It’s time to check in on the Vancouver Canucks’ AHL team and look at some takeaways after 20 games.
The Abbotsford Canucks are currently fourth in the AHL’s Pacific Division and post a 9-8-3 record.
It was a tough start to the season for the Canucks but they are starting to figure it out and string together some wins so that they can get themselves into a playoff spot. The goal of this team is to make a run at the Calder Cup and become AHL champions. It’s going to take a lot of improvement to get to that level but there are a handful of positive takeaways from the first 20 games of the season.
We are going to key in on the three positives that can positively affect the Vancouver Canucks down the road.
Let’s look into some positive takeaways from the Abbotsford Canucks.
Will Lockwood is playing his butt off
As expected, the 23-year-old winger is looking very strong in the AHL this season.
Will Lockwood was the standout at Canucks training camp and he has kept that effort level throughout the season. He is now being relied upon to be one of the team’s most trusted penalty killers while also getting time on the power play and currently skating on Abbotsford’s first line.
According to Cody Severtson’s tracking
, Lockwood has posted a 51.98% Corsi while being snake-bitten offensively with his team only having an on-ice shooting percentage of 3.39%. He isn’t going to be known for his immense scoring ability once he is in the NHL but he does have good enough hands when a scoring chance presents itself.
For a while now, we have been saying that Lockwood projects as a high-energy winger who can play the Tyler Motte style of play that so many Canucks fans have enjoyed over the past few years.
This should no longer be a long-term projection.
Lockwood is ready for the NHL and once he gets his shot, I’m not sure if he will return to the AHL.
He is still throwing his body around without regard for human life like he did in college but he has added penalty killing to his arsenal just as the Canucks organization asked of him. He knows that the NHL is within reach this season.
You can clearly see his skills stick out in practice. He shoots the puck better, he skates quicker and he handles the puck better than anyone else on the ice at Abbotsford practices. It’s too bad that his 3.39% on-ice shooting percentage is keeping his stats down because if he was scoring as much as he should be, everyone would be calling for a Lockwood call-up.
Lockwood has looked great throughout the season aside from an injury that had him miss six games.
I’m very interested to see him play for Bruce Boudreau.
And I don’t think we are very far away from that day.
Sheldon Dries is leading the AHL in goals and that’s pretty neat
Throughout the season, Sheldon Dries has been racking up the goals for the Abbotsford Canucks. He currently sits atop the AHL with 13 goals in 19 games. Dries is a centre who holds his own pretty well in the faceoff dot. The 27-year-old Dries scored 21 goals in 50 games during the 2019-20 AHL season but is on pace for a career year that may end up landing him a few games with Vancouver at some point this season.
Dries was basically invisible at training camp back in September. Since camp, he has been all over the Abbotsford scoresheet. He had a hat trick back on December 1st and has had seven multi-point games in 19 outings this year.
Dries is undersized at 5’9″ but has been playing both special teams’ units and been the first-line centre for Abbotsford all season long.
He may get a chance at the NHL level at some point this season. Dries doesn’t have exceptional speed but he handles the puck very well and has had a real knack for being in the right place at the right time to score goals this season.
The 18-year-old Belarussian is showing flashes
When the Canucks drafted Danila Klimovich at the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, it felt like a sure thing that he was either going to go to the QMJHL or to the KHL to hone his craft. Instead, he has stuck with the Abbotsford Canucks for the entire season and there are no signs of him leaving anytime soon.
Klimovich has been a healthy scratch for three games this season. He likely deserved them as his game began to lag at the beginning of November. Since those healthy scratches, he has looked like a much more dangerous scorer.
Klimovich is riding high right now with four points in his last three games.
Coming into the season, he was most known for his strong and heavy shot. His showcase of said shot at the U-18s was likely a big reason why Jim Benning and the scouting staff drafted him in the second round of the 2021 draft.
The more impressive trait that he has shown this season is his ability to attack through the neutral zone and be confident enough to try and deke his way into the zone. On top of that, he has had some very pretty assists this season that have come in big moments for the Canucks.
He is very inconsistent but on occasion, makes some beautiful offensive plays.
There are times where he looks out of place in the AHL but we need to remember that he is just 18 years old and is way ahead of schedule for his development. Most European players who require AHL time don’t even sniff the league before the age of 20 and Klimovich’s dedication to wanting to be a North American pro is great to see.
He is only going to improve and that’s exciting when you see the highlights of what this kid can do. The big thing for Klimovich is consistency. He loses the puck a lot and fluffs on a lot of shots as well. We haven’t yet seen him really rip a shot into the back of the net with 100% of his power behind it. You can see flashes of it at practice but there are also a lot of frustrating moments for him at practice.
He’s a little bit too attached to the move where he goes through his legs on a breakaway but we’re all going to go nuts and write an article about it when he finally pulls it off.
The key is to remember that he is 18 years old and there is no rush at all. He will get better as the season goes on and seems to be taking in the coaching well from all my interactions with the coaching staff and players. This season is just a taste of Klimovich, and it will be a lot of fun to see how he looks next season after taking away what he can learn from his rookie year.
Well, there are three positive takeaways from the Abbotsford Canucks’ first 20 games of the season.
Tomorrow, we will look at three negatives from the first 20 games.