Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

What can Oscar Fantenberg bring to the Canucks’ blueline?

The Vancouver Canucks set out to improve their previous group of defencemen before the 2019-20 regular season begins, signing a few of the rare free agent defencemen that were on the market this summer. One of those is left-handed blueliner Oscar Fantenberg.

With only one year of commitment and a cap hit of $800,000, signing Fantenberg has no risk attached to it. Unable to blow up in Benning’s face, acquiring the 27-year-old has a feeling that it cannot possibly go wrong.

Even if he flames out during training camp and isn’t in the lineup to begin the season, his entire contract can be buried with Utica after passing through waivers.

Fantenberg signed with he Los Angeles Kings in 2017, after a long stint in the SHL and a brief appearance in the KHL, where he was able to put up 23 points in 44 games — an amount of offensive production that he never reached in his native Sweden. With that bit of demonstration as not just a defensively-minded player and at the age of 26, it made sense for him to take the next step and head to North America.

He opened the season on the Kings and remained on the roster until early January, where he was sent down to the AHL and finished his regular season there. During his debut season in the NHL, Fantenberg was a pure depth defencemen averaging just over 14 minutes a game through the 27 he appeared in. He showed glimpses of being a two-way defencemen — even had a stint on the powerplay his first season — but ever since his rookie year, it’s been pure defence.

In 122 games since his debut season, Fantenberg has only a total of eight points recorded, keeping his focus on the other side of the game and not getting involved remotely in getting any points.

But that doesn’t mean he’s down deep in the depth chart and logging points with no-name defencemen either. During his time with the Kings and the Flames these past two seasons, Fantenberg has the most minutes (221:20) with below-replacement level Dion Phaneuf, but besides the old man, he has played a significant amount of time with talented blueliners.

Rasmus Andersson, Drew Doughty, and Jake Muzzin have all played over 100 minutes with Fantenberg with good results. During his time with those three, the new Canuck has a well-above-average shot attempt percentage, the lowest being a 52.31 CF% with Muzzin.

Especially with his 187 minutes with Andersson, the two were able to put up substantial production on the Calgary blueline. The sample size might not be the best, but among defensive pairs with over 100 TOI at 5v5, the Fantenberg-Andersson pairing ranked 9th in shot attempt percentage in the entire league with a 59.61 CF%.

In this rough analysis of limited ice-time with talented skaters, Fantenberg appears to excel when paired with top talent. That could be said with most players, since elite talent usually brings teammates up to their level, but to have these results constant so far in his career, he might be a good contrast piece to play with a skilled defencemen.

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On the Canucks, the one right-handed option that makes the most sense is Troy Stecher. A similar profile to Andersson, Stecher can carry the puck up the ice while Fantenberg can focus on the defensive side of the game — a balance between the two players.

It might not be the most forward-thinking strategy in the all-offence mentality the way the league might be heading, but the results are there and he limits the opposition’s scoring chances while also letting his partner do the heavy lifting when it comes to creating chances.

via hockeyviz.com

Micah Blake McCurdy’s isolated impact metric simply demonstrates Fantenberg’s ability while taking away the impact his teammates had on his results. Contrasting his immense lack of any offence, the defenceman has historically limited his competition to a below-average amount of scoring chances in high-danger areas.

It might not completely balance out, since Fantenberg brings a substantial lack of any offence, but there is clearly some benefits for defence and the Canucks’ moves this offseason demonstrate that.

Signing Jordie Benn to a value contract as well, the Canucks acquired two left-handed defencemen that think defence first and everything else second. Compared to last year’s blue line, this management team has risen the floor of what it means to be in this group of defencemen.

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Both are not high-ceiling players that will blow fans away, but at worst, they are defencemen that will keep the puck out of the Canucks’ net better than the other skaters that they had.

It’s not the sexiest improvement and won’t single-handedly lead them into that desired playoff position, but it’s a small move that can add up and raise the expectation for what this defence can look like.

The signing of Fantenberg could always have been better, but there is limited risk with a move like this. Coming in on a one-year contract with a $800,000 cap hit that can be completely buried in Utica if need be, the signing is as low-risk as possible. There is always room for improvement though, the contract spot could have been offered to a player with a higher ceiling than the 27-year-old Fantenberg, but there lies more of a risk and more of a guarantee for this hypothetical player to stay in the AHL.

In this transaction is a clear-cut NHL defenceman and even if he spends most of his time as the seventh blueliner, he provides a level of depth that the Canucks have not had in past seasons. Instead of depending on someone from Utica to make an impact, Fantenberg has enough experience around the league and enough minutes with talented players to stick around and contribute.

Even if his contribution is mainly defence and his overall style of play hurts the offence, in the long run his presence to the Canucks’ defence is an improvement on last year.

That’s all that can be asked of this signing, to raise the expectation and overall production from the Canucks’ defence.

