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Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Monday Mailbag: The 12th and 13th forwards, Podkolzin’s varying height, and the battle of Juolevi vs Hunt

We have made it another week closer to training camp as the offseason continues to drag along. We heard from Elias Pettersson last week and that, combined with some AHL signings, was about all the news that we received from the Canucks.

There’s a lot of work being done behind the scenes and we are all just waiting on the Pettersson and Quinn Hughes contracts to get done so that there’s something of substance to talk about. Until then, you’ve got questions and I’ve got answers. Let’s get into this week’s crop of questions from the amazing readers and followers of CanucksArmy.

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Well, we’ve come to the part of the offseason where we are discussing the fourth line.

The likely betting favourite option to play with Brandon Sutter and Tyler Motte is Matthew Highmore.

Highmore was used in a middle-six role last season but this year he will be demoted to a fourth-line role. Out of all the lesser-known players who came to the Canucks last season, Highmore was one who looked fine but was still unable to produce much offence. He scored three goals and added four assists in his 42 games between Chicago and Vancouver. With the lessened responsibility and minutes on a fourth line, I’d expect to see an energized Highmore as he looks to be the Yin to Motte’s Yang on a fourth line as they look to have a strong forecheck and be responsible enough in their own zone.

One of the biggest steps up on the competition for Highmore is his ability to kill penalties. Highmore was second out of Canucks forwards in shorthanded ice time after he joined the team on April 20th. It seemed like Travis Green was high on his abilities on the penalty kill and if Highmore begins the season killing penalties for the Canucks, it will take pressure off of guys like Tanner Pearson or Vasily Podkolzin and will allow those two players to blaze around the ice with fresher legs.

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As for the 13th forward, there are a handful of guys in contention and this should be a spot that is won in camp.

You have Zack MacEwen, Jonah Gadjovich, Justin Bailey and Phillip Di Giuseppe as the front runners for the 13th forward spot.

It’s an interesting bunch if you think about it.

You have the veterans in Bailey (26yo) and Di Giuseppe (27yo), then the older tough guy in MacEwen (25yo), and the young tough kid with a knack for scoring around the crease in Gadjovich (22yo).

Here’s how I see it playing out. Bailey will be sent back to the AHL to prove that he can still score at a high rate and he will be given every opportunity as the Abbotsford Canucks’ first-line right winger. Bailey is coming off a tough shoulder injury and only played in three professional games last season. He has been very healthy over his pro career, so it will be interesting to see how he bounces back, but my belief is that he will begin in Abbotsford as one of the top scorers on the team.

As for the two tough guys, I do think that both will end up in Abbotsford to start the season. As much as I would like to see MacEwen or Gadjovich in the lineup, I have a feeling that Di Giuseppe is going to come out and win the spot as the 13th forward.

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Di Giuseppe played in 31 games last season for the New York Rangers and the thing that is holding him behind Highmore in the race for the 12th forward spot is that Di Giuseppe does not kill penalties. Maybe it’s something that he can add to his game, and honestly, it would be a genius move on his part to get into games.

If the Canucks are dealt an injury to their bottom-six, you can slide Di Giuseppe right into the lineup in that role or if there is an injury to the top-six, one of Podkolzin, Pearson, or Nils Höglander goes up and Motte or Di Giuseppe goes to the third line.

When it came to his role last season with the New York Rangers, Di Giuseppe did all you could ask of him. He was one of three players to play more than 10 games and have a positive Corsi for percentage. Di Giuseppe improved the Corsi for percentage of the eight forwards that he played with the most, including some getting a boost as high as 13%.

We will see what Di Giuseppe can do at camp but I am expecting it to be a pretty strong showing from the 27-year-old.

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I spent way too much time and words on this question, sorry.

You would definitely need to think about it. If that Devils pick is unprotected, it could be a very high pick in 2022, potentially enough of a shot in the draft lottery to snag a guy like Shane Wright.

Miles Wood is on the final year of a cheap deal and would bring value to a middle-six.

As for Ty Smith, he has a ton of offensive potential, and many of us west-coasters saw or heard about what he could do at the WHL level. He’s a high-end defensive prospect.

Honestly, it takes a very good trade proposition for me to say yes to any trade that involves one of the Canucks’ young stars but yes, I’d strongly consider this deal and maybe even make it if there could be a tiny bit added from the Devils.

