2023-24 Vancouver Canucks prediction: Noah Juulsen sets a new career high in games played
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
By Noah Strang14 days ago
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In the past twelve months, significant changes have been made to the Vancouver Canucks defence. Filip Hronek, Ian Cole, and Carson Soucy have all been acquired and are expected to play significant roles in the 2023-24 NHL season.
Because of all these new faces, there isn’t a super clear picture as to how the defensive pairings will shake out for the Canucks this year. While there are some certainties, Quinn Hughes is going to carry a massive workload for example, there are other players whose roles are extremely unclear. One of those players is Noah Juulsen. Depending on how training camp goes, it’s conceivable that Juulsen could find himself anywhere from in the AHL to the top NHL pairing alongside Hughes to start the season.
Juulsen was given a two-year extension this summer that will see him get $775k while in Vancouver and 450-475k in Abbotsford.
As of right now, Juulsen has never played more than 23 NHL games in a season. Despite being a former first-round draft pick, injury issues hampered his development and he’s never fully established himself as an NHL regular. However, this season will be the one where he sets a new career-high for NHL games played.
Noah Juulsen’s 2022-23 NHL numbers
Juulsen spent the 2022-23 season split between the NHL and AHL. When all was said and done, he finished with 20 points in 49 AHL games and no points in 12 NHL games.
While his raw counting stats are underwhelming, they’re not what should be used to judge a player like Juulsen. He’s not going to be the one leading breakouts or firing cross-ice passes through tight windows. Instead, Juulsen provides a consistent defensive presence. He will often go unnoticed by most fans and if he does, he’s doing his job well.
While he’s not going to wow anyone with his point totals, there are some other statistics that point to how effective Juulsen was while on the ice last year. Among all Canucks defencemen who played at least 100 minutes of 5-on-5 hockey, of which there were 12, Juulsen was the best in some key numbers.
The Canucks allowed just 22.61 shots against per sixty minutes with Juulsen on the ice at 5-on-5, almost four whole shots per sixty minutes better than the next best Canuck in Ethan Bear at 26.41. This shot suppression is something that the Canucks need if they want to limit the workload that Thatcher Demko will face this season.
Juulsen also ranked the best among all twelve eligible Canucks defencemen in expected goals against per sixty minutes, again showing off his defensive chops. He did all this while recording the lowest offensive zone start percentage according to NaturalStatTrick, showing that he wasn’t just getting fed sheltered situations.
While these advanced defensive stats offer some encouragement that Juulsen can be a solid NHL contributor, they must be digested with some disclaimers as well. He played the vast majority of his minutes with Hughes, a partner that can make anyone look good. It’s also a very small sample size and Juulsen’s offensive numbers leave a lot to be desired.
Still, Juulsen should get a shot to make the big club out of training camp this season and if he can continue to prove that he’s a dependable option, he will quickly become a favourite of the coaching staff.
Noah Juulsen’s play with Quinn Hughes
Not only are Juulsen’s advanced stats impressive on their own, but he also played really well when paired with Quinn Hughes last season. While the two didn’t spend a ton of time on the ice together, recording just over 120 minutes of 5-on-5 time across 11 games, the Canucks outperformed opponents during those minutes.
The Canucks had an expected goals percentage of 59.70% during those minutes, outshot opponents 53-38, and had 51 scoring chances while only conceding 38 according to NaturalStatTrick. It makes sense that the two players performed well together as Juulsen first the archetype of the no-nonsense, stay-at-home, defensive defenceman that Hughes has succeeded with in the past, even if he is a budget version.
Juulsen could win the coveted spot alongside Hughes at some point this season. That would be an easy ticket to more than 24 games played if the duo continued to thrive together. All he needs to do is appear in at least 24 NHL games for this prediction to come true, something he could do before the midway point of the season.
What Juulsen needs to do to make this prediction come true
For Juulsen, the biggest thing this upcoming season is his health. The young defenceman has dealt with a laundry list of injuries throughout his professional hockey career and staying healthy for the whole season will go a long way towards achieving this goal.
If Juulsen does win the spot next to Hughes to start the regular season, the Canucks could go with something like the following.
Hughes – Juulsen
Cole – Hronek
Soucy – Myers
Even if Juulsen doesn’t win a spot on the opening night roster, there is still a good chance that he appears in at least 24 games. There is no doubt that the Canucks will deal with injuries and they’ll need to dip into their depth.
Another factor that could lead to Juulsen playing more games this season would be a transaction involving Tyler Myers. The big defenceman has had his name in trade rumours for quite a while now and if he was moved, Juulsen would see an increased role as a fellow right-handed defenceman.
All in all, there are several pathways for Juulsen to play at least 24 NHL games this season. No matter if that’s him earning a spot next to Quinn Hughes, filling in for injured Canucks, or stepping into a vacancy left by Myers after a trade, Juulsen has the chance to set a career-high in games played. All he needs to do is stay healthy and keep up his defensive results.
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