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Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Monday Mailbag: BBQ Chicken, Juolevi’s slow development, and Persson watching

We are back with another Monday mailbag article and wow, it’s been a slow news cycle for the Vancouver Canucks.

Overseas prospects are beginning to crank up their seasons with tournaments and friendly games as the SHL, KHL, Liiga and other European leagues get set for their regular season openers.

The Canucks still have not signed Elias Pettersson or Quinn Hughes and with every day that passes, another Canucks players is making their way back to Vancouver to get set for captain skates.

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So, we lean on our readers and followers for questions once again as we march towards training camp. Let’s see what the wonderful people had to ask this week.

From speaking to his camp and the player himself, they believe that Viktor Persson will definitely be a part of the Kamloops Blazers for the 2021-22 season.

It’s been communicated to me that the beginning of September is the goal for Persson to arrive so we will expect to see him coming any day over the next couple of weeks now. I’ll have updates on Twitter about this situation.

Persson will only be eligible to play one season in the CHL before he needs to make the decision of going pro in Abbotsford or back to Sweden. He barely played hockey last year and a full WHL schedule plus signing in the AHL after the season to get pro experience is an excellent path for the offensive right-shot defenceman.

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Here’s some dates where British Columbians can get an opportunity to see Persson play.

He will be in Vancouver to play the Giants on Oct. 23, Nov. 13, Dec. 3, Jan. 30, Feb. 4 and Mar. 5.

His games in Prince George are Oct. 2, Oct. 30, Dec. 11, Dec. 31, Jan. 21 and Apr. 3.

There are six games in Kelowna against the Rockets on Dec. 18, Dec. 29, Feb. 25, Mar. 12, Mar. 18 and Mar. 26.

Finally, Persson will be in Victoria to play the Royals on Oct. 12/13, Nov. 5/6 and Feb. 5/6.

The Blazers will play 48 of their 68 games against BC division teams. Obviously, those around the Kamloops area will be able to watch him play at their home games.

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It will be an interesting negotiation between the Canucks and Persson as he has been a part of Brynäs’ Swedish hockey organization since he was 13 years old. The problem is that Brynäs gave him little to no time last season to play in the SHL after the pandemic crushed the J20 league that Persson was competing in. He only received two shifts in the SHL even though he dressed for four games. If the Canucks can get him signed and into the AHL for next season, that will show a ton of progress in his development.

It’s not the worst thing if he heads back to Sweden but after a year in the CHL, you’d like to see his game graduate to the AHL as many drafted 20-year-old CHL prospects do.

Each of the Canucks’ draft picks have high ceilings but low floors as well. We’ve talked about it a ton over the past five weeks — the Canucks decided to take some big swings with each of their draft picks at the 2021 draft. The only guy who wasn’t really a big swing was goaltender Aku Koskenvuo. Ian Clark liked him and the Canucks went out and grabbed him in the fifth round. That’s what you do when Clark is a part of your scouting staff.

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As for the question, I’d have to go with Danila Klimovich. He was excellent at the U18s and showed well enough in the Belarusian second league to garner his draft positioning. Those who evaluated his game at the U18s were shocked by the shot, stick-handling and overall physical ability on the ice. That was just one tournament though, and when you go through the tape in the Belarusian second league, there are some worries about his defensive skill, anger problems and skating form.

From what I’ve seen, he looks like he has a lot of offensive skills and will dominate in the QMJHL if that is where he lands this fall. He’s a big body who can be physical when the situation presents itself. I know that he had one good tournament and that was a big reason for him to be drafted so high but it was also the biggest stage of his hockey career and Klimovich seized the opportunity.

I’m also pretty high on Hugo Gabrielson due to his versatility as a defensive defenceman who can play both sides of the ice but Klimovich has to have the highest ceiling.

I’m simple with it, I like some chicken thighs on the BBQ with corn on the cob and cheesy mashed potatoes.

A tall cup of country time lemonade with a couple of ice cubes and I’m a happy camper.

Lately, I’ve been cooking up a lot of chicken breasts on the BBQ, keeping it simple with Tapatío hot sauce, some garlic, and that clubhouse barbeque chicken seasoning. Then you finish it off with Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey BBQ sauce for the final few minutes.

I’m just a fan of correctly cooked, juicy chicken.

It’s been tough to form an opinion on Ryan Johnson’s work as the General Manager over his time as an AHL General Manager. Many of the beliefs from the Utica and Vancouver fanbases has bounced around from ultra-positive to the Utica fans giving him nicknames like “Ghost Johnson” because they never heard anything from him.

With Johnson now being the GM of the Abbotsford Canucks, I expect to hear a lot more from him and after seeing what the Canucks just did in free agency to bolster their AHL team, I’m going to imagine that there will be a very positive response about Johnson as a GM.

All the conversations that I have had with prospects typically include a question about Johnson and to date, I have not heard a bad word about him as director of player development. I spoke with Johnson over the offseason and one of the quotes that I loved from him was how he said that he has two roles in the organization. With the director of player development, he wants to get players to the AHL and then with his job as the AHL GM, his goal is to get players out of the AHL. Johnson is a true cornerstone for the Canucks and their prospect development. He is typically the first point of contact for draft picks and will be in constant communications with the NCAA and overseas prospects.

It’s very likely that Johnson has a bright future and he is doing all that he can to work his way up in the organization. I’d not be shocked to see him as an assistant GM in the near future.

The more and more I think about this, the more I believe he will.

It’s not about Juolevi vs Rathbone or Juolevi vs Hunt.

It’s all about Olli Juolevi vs Olli Juolevi. If he has improved the slightest bit from last season, the starting spot is his. He will be given the first run at 3LD and it will take some bad play from Juolevi or an amazing camp from one of Brad Hunt or Jack Rathbone to knock Juolevi down. Juolevi is coming in at a league-minimum $750,000, one-year deal where he took less money to bet on himself and give the Canucks all the incentive in the world to play him.

I’ve still not given up on Juolevi. I think there was an incredible amount of development time lost in his 19-21-year-old seasons and he will begin to learn his game over the next season or two to show that he can be a bottom-four defenceman. There’s a need for a defensive defenceman in the Canucks’ defence core and they don’t need Juolevi to develop into anything higher than a fourth, fifth or sixth defenceman.

We will see how he looks at camp but if he has improved his game at all, he’s a lock to be in the opening night lineup.

Well, that wraps up this week’s Monday mailbag. It was another slow week but some of the prospects are cranking up into preseason action and we are still waiting on those Hughes and Pettersson contracts. With camp three and a half weeks away, we can begin to countdown the days until we see the Canucks back on the ice together.

As per usual, we will be back next Monday with another instalment of the mailbag!