No, there will be no prospects camp this year.

There will be a couple of U22 players invited to camp like Carson Focht, Danila Klimovich, Arturs Silovs and Jett Woo but there will be no dedicated prospects camp this year.

I’m hearing that prospects camp will return next season as long as the world is past COVID by then and honestly, if we’re not over COVID by the fall of 2022, I will be one sad man.

Yeah, I’ve seen this around the web as well. It’s really strange to see a site have him at 6’3″ or 6’4″. I can confirm that he is not that tall.

By my judging of him on the ice and in pictures off the ice, he’s probably around 6’1″, but the 20-year-old is thick.

I am 6’4″, so I’ll try and judge it at training camp but from all I’ve seen, he’s give or take an inch off of 6’1″.

If you get the option, take it. Once a week is good for Arby’s. No more, no less.

I’m just guessing here, as I’m sure a lot of us are. Here are my expectations.

Pettersson: Two years at $6,250,000 per year.

Hughes: Seven years at $7,750,00 per year.

I think they go longer with Hughes and will have to pay Pettersson a lot more in two years.

I just get the feeling that the Pettersson deal is going to be a push it down the road vibe and a two year deal helps keep Pettersson under seven million dollars.

Again, I’m guessing just as much as you all are in the comments.

The Canucks are 100% a playoff team if their defence can be one of the 12-18th best defensive teams in the league.

The defence is going to benefit from a preseason and training camp but so is every other team in the league. The new faces will appreciate the time to gel together and having a much more open world will do wonders for the new Canucks team who really struggled to get out and do much off the ice last season.

If their defence can be in the top 20 of the NHL, they are a playoff team in my eyes as I project their offence to be one of the top-10 in the NHL with the goaltending being top-five.

One thing is for sure, they are going to be a lot more exciting to watch this season.

The most recent update I’ve seen is from Rick Dhaliwal and Irfaan Gaffar in the first week of August. Both said Motte may not be 100% healthy for training camp.

This here is the big question that many are discussing as we head towards training camp, so let’s wrap up the mailbag on this one.

Deciding the Canucks’ eight defencemen to start the season in the NHL is a bit of a process.

First off, it comes down to Jack Rathbone and if he is going to be in the starting six. Right now, you have Brad Hunt and Olli Juolevi battling with Rathbone for the final spot. If you come out of camp and believe that he is the best defenceman of the three and deserves to be in the lineup for game one of the season, that’s great. If he earns the spot, he should be there, even if it costs you the risk of sending Hunt or Juolevi through waivers.

Ultimately, I don’t see the Canucks sending Juolevi down to the minors in any outcome of the Canucks’ defence core.

If Hunt wins the job out of camp, you send Rathbone down to get a ton of minutes and since he is still on his entry-level contract, he does not require waivers. No team can put in a claim for Rathbone if he gets sent to the AHL. Juolevi has a chance to win the job out of camp, and stylistically, he is the best fit to play with a puck-moving offensive defenceman like Tyler Myers.

No matter the case, the only situation where the Canucks don’t send Rathbone down to the AHL is if he wins the NHL job out of camp. That is going to be a tough task for Rathbone but I do believe that he has the inside track as we head into the first turn. There’s lots of race to go as we see which of Hunt, Juolevi or Rathbone comes out on top after camp. I’ve got my money on Rathbone and Juolevi being on the opening night 23-man roster with Rathbone in the lineup and Juolevi as an extra defenceman alongside Luke Schenn.

In the end, to answer the question, I would put Brad Hunt on waivers. He is unlikely to get picked up, even though everyone thinks he will and that the sky is falling if the Canucks lose their newly signed ninth defenceman who hasn’t even played a game for them yet. If the Canucks lose Hunt to waivers, then so be it. He’s got less organizational value than Juolevi and if you are unable to trade Juolevi for a draft pick this season or get a valuable depth defenceman then he probably isn’t that valuable to the organization as well.

I’ve still got hope for Juolevi and I think that losing him to waivers this season would be a mistake. Hunt may be the better defenceman today but he is also nine years older than Juolevi.

It’s Juolevi>Hunt for me and a good camp from a refreshed Juolevi will help the 23-year-old develop into a future Canucks depth defenceman.

Well, that wraps it up for our Monday mailbag. Thanks to all the wonderful followers of the Twitter account for sending in questions and we will be back next week to talk our way up to training camp.