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Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Monday Mailbag: Third round draft picks, an all-Canadian division, and an explosive third line

After a quiet weekend of whispered rumours and a couple of minor moves, the Vancouver Canucks now look forward to the NHL draft and free agency, both of which take place this week.

There’s going to be news, there’s going to be action and there’s going to be disappointment when Jim Benning can’t move Loui Eriksson once again.

It’s all up in the air right now, so what better time to write up a Monday Mailbag? Without further ado, let’s get into what you wonderful people asked this week!

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Well, this is the big question on a lot of fans’ minds. With the Canucks not selecting until the third round, it’s been a very different year than the past few. Even for coverage on the site, we would normally be deep-diving into who the Canucks could pick with a top 10 selection, but for now, it’s heavily focused on who could potentially fall to them in the third round.

I recently spoke with TSN’s Craig Button about this and he said that teams typically get one of their top 20-30 players in the third round anyways. So the Canucks first pick in the draft is likely going to be someone that they are pretty high on.

In my eyes, it’s a defenceman. This team has pretty strong young centre depth and have highly touted prospect wingers like Vasili Podkolzin, Kole Lind and Nils Höglander coming soon.

The Canucks should look at defencemen in this draft. It’s a valuable trade chip if they are to progress in a similar way that Jack Rathbone did and frankly, your team can always use more defence prospects.

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I’ll give a few names and a quick explanation of why I like the player.

Eemil Viro: I like the way that Viro plays the game as the NHL progresses to a faster brand of hockey. I think there’s a strong chance he is available for the Canucks with their pick and Viro is playing under coach Sami Salo with TPS in Finland. He’s six feet tall, weighs in at just under 170 pounds and played in 29 Liiga games last season.

Brock Faber: He’s probably not there for the Canucks when the third round rolls around but if he is, he is the perfect pick for the Canucks. A good puck-moving right-shot defenceman with the best last name in the draft. I’m high on Faber and think if he begins to fall in the draft (which is possible) the Canucks should try and pounce on drafting him.

Yan Kuznetsov: If the Canucks are looking to add some size and grit to their defence core, Kuznetsov brings both. He’s got a strong shot and a long reach that helps him as he closes in on his opposition before delivering major damage with his physicality.

Kuznetsov is a sleeper pick for me in the draft. I like his shot and physicality and he is a Russian player who is currently playing in the NCAA with the University of Connecticut. At 6’4″ and over 200lbs, he is a monster on the back end in this draft who can also skate pretty well.

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We will stick on the draft questions here for a bit, this is a fun exercise.

I do think that Alexis Lafreniere will be the best player in five years, but the talent level in Quinton Byfield is no joke. Byfield is so talented and will be even better once surrounded by NHL talent. These two will be fun to debate about over the next few years as I think Lafreniere is a safe bet at number one but there are more and more scouts who are ripping through Byfield tape and saying there is so much to like in this kid’s game.

In the end, I’ll stay with Lafreniere but I do like watching those two Swedish scorers play in the SHL. They should be fun to follow. If the Senators land both of them it would just be so much fun.

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The idea has definitely been floated about having an all-Canadian division next season. Cutting out border travel for the time being and letting the Canadian teams develop more of a rivalry would sure be a lot of fun.

Canucks fans would love to watch their team beat up on the Senators for 10-12 games and potentially strengthening a rivalry with the Alberta teams could be a lot of fun. I like the idea of it in general.

The big question is what does this mean for families of the players?

Are they able to see their families, are they in a bubble, are they free to travel anywhere in the country?

There are plenty of questions that need to be asked before we start to see this come to fruition. Right now it seems like a good option but I am so curious to see how the NHL and NHLPA come to an agreement that makes both sides happy.

The NHLPA and their players held up their end of the bargain to get the playoff completed. The NHL on the other hand, they did not. Players complained about amenities and service that were supposed to be offered not being there for them in the bubble. They were also told their families could join them in the later round of the playoffs and that did not happen. Aside from a couple families that were able to drive in, of course. 

The NHL has to think long and hard on how to make the 2020-21 season run without a hitch and it’s going to be damn hard. I like the idea of an all-Canadian division. It would be fun, entertaining and helps build rivalries between fanbases that already don’t really like each other.

Like seriously, which Canadian team’s fans don’t wanna see their squad beat up on the Toronto Maple Leafs 10 times a year?

Yes.

Sven Baertschi is a good enough hockey player to be an NHL contributor.

He did not have a good enough showing at fall’s training camp to make the Canucks and there was a sour taste left in his mouth after being sent to the minors.

The Canucks could move him if they eat half of his salary or they can let him play out in the AHL for another year and then move on from him.

There’s a rift between Baertschi and Travis Green after training camp in Victoria. I can’t see him playing another game for the Canucks unless there are a ton of injuries to their wingers. He will get NHL games somewhere, it just won’t be with the Canucks.

They are weird.

That is all I know.

This is definitely in the realm of possibility for next season.

Josh Levio really adds much-needed scoring depth from a bottom-six winger role. His playstyle fits in perfectly with Travis Green’s game plan and he has shown to help Adam Gaudette control puck possession in the 155 minutes of ice time they have had together.

That duo should be part of the third line next season. The tougher question to answer is if Nils Höglander will be there too.

Höglander has shown well in his SHL season so far. He is tracking at a point per game through four regular season games and if you extend that to the preseason, his larger sample size still has him at a point per game. Only five players were at a point per game or higher in all of the SHL last season.

Many believe he is NHL ready right now, including TSN’s Craig Button, whom I spoke with this past week on Canucks Conversation podcast.

Höglander plays a strong two-way game and he would fit in nicely with these two players.

Gaudette’s two-way game has been questioned in the past and it will likely be questioned going into the future. He has progressed defensively over the past couple years and if the Canucks can get a three-year deal at low money done with Gaudette, they will hope his defensive game continues to develop and catches up to his offensive skill.

Putting two solid defensive wingers like Höglander and Leivo on his wings would give him the added defensive support while not limiting the offensive opportunities. I love the idea and form of this line and I do really hope to see it during the 2020-21 season.

I think we will hear more on Monday (today).

The Canucks are sending Jim Benning out to the media on Monday at 10:30 am. I’ll be on the call and I expect to hear some news come out before that so that Benning has an idea of what kind of questions will be asked to him.

I know there have been more conversations with RFAs and UFAs over the weekend and like I said, I think we will have something on Monday. As for trades, after the draft, I would expect to see some things come through as teams look to set their money for what to do in free agency.

I’m ready for something here. The anticipation is killing us all, Dan!

Thanks for coming by for another Monday Mailbag. Quads will be back next week to answer all you fine folks’ questions. Follow along with CanucksArmy for breaking news as we will be here to break down what should be a wild week ahead!