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2023-24 Vancouver Canucks prediction: Less goals for Andrei Kuzmenko, but a better all-around game

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
David Quadrelli
7 months ago
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Former Vancouver Canucks head coach Bruce Boudreau once gave a quote during his short time in Vancouver that stuck with me, and seems relevant for today’s 2023-24 Vancouver Canucks prediction.
“He’s got some scoring potential, but he needs to learn how to play the game,” Boudreau said when talking about Nils Höglander. “He’s still a young kid, quite frankly, and I don’t know, someday he might score 40 goals, but if you’re going to hover around the 20-goal mark, you better learn to play both ends of the ice.”
The player we’re talking about today is a player Boudreau once healthy scratched for similar reasons, and one the Canucks’ new head coach Rick Tocchet benched numerous times down the final stretch of the season: Andrei Kuzmenko.
After nearly every NHL club had hopes of signing him during the 2022 offseason, Andrei Kuzmenko chose to sign in Vancouver with hopes of playing with Elias Pettersson. Pettersson was on his game all season long, and was Kuzmenko’s most consistent centre. This led to an explosion of offence, as Kuzmenko finished his season with 74 points through 81 games played. He was a fixture on the Canucks’ first power play unit and was an offensive dynamo for the club all season long.
Kuzmenko came up just one goal short of hitting 40 in his first NHL season, so by “the Boudreau rule” Kuzmenko would get a longer leash than a player like Höglander. But both Boudreau and Tocchet were upfront and honest when talking about what more they needed to see from Kuzmenko, with Tocchet putting an extra emphasis on fitness on top of Kuzmenko’s overall defensive play.
The 27-year-old Russian was very receptive to Tocchet’s coaching as the season came to a close, continually asking to watch more video with the Canucks’ coaching staff so that he could improve his play without the puck. Kuzmenko would be wise to make these adjustments to his game, because his league-leading 27.3 shooting percentage indicates there will be fewer goals coming off his stick in 2023-24.
Kuzmenko’s shooting percentage makes him a prime candidate for regression, but that wouldn’t necessarily make his season a failure. If he’s able to stick on the top line due to an enhanced two-way game, and he’s doing the right things with or without the puck on his stick, the goals will eventually start to come, and when they’re not, he’ll still be bringing value to the team.
This is all to say that Kuzmenko has a clear path to success in 2023-24 despite his offensive output naturally coming down in all likelihood.
Kuzmenko not pushing back during the benches and instead honestly seeking how he can improve indicates that this message got through loud and clear to the young Russian, and that we’re going to see a more well-rounded Andrei Kuzmenko on the Vancouver Canucks’ top line in 2023-24.

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