3 lines we want to see in the preseason with Elias Pettersson back in the fold
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
By Faber1 year ago
Elias Pettersson’s re-insertion to the Vancouver Canucks’ roster makes their forward group vastly superior to what it was a week ago.
The lineup will surely be shaken up by Travis Green as we move deeper into the preseason.
With Pettersson’s return, there are a few line combinations that have the chance to find success and chemistry as the regular season approaches.
The Canucks’ top line is going to need to be a driving force on the goal share. The first line needs to have the chance to win against other teams’ top lines on a nightly basis.
Travis Green said that Brock Boeser will be out of the lineup for “about a week”.
With Boeser out of the lineup, the Canucks have some options for Pettersson’s wingers.
J.T Miller makes a strong case to play with Pettersson. Miller can shoot the puck and gets good looks as the second most dangerous shooter on a line. Pettersson has spent 78% of his five-on-five time with Miller as a linemate over the past two seasons.
As he heads into his sophomore season, Nils Höglander has a chance to be in the best offensive situation of his short career. After being the second-highest point producer at five-on-five last season, he deserves a look.
Both Miller and Höglander are strong on the forecheck and do a good job transitioning the puck through the neutral zone. They are also good passers in the offensive zone and can hold a cycle as well as anyone on the team.
There’s a lot to like with this trio but it needs to depend on Pettersson being a lethal shooter. He missed the final 30 games with a wrist injury and the hope is that his shot is not affected. Pettersson will have to get back to the shooter that he has been in his first three NHL seasons.
If this trio can find their groove as a scoring trio, they have a chance to be the Canucks’ top line.
It’s a lot to ask from Höglander to jump into that role but he played tough minutes last season as he was matched with Tanner Pearson and Bo Horvat on a line that saw a lot of the opposition’s first lines.
This trio has a chance to be a scoring threat on every shift but we will have to see if Green is willing to move Miller away from the centre position.
We have seen a lot of Podkolzin with Miller and Conor Garland but this line worked well with Höglander as a rookie and Podkolzin’s skillset fits what the Pearson-Horvat duo is all about.
The Pearson-Horvat-Höglander line was one of the only consistent lines that kept a positive expected goal share percentage last season. In the eyes of anyone who has followed the Canucks prospect pool for a couple of years, Podkolzin fits the role just as well. He may fit it even better than Höglander did last season. Podkolzin is the bigger, stronger, better defensive player. His fit with the play style of this line could be the perfect role for the rookie.
Podkolzin’s passing ability looks to be his pathway to points in his first season. Playing with linemates who have finishing ability is the perfect spot for Podkolzin’s playmaking prowess.
In the couple of preseason games we have seen of Podkolzin, he has looked fine. He looks like an NHL player but also does look a bit cautious. He needs to gain some confidence to reach his potential and playing with the captain and a cup champion is certainly a great spot to gain confidence.
Jonah Gadjovich may need to play on a top-scoring line to find himself in the Canucks’ opening night lineup.
Because of the way he plays, Gadjovich away from the fourth line may be his key to having success. It seems like everything Gadjovich touches ends up in the back of the net over the past year.
After his performance through training camp and the preseason, Gadjovich has earned a preseason game with a top-nine NHL-calibre trio. If he can continue to get pucks behind goaltenders, he may be a potential top-nine option now or down the road.
Having Miller at centre likely means that Jason Dickinson is on the fourth line. It creates a strong backbone for the Canucks but requires a couple of players without top-nine experience to play up the lineup.
Podkolzin can move off this line for a variety of options elsewhere in the lineup and Gadjovich will get his chance to show that he can score goals against NHL competition.
Garland’s offensive skill meshes well with the two big bodies who possess a scoring touch. Garland thrives when he is a volume shooter but also has the passing ability to find Gadjovich at the net or Miller from distance for him to get his shot off.
Miller at centre may not be the best spot for him to have success. He is at his statistical best alongside Pettersson as a winger but in the role as a centre, he will face bottom-six lines more than ever in his time with the Canucks.
This lower level of competition could open up Miller’s scoring even more while also giving Gadjovich a spot to stay away from many of the top defencemen in the league.
Garland will also thrive as he has shown well with his creativity. Having a net-front scorer like Gadjovich on his line will give Garland a different passing option that could score him some easy first assists.
The improvement to Gadjovich’s skating is clear to see and has been noticed by the head coach. He continues to score goals and set them up as well.
From his performances over the past 10 days, it’s time for Gadjovich to get a look in the top nine. His play might not be pretty, but it generates goals. The defensive side of Gadjovich is still in question as he did not impress in his one and only NHL game last season.
This trio has a chance to add some depth to the lineup with a surprise top nine winger.
These are three potential line combinations that we’d enjoy seeing as preseason concludes with their final three games.
We will see how things play out over the next 10 days. The exciting part is that with Elias Pettersson now in the mix, the lines will have true implications to the opening night lineup.
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