-stats via Corsica and HockeyViz-

  • Tedchinook

    Good article, and if all your 6/7/8 defended is providing is really good D that’s OK. Nobody’s expecting a guy that far down in the rotation to come in and be a two way star.

    • Defenceman Factory

      I think that is expecting a lot. He was signed as a 7-8 Dman. The bigger problem was the guys you listed were all expected in the top 6. As an injury backfill Fantenberg is probably fine but he isn’t going to be better than Hutton. That’s Jordie Benn’s job.

  • North Van Halen

    After watching ‘puck movers’ like Pouliot & MDZ turn the defensive zone into a fire drill the moment a bit of pressure occurred, a couple of low event defensemen like Benn & Fantenberg will be a pleasure to watch.

      • Cageyvet

        So true. The guys on the “see ya later” list he’s replacing didn’t exactly light it up offensively either. Zero risk as the article stated, good insurance/depth piece, and likely can step in without having the 3rd pair’s ability fall off a cliff.

  • ClassOf2011

    I’m afraid all the cheerleader trolls fro(t)hing at the mouth that Benning has upgraded the Canuck D enough to squeak into the playoffs over powerhouse division rivals San Jose, Vegas, Calgary, Arizona (with superstar sniper Kessel) and a re-energised Edmonton (who boast the Crosby/Malkin of its generation plus RNH) are living in cloud cu(c)koo land. This Fantenberg non-story coupled with 32 year old Benn (110 points in almost 500 games!) and career bust Myers is ample proof that the dial is still stuck on ‘bottom-feeder’.

    I miss the glory days of Hammer, Bieksa, Erhoff, Salo, Rome and Edler in their glorious prime… don’t you?!!!!!!!

        • J-Canuck

          Oh you are right. They are a Power house!
          (Press sarcastic button), since being better than .500 in less than half the season is now considered Power House material

      • ClassOf2011

        One of the best teams in the league after the all-star break when the injury bug eased up… and now boasting a 2 time cup winner and one of the best goal scorers in the league who never gets injured – KESSEL… wake up dead man and face reality… AZ are a legit powerhouse who are better than the Canucks (MO)-ron.

        • Beer Can Boyd

          So, if anyone disagrees with a narrative on this site, they are a cockroach? Very mature. Arizona are a good team, at this point better than the Canucks.They proved it last year on the ice. It may not be the case this year, we shall see. But insulting people who post facts does not reflect well on you.

          • Defenceman Factory

            No Beercan what makes one a cockroach is an unwillingness to even allow anyone an opinion different than your own, trying to drag the comments section on every article into series of bickering insults, using multiple user names, usurping other posters’ user names, tracking other peoples comments going back years so they can be taken out of context.

            I realize it can be difficult to follow a comments threat on this site. My reference to a cockroach infestation had nothing to do with Arizona or you.

    • ClassOf2011

      hahaha – check it out guys – 21 trashes in the first hour when no other post gets more than five total… Conclusion – Locust and Dud so obsessed they have set up that many accounts to downvote me wtf!!!!!!!!!!! LMFAO.

      • Cageyvet

        I try and avoid even voting on your garbage, under any name, as I’m in the don’t feed the trolls mentality as a general rule. Still, I can’t avoid pointing out the obvious to you……those who bother clearly feel strongly enough that your comments are ridiculous that they trash you. If it was just a couple of people multi-trashing you, wouldn’t you get some cheers at some point? I mean, usually your own alter-egos and fellow trolls can set you up for something better than 23-3.

        Yeah, I know, for you this is like your Stanley Cup, I’m sure the voices in your head urge you to continue because, well, somebody out there is actually paying attention to you! Oh happy day! It’s pretty pathetic. Troll on, we’re all happy to shine a little light into your bleak existence.

  • J-Canuck

    Two words: Luke Schenn

    Having a guy come in and not be terrible last year was a step up! The first part of the term defenseman is defense. I have no problem with guys that see their jobs as keeping the puck out of their own zone and net. Sure Marky and Thatcher will have no problem with that either

  • Fred-65

    I want to know is he SUBSTANTIALLY better than Sautner or other Utica “D”. It strikes me that we tend to suffer from the old adage the grass is always greener on the other side. Utica, full of promise, or full on BS. When is Utica going to live up to expectations? Each year we’re told ( much like Vcr ) things are going to great this season, then reality sets in around November/December and by February we’re practising excuses. He seems like an OK/below average “D” but can’t we rustle one of them up from the millions we spend in Utica. What is the point of a farm team. I’m in a grumpy mood today

    • ClassOf2011

      Spot on Fred.

      The whole point of having a farm team in Utica is to develop YOUNG prospects and send them up to the big club as legit NHLers ffs.

