Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
4 bold predictions for the 2022-23 Vancouver Canucks’ season
By Faber1 year ago
I thought Frank Seravalli did a great job describing what a bold prediction consists of last week when he joined us on Canucks Conversation live.
”What you do is, you take a few tidbits of info that you have and try and come up with something that might be plausible but that’s probably still a long shot. Isn’t that the entire point of this story? It’s to generate interest. Be informative, if you can, and also, take some swings, because no one wants to hear about predictions that are obvious.”
That’s what we are doing here. Let’s take some swings!
There’s at least a bit of smoke beneath each of these bold predictions and though not all of them are positive, there’s a chance that they happen this season depending on how the year goes for the Canucks.
With the regular season upon us, let’s have some fun and get to four bold predictions for the 2022-23 season.
Jack Rathbone leads the team in goals from a defenceman
From the AHL to an everyday spot is a big enough jump for a defenceman to make, but our first bold prediction is that Jack Rathbone leads the Vancouver Canucks in goals from a defenceman.
The 23-year-old has a high-level slap shot and looks to have improved his skating over the summer.
Last season, Quinn Hughes led the team in goals from a defenceman with eight. Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Luke Schenn tied for second with five goals a piece.
Rathbone had 10 goals in 39 AHL games last season but there is going to be a massive jump in competition as well as goaltending counterparts with him making the jump to being a full-time NHLer.
With injuries to Travis Dermott and Tyler Myers, Rathbone is set to debut in the lineup for the Canucks and if he plays well, a spot will be made available for him all season long. We’re confident in the youngster’s offensive ability at the NHL level and last season wasn’t a great indicator of what he can bring to an NHL lineup.
During his short NHL stint last season, Rathbone experienced horrible puck and we expect to see a regression of that bad luck into some good bounces that go his way. That’s just how hockey works a lot of the time.
Last season, Rathbone was on the ice for 64 shots on net and only one of those shots found the back of the net. I don’t care if you are facing the best goalie in the world, they likely aren’t going to consistently stop 63 of 64 shots. That has to be looked at as horrible luck and projects a bounce-back year for Rathbone and his offence.
The bold prediction is going to need to see a few things fall into place for Rathbone, beginning with him being an everyday player this season. We don’t know the severity of Dermott’s injury and the team just made a trade for another left-shot defenceman in Riley Stillman. Rathbone is going to be given a chance to play early on this season due to the injury situation and he needs to seize the opportunity that is given to him. If he can find some early offensive production and potentially work his way onto the second power play unit, we could see Rathbone getting near double-digits in goals this season.
Scoring 10-12 goals would likely make Rathbone the leading goal-scorer from the backend.
So, that’s our first bold prediction.
Elias Pettersson’s most consistent linemate is Vasily Podkolzin
We’ve seen Andrey Kuzmenko be alongside Elias Pettersson throughout the preseason and it looks like those two will begin the season as linemates.
This duo will have a lot of finesse in the offensive zone and is likely to beat goaltenders with their shots and quick playmaking to keep netminders off-balance
We are expecting Pettersson to have a breakout season where he asserts himself alongside the top scorers in the league. Something that Pettersson is going to need to put up points is space and puck possession. This is exactly what Vasily Podkolzin can bring to a line.
Podkolzin had a good finish to his rookie season and there are high expectations about what he can bring this year. His playmaking is one of the most underrated parts