Welcome back to WDYTT, the only hockey column on the internet that’s always on the right developmental track.
In case you missed it, we at CanucksArmy have been hard at work revealing our 2020 Top Prospects, counting down from 16 to numero uno. In the process of putting it together, we enjoyed several behind-the-scenes debates that ended with a few intriguing players left on the cutting room floor. That’s bad news for list-based completionists, but great news for the overall depth of Vancouver’s prospect cupboard.
Everyone has their own favourite organizational dark horses, those players that you can’t help but believe in despite their long odds against making the big leagues. Heck, just look at our own Cory Hergott, who was strong on the Zack MacEwen beat right from undrafted free agency to the NHL.
Today, in the midst of our official prospect rankings, we’re giving you the opportunity to put your online reputation where your mouth is and call your long-term shot, because we’re asking you:
Who do think is the Canucks’ most underrated prospect? Who is your dark horse candidate to eventually make it to the NHL?
Who you do think will join the Canucks’ top-six forwards in 2021?
Your choice responses are below!
(Winner of the author’s occasional award for a confusing response)
Five top forwards, not six…one should be traded… Let’s see if we’re on the same page…
They didn’t sign Virtanen to play anywhere but the top-six, so I figure he’ll start there, unless of course he shows up out of shape with the booze-sweats. The bum lives to grace Vancouver nightlife with his bros yet again.
The obvious choices are, of course, Miller, Petey, Boeser, Horvat, and Pearson, so number si is the odd one out.
I think the majority of the time will be allotted to Virtanen to play on Horvat’s wing. The analytics don’t really stack up to this being a huge success, but I always thought that these guys have played well together and have some exciting rushes down the ice.
I am sure that coach Green will from time to time experiment with other players, as he has before, so I would expect occasional doses of guys like Hoglander, Gaudette, Motte, MacEwen, or even Ferland to play here throughout the year, but Jake should be the guy whose job it is to lose.
(Winner of the author’s weekly award for eloquence)
Green’s modus operandi is to keep pairs together on a line. Miller and Pettersson will stay together, as will Pearson and Horvat. Boeser will start the year on the top line, however, he will have a short leash with Virtanen getting several opportunities to steal that job.
Green needs a RW on the second line who helps Horvat take the toughest match-ups. There is a good chance the right player there is Hawryluk. If he isn’t up to the task, we could see a lot of variety on the second line RW, with the coaches differing the RW based on the size, skill and speed of each line they want to use Horvat against. Virtanen, MacEwen, and Sutter will all get some looks
The Canucks will likely give Gaudette more opportunity to center the third line. Roussel will lose the starting LW job, if not at camp, then over the season. Hoglander is prime to steal it. Virtanen will start on the third line and, when he gets his chances on the top line, Boeser will slot in. When Virtanen moves to the second line, MacEwen will get some looks.
BC SPORTS FAN:
Jake has been working out hard this summer lifting [remainder of comment censored for unoriginality.]
(Winner of the author’s occasional award for padding word-count)
Jake Virtanen is the obvious candidate to join the top-six, and he almost certainly will in training camp and throughout the season, but his trademark inconsistency suggests the Canucks should have ample backup options available.
One intriguing idea is to convert Adam Gaudette, who has struggled with the defensive responsibilities often expected of a bottom-six center, to the wing. Gaudette is, at heart, an offensively-inclined forward, and there’s no way he’s ever going to usurp Elias Pettersson or Bo Horvat, so his best bet for top-six minutes may be on the right wing. It’s definitely worth seeing how he does in such a role, if only for the lineup versatility such an option would provide.