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Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Monday Mailbag: The latest on Tyler Motte, thoughts on Podkolzin’s scratches, and can Garland make Team USA?

Another week, another mailbag.

You read that right, today I’ll be filling in for Faber on the CanucksArmy Monday Mailbag!

The Canucks are a day away from their home opener tomorrow night against the Minnesota Wild, and we’ve got some absolutely fantastic stuff coming your way.

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But it’s time for the mailbag, so let’s see what the folks from Twitter asked this week!

Let’s address this one off the hop.

Since I took over as managing editor back in May, I authored the Monday Mailbag series, taking your questions each week. We even did some live mailbags as well!

As many of you know, the coverage at CanucksArmy has expanded this season. Our “scenes from morning skate” game day articles have been a success, and we’re bringing you wall-to-wall coverage like never before now that I’m at the rink every day.

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Because of this, along with my other duties as Editor in Chief of The Nation Network, Faber has taken over as the weekly mailbag writer.

Me doing this one is a bit of an anomaly, but I’m stoked to do it nonetheless.

Okay now let’s get into it!

First off, thanks for your support, and always, the mention of Botch should remind us all to do our dekes.

Conor Garland was probably the biggest story of the Canucks’ six-game road trip. His high-octane style of play and ability to get under opponents’ skin while putting up points has made him a fan favourite early on.

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Through those six games, Garland tallied eight points — the last of which was a dagger of a goal and a staredown to a Seattle Kraken fan on Saturday night.

Part of the reason Garland is adored by fans is for the price the Canucks paid to get him, and what the club is paying on his contract now.

The Canucks shipped out Jay Beagle, Loui Eriksson, Antoine Roussel, the ninth overall pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, along with a future second and seventh round pick this offseason in exchange for Garland and Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

Garland was a restricted free agent at the time, but signed a five year deal with an AAV of $4.95 million with the Canucks shortly thereafter.

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For a guy who’s over a point per game, the early returns are that the Canucks are going to get great value from Garland on this contract.

It’s hard to no for certain, but given Garland’s age — he’ll be just 30 years old when the deal expires — along with his past consistency in point producing at every level he’s played at, it’s safe to assume that Garland will be producing at a respectable top six rate for the remainder of his contract.

Now that he’s playing with better linemates who he’s becoming more and more comfortable with, could he be a consistent point-per-game player this season and going forward?

I certainly wouldn’t bet against it.

Coming off season-ending shoulder surgery after appearing in just a few games last season, Justin Bailey got dealt another crushing blow in the luck department when he was forced to miss training camp due to a positive COVID-19 test while trying to cross the Canada-US border.

Bailey arrived only in time to play in the Canucks’ final two preseason games, and was going to be hard-pressed to impress enough to win a roster spot in such a short amount of time.

After showing flashes last season, the Canucks were eager to get another look at Bailey this season. He was slated to be in the mix for a roster spot alongside guys like Nic Petan, Justin Dowling, Matthew Highmore, and Phil Di Giusseppe, but by the time Bailey got his shot, it was likely already too late.

Bailey is off to a good start in Abbotsford and has six points in five games, including three goals.

For him to get a shot, there will need to be further injuries to the Canucks’ lineup. As it stands, Phil Di Giusseppe is likely ahead of Bailey on the Canucks’ depth chart, and there’s a chance Nic Petan is as well.

Bailey needs to keep performing well in Abbotsford to eventually get a shot ahead of the names mentioned above, and when he gets that shot, he needs to absolutely run with it.

Another Garland question, let’s go!

Team USA is looking at their deepest roster in years.

Quinn Hughes, J.T. Miller and potentially Brock Boeser are likely to be on the roster, but Garland can certainly barge his way into the conversation if he keeps this up.

It’s only been six games, but in talking to people around the league, many teams have been very high on Garland the past few seasons, and those that weren’t before, are certainly taking notice now.

A goaltending question, huzzah!

Thatcher Demko was excellent on Saturday night. When the Kraken — backed by their loud sold-out arena and a retired jersey number 32 hanging in the rafters for some reason — put the pressure on the Canucks, Demko held his team in it.

He shut the door long enough for the Canucks to mount a triumphant comeback in the form of three unanswered goals.

Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet said Demko “stole” the game for the Canucks, and it’d be hard to disagree.

For the Canucks to be a playoff team, it is absolutely crucial that they continue to get above-average goaltending from Demko all season long.

As for his ceiling this season? I suppose him putting up numbers near the top of the league and continuing to get noticed — and hopefully pick up some much-deserved Vezina votes — would be his ceiling from a Canucks fan’s perspective.

If you ask Demko though, he would likely tell you that for starters, making Team USA’s Olympic roster would be huge. If he were also able to be so undeniably stellar that he usurps Connor Hellebuyck and John Gibson for the starter’s role? That’s likely his ceiling for this season.

At training camp, Tyler Motte was out after sessions working as a shooter for the goaltenders. It was low-intensity, and he was stationary for most of it.

Then during the preseason, Motte began ramping up the intensity in some on-ice sessions after practices and morning skates.

I saw him skating with skills coach Yogi Švejkovský on October 5th, and head coach Travis Green said before the team’s season-opening road trip that there was a possibility that Motte would join the club on the road. That didn’t end up happening, but the comment would indicate that Motte is close to returning.

We’ll have to wait and see how long it is before Motte is a regular participant at Canucks practice.

Aside from Garland lighting the world on fire, the other big talking point dominating the discourse right now is the situation with Vasily Podkolzin.

After the Canucks’ embarrassing loss at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres, Podkolzin found himself as the odd man out as Alex Chiasson drew back into the lineup for Thursday’s game in Chicago.

The Canucks won that game, and unsurprisingly so, went with the same lineup on Saturday night in Seattle.

Until they lose, I find it hard to imagine a world where Green elects to change his lineup, which means Podkolzin is likely not going to be in the lineup for Tuesday’s home opener.

As for my thoughts on this, I certainly don’t think it’s a smart decision to healthy scratch the 20-year-old prospect your organization is trying to develop for an extended period of time.

I also don’t think it’s worth much fuss unless Podkolzin doesn’t get back in the lineup after the Canucks’ next loss. At that point, eyebrows will be raised, and rightfully so.

That’s all for this week! Be sure to follow both Chris Faber and myself on Twitter to see the latest from in and around the rink(s) in Abbotsford and of course Vancouver!