      You know, like Pittsburgh and Detroit have successfully done with years of playoffs and numerous Stanley Cups to show for there superior efforts expertly utilising their farm systems to full effect.

      The likes of Oscar Fantenburg and the whole Utica sh(i)-t show provides NOTHING towards solidifying these same goals for vancouver. it’s beyond a joke!

      • Smyl and Snepsts

        If the kids in Utica aren’t better than Fantenburg then they need more work before being given time in the NHL. Just because we want young draftees to make the big time doesnt mean they can cut it

    • Kevlar73

      It seems to me we always make it to numbers 10 thru 12 on the defence depth chart these last four years with injuries so I don’t mind Fantenburg on a one year contract. I’d say there’s still a pretty good chance we will see two to three Utica call ups

  • Fred-65

    Does this tell us that what we have in Utica is a waste of time? He’s marginal apparently, do we not at very least have marginal players in Utica. Is this a case of the grass is always greener etc. I don’t understand this move

    • Defenceman Factory

      And when someone graduates from Utica you need someone to play in Utica. If Sautner or Brisebois beat out Fantenberg at training camp Fantenberg becomes the depth call-up. It’s not complicated.

      He is on a one year deal. The uncertainty with Juolevi make this depth signing a smart move.

      • Cageyvet

        What, you want depth throughout the organization? What are you thinking? I mean, just because he cost us only a contract space for 1 year, has a salary that can be buried completely in the minors, and has proven he can at least play at some level in the league? Why would you not be critical of this move? What’s that, because you’re not pre-programmed to hate every move Canucks management makes and took this at face value for what it is? OK then, carry on.

    • Bud Poile

      That’s good to know.He might be insurance if they trade Tanev and then move Benn over to the right side to play with him as a placeholder until Juolevi conditioned.

      • ClassOf2011

        LOL Juolevi conditioned ahahaha – the disaster Benning BUST who has been an injury nightmare snce his teens but Dim Jim failed to read the medical reports.

        The draft ‘guru’ coulda had Sergachev, McAvoy or superstar Matty Tkachuk but chose the biggest draft turkey since… Jake Virtanen!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        • Bud Poile

          When Juolevi becomes a top-4 Canuck you can leave this site forever,little banned troll. You’ve now got Kessel’s hot dog on your plate as your side job so it’s time to disappear like you did when Biech banned you.

          • ClassOf2011

            Hahaha how did it go THREE YEARS AGO DUD – “Excellent player selection from the Benning team. Welcome to Vancouver,Olli !!! – Dud Poile

            Worst high draft pick all time – Juolevi GM: Benning
            Worst UFA all time – six year 36 mill Eriksson GM: Benning

            Never left, never banned, never asked to leave… unlike you from current site editor JACKSON – who hates you… ”the least I could do is occasionally remind Bud that CA’s readership is constantly growing and if all he is going to do is be rude to other readers he doesn’t need to come back” – JMac

            tick tock dweeb – the Biech is gone… long live THE JACKSON! andddd bye bye Dud

        • Beer Can Boyd

          Not drafting Tkachuk may have been a worse move than signing Eriksson. 1-2 were unanimous, but many had him ahead of Dubois and Puljujarvi, pretty much everyone had him ahead of Juolevi.

          • ClassOf2011

            Couldn’t agree more Beer. I will never forget the hushed shock, anger and total disbelief at the Rog VIP draft party when Juolevi’s name was called out instead of Tkachuk’s with Calgary eagerly waiting one pick behind us.

            Everyone knew the kid was gonna be good but 175 points in 228 games are superstar numbers at 21!!!!!! Meanwhile Juolevi is still remembering how to lace up his skates… without getting hurt.

            Yes Beer, if any other team had chosen sicknote Olli these dweebs would be howlin BUST from the top of Grouse Mountain! Blowing the Tkachuk pick has set us back years. FACT

          • bobdaley44

            Dubois is better than Tkachuk. Bigger, stronger, faster, better defensively not to mention plays a more vital position. Kid’s a beast. Tkachuk’s a hacker who can get a few points on the PP but he can’t skate and guys just blow past him all the time. Has one of the ugliest strides in the game.

          • I am Ted

            Talking $hi-t as usual i see bobdaley. Dubois didn’t even make the NHL in his first year like tkachuk did, has less points and goals the last two comparables and their plus minus is a wash, as is their size – one inch diff, like the size of your needle dick. At least get one fact straight before trolling lol.

          • truthseeker

            So? Who had Tkachuk ranked higher than Puljujarvi? Care to answer with a source or was that just a lie? Show us your “many”.
            Or should I just save you the trouble and say what everyone already knows….you were lying. Nobody had him higher than Puljujarvi. But you were too intellectually lazy to check and just went with your “feelings” and emotionalism. As the self loathers always do.
            And now you’ve taken a turn into cockroach territory with that f…king piece of sh…. racist scumbag coward who seems to enjoy s…king your c…..k like the f…king dork he is.
            Bad look for you Beer.

