raise red flags, his 2 defenseman of the month awards this past year quickly shoot them down. His ability in the defensive zone is going to be his trademark, and helped him earn the ice time he felt he deserved when with the Canucks in 2016-2017. As such, his ability to play both sides of the blue line makes him incredibly valuable to my roster.
Now, as much as we’re talking about his development we have to understand there have to be circumstances that lead to him coming back. He’ll play the next 2 seasons in the KHL with Avtomobilist, before being allowed to sign another contract with the Canucks who own his rights when Tryamkin’s contract runs out on April 30, 2020. Tryamkin has stated that he is open to returning to the NHL, and the Canucks for that matter.
“I’m still interested how the team plays,” Tryamkin said. “Would I like to come back? Why not. It depends on many factors.” (Janik Beichler of Daily Hive)
So come 2021-2022 when he’d be allowed to step onto the Canucks roster again, I would offer him top 4 minutes with a role on the penalty kill. My line of thinking is this entices him to come back, and he does just that. Featuring as Juolevi’s D partner on the 2nd pair and leading one of the penalty kill units.
Now, I know there are a few of you who don’t believe Tryamkin will return. If Tryamkin DOESN’T return, my pick for Juolevi’s defense partner would be Troy Stecher. I’m not going to go into too much detail, but a couple reasons I have Tryamkin over Stecher and Stecher not on my main roster is:
- My Canucks roster already has 2 undersized defenseman on it that I feel do a better job of creating offense than Troy.
- The Canucks would greatly benefit from a defenseman like Tryamkin on the roster. Tryamkin’s ability to play the right side made it real easy for me to put him next to a transition artist in Olli Juolevi.
I love what Troy Stecher brings, and the Richmond, BC native has a great story. However great stories don’t always equal winning Stanley Cups, and if the Canucks want the best chance to win a cup then Tryamkin on their roster is the decision that should be made.
The hope for this pair is a pure shutdown D pair that can quickly transition the puck up to the forwards, even against the best competition in the NHL. Juolevi’s ability to break up plays in the neutral zone and make great breakout passes, while Tryamkin digs the puck out of the corners, clears the front of the net, and uses his skating ability to close distances quickly creates a tough puzzle to crack for opposing offenses. Both players defensive abilities compliment each other greatly, and both have enough offensive tools to be dangerous in the other end to help facilitate offensive chances. Tryamkin will get the minutes he seeks for his return, while Juolevi puts the bust label to rest. This 2nd pair will be a core component to a contending Canucks team, with both playing over 20 minutes a night against the McDavid’s, Crosby’s, and other top end players in the NHL.