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Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Monday Mailbag: Training camp questions, a final answer on Vasily Podkolzin’s height, and if Klimovich did enough to land in the AHL

It’s been a heck of a week with the Vancouver Canucks having their three-day training camp over the past few days. Follow that up with preseason action coming fast and furious and just like that, we are immediately in the groove of hockey being back!

I spent three days out in Abbotsford, taking in every second of the three-day camp. There were some impressive performances and then there was Olli Juolevi. I’ve been rooting for Juolevi for a long time and felt that this was his chance to finally become an everyday NHL player. As he, Brad Hunt and Jack Rathbone battle to be the final left-shot defenceman on the opening night roster, I felt that Juolevi was a frontrunner because of his defensive qualities. By gosh, was I wrong. Juolevi looked even worse than he did last season and it wasn’t just because of the rolling around in the conditioning skate.

He was getting walked by NHLers and AHLers alike. Juolevi now needs to have a good preseason to have even a small chance of making the NHL team. I would have never thought that there’d be a chance that he was going to be sent down after the preseason but the organization cannot like what they’ve seen from Juolevi. Travis Green was disappointed in him and the rumblings heard around the rink were that management was not happy with him at all.

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That being said, there were some players who drew some interesting questions after their performances at training camp. Speaking of interesting questions, why don’t we get to some of those?

Let’s take a walk down the driveway and see what came in for this week’s mailbag.

For the record, the obvious choices were Will Lockwood, Phil Di Giuseppe and Brad Hunt.

Aside from those three, there were some other names that I liked. Former Vancouver Giant Tristen Nielsen had himself a quiet camp but his skillset definitely popped. I remember speaking with him when he signed with the Canucks and he flat out told me that he was very fast. He wasn’t kidding about being quick. There’s definitely high-end AHL speed in his game and he still has room to grow and improve. I’d like to see him be a nice depth piece for the Abbotsford Canucks this season as his high-tempo will fit right into what the AHL team is trying to accomplish with their new and improved lineup.

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Less quiet was the play of Mikey DiPietro. We know that DiPietro has had a ton of time to work with Ian Clark over the past year and it showed as he looked like a veteran when doing drills with Clark. He was also damn good at stopping shots in the drills. It wasn’t quite at the level that we saw him shutting the door at rookie camp but out of the three goalies who could play NHL games, he impressed the most. It didn’t help that Jaroslav Halak struggled with drills and facing shots in drills. He allowed a lot of goals and that helped DiPietro look even better. That no-move clause is going to be an interesting story to follow when DiPietro goes down to the AHL and begins to play.

Finally, I’ve got to give a shoutout to Tucker Poolman. He was saddled up with Oliver Ekman-Larsson on day one and that seems to be the pairing we should expect for the regular season. Poolman skates well and you could see that his playstyle is going to open the door for OEL to be the offensive defenceman that he needs to be to have success. Poolman doesn’t want to shoot the puck, he wants to pass it to OEL or a forward. He rotated well with OEL and as they build chemistry, the pairing has a chance to look even better as the season goes on.

A contract termination is very unlikely but Travis Hamonic has until October 1st to opt-out of this season. With Jim Benning claiming that 100% of the organization will be vaccinated by the beginning of the season, it will be interesting to see if and when Hamonic joins the team.

If Hamonic opts out, his contract is not terminated. It is just off the books for this season. He signed a two-year deal that has a $3,000,000 cap hit. If he opts out this season, there will be no cap hit but his $3,000,000 will be on the books for next season. The option of opting out is definitely not of interest for the Canucks and if Hamonic chooses to do so and attempts to return to the Canucks for the 2022-23 season, I would expect to see a similar scenario to how Sven Baertschi’s final year played out with the organization. Baertschi and Hamonic’s stories are in no way similar but they may receive the same treatment from the organization.

If Hamonic is sent down to the minors for the 2022-23 season, he will still have a $1,825,000 cap hit on the team. That is after $1,075,000 is buried.

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It’s got to be Matthew Highmore. I’m pretty confident in saying that many Canucks fans had him pencilled into their opening night lineups after what he did at the end of last season for the Canucks, but he was barely noticeable throughout the entirety of training camp. Players like Phil Di Giuseppe and Will Lockwood completely outshone him but the saving grace for Highmore is that he has played penalty killing minutes for Travis Green.

No matter how well you did in camp, Green is going to need to have some penalty killers on the fourth line. Even though Di Giuseppe and Lockwood believe that penalty killing is something they can do at the NHL level, neither of them have done it for Green and I’ve got to believe that being a penalty killer in Green’s eyes is just as valuable as a strong training camp performance.

I’m hoping that Lockwood or Di Giuseppe can convince Green that they can kill penalties for him because those two players look quick and could do some shorthanded damage if they can earn a spot through training camp.

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A third round pick?

Take whatever you can and run before you have to put him on waivers.

Both Jett Woo and Jonah Gadjovich looked much better at this year’s camp compared to last year’s.

Woo is still a ways away and with so much depth signed this offseason, I’d be very surprised if he even gets a sniff of the NHL. His arrival date should be pushed to the 2022-23 season unless this Canucks team completely falls apart. Enjoy Woo out in Abbotsford this season. He’s going to be a tough cookie to deal with and likely a fan favourite thanks to his physicality.

As for Gadjovich, he is a really tough one to judge. All he does is score goals. He did it in the AHL and he scored two more in two scrimmages at training camp. The only way he makes the NHL out of the preseason is if he is more than a goal per game player. It’s so much to ask of him but there are just too many other players that Jim Benning and Travis Green would rather play in front of him. I think Gadjovich is a player who can contribute at the NHL level. He lost weight in an attempt to improve his skating this offseason and it worked! He did look quicker on the ice at camp.

I think he is still going to be sent down to Abbotsford and I wonder if he is riskier than Juolevi to be picked up on waivers.

We have to see Danila Klimovich in some more preseason games. He lacks consistency but damn did he look good in the second scrimmage as he was playing with confidence. There’s a lot of work to do before he’s an NHL player but the skill that he shows when he is on his game is clearly good enough for the AHL. The question will be consistency because physically, he is very ready for the AHL and other pro hockey.

He looked fine in last night’s scrimmage and certainly did some things that made him stick out in a positive manner. He’ll look to continue that as the preseason rolls along.

Yes, I did get a chance to introduce myself to Vasily Podkolzin as I was grabbing a coffee with his translator at the media table. We were talking as Vasily and his wife came over to ask her a question. I introduced myself and said that it’s nice to have him here in Vancouver. I mentioned that I was waking up between two and seven in the morning to watch a lot of his KHL games. He responded in English, saying, “woah man, that’s crazy.”

As for the height, I compared us and he is probably about 6′-6’1″ as we expected. I’m 6’3″ and could clearly see that I had a couple of inches on him.

He is 100% not 6’4″ like EliteProspects says. That coward J.D. Burke can’t get anything right and he doesn’t believe in expanding one’s palate with new food combinations.

EP RinkSide is great though, I’ll give them that.

Well, that wraps it up for another Monday mailbag here at CanucksArmy. The season is just around the corner but we will make do with preseason action until then. It was amazing to get back into the rink and write about hockey all weekend. We will definitely have some fun stuff coming here at CanucksArmy as the preseason goes on.

See you all next Monday.