  • Kanuckhotep

    Why CA has to divide itself into Benning apologists and Benning haters is beyond me. Matthew Tkachuk he Linda Lovelaced on and the Loui contract doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. Brock was, however, was a Calder Trophy candidate and Petey won the damned thing this year. Take the good with the bad, Canucks fans, it’s going to happen. Fantenberg? He’ll be alright but let’s see him play before calling for GMJB’s head on every little move and signing.

    • hm

      Totally agree with this sentiment. Here is my version for why the preferable thing is to be more balanced.
      First off the bad side, there have been quite a few including, in no particular order, the Ericsson signing, the Gudbrandson trade, the draft of Virtanen (which seemed to me to be quite a gamble at the time), the Oulevi draft, the signing of Beagle, maybe giving away a first for Miller and the inability to either acquire more draft picks and/or weaponize more cap space. To me these were all mistakes to a greater or lesser degree (and we can debate that for a long time) and are things fans are more or less right to complain about.
      But here is the thing 1) there have been a number of good moves especially this year, and some fine drafting throughout to nullify some of that 2) a rookie GM and really anybody is entitled to make a few mistakes. 3) for the most part, we haven’t really been hurt by much of this. We were destined to be bad for the last 3 years, so half of Ericsson’s sojourn here has not really mattered, except to the ownership who have had to fit the bill for a player who is not matching up to his contract. And if we had drafted Ehlers and Tkachuk instead of Jake and Olli maybe we would have been just good enough to miss out on Petey and Hughes. Ironically, some of Benning’s missteps have kept us well enough down to keep us in good drafting position. 4) we wont be really good until/if our core 4 (and Podklozin) are older and either really blossom or don’t in which case its back to the drawing board. Either way, our window to be really good is still a few years away. By that point, most of the problem contracts will be gone of easily tradable. 5) IMHO, we now have a decent team and at least enough in the farm to look forward to better times, and cap relief as some of the farm system guys come in to replace the bad veteran contracts with ELC’s. So to me rather than mope over the mistakes its time to relish the good, and look forward to a better and more interesting team and a team/GM that has not mortgaged the future that much and is set up to reverse some of the mistakes and possibly make us a pretty good team over the next few years.

      • Cageyvet

        Great post. I’m a fan first and foremost, so I’m not looking to go bashing my team, or spend my time watching the games under a black cloud. That doesn’t preclude me from scratching my head or being nervous over moves made by the GM and coach alike. It also doesn’t stop me from celebrating their successes.

        There’s a crowd here who will not comment on an obvious good move without finding some way to take a shot at Benning for past, present or future sins, both real and imagine. I refuse to be part of that crowd, what a depressing existence.

        The truly crappy part of this is that it’s been fueled by many of this site’s writers for several years, and their objective analysis of the game is ancient history. Clickbait and character assassination, it’s become some kind of hockey reality show where you have to suspend reality to give it any credence. Thankfully the comment section brings enough value to keep me coming here.

        • hm

          thanks. One more thought. A big criticism and rightful complaint about Benning has been the price he has been paying for free agents. Now this year there are 2 FA’s coming in at what pretty much everyone will agree good prices in Benn and Ferland, and apparently Nyquist was prepared to be here. So what’s changed? Either Benning is learning and I think that’s part of it, or maybe, and Ferland mentioned this, with the emergence of Petey, Vancouver has finally become a spot FA’s want to come to. That’s both new and something we haven’t had for some time. And until Petey, we were well advised not to sign high ranking FA’s.
          One more year of the younger guys developing, and I think particularly if Hughes is pretty impactful, Petey puts in a whole year at a high level and some of the other FA’s stabilize the team, maybe we are in a position to get another high ranking or upper tier FA over the next 2 years.

          • Fred-65

            For the most part, I’d agree with your proposition. One Caveat. If the 2117 draft was redone today there is little doubt EP would have been possible #1 O/A. The reason he wasn’t showed the inadequacy of the NJ, Philly, Dallas Colorado scouting staff as much as JB/Bracketts good luck. IMO

  • MajorFawlty

    So much negativity from some fans I just don’t know why they even pay attention. That said, I respect that Thomas has written an article with an overall optimistic tone while still highlighting the stats and player. Many of us CA readers griped about negativity. It seems like a decent depth signing, with indications that Fantenberg will be serviceable in a pinch. This team has been overhauled to a large degree in all the ways we begged for, and by anyone’s tracking the Canucks are far better on paper this summer than last. Let’s just see what happens now.

  • Captain Video

    Fantenberg’s a depth signing, plain and simple. Nothing to get worked up about. From his 122 games played, it seems that he will be serviceable on the third pairing when the inevitable injuries strike the blue line. I like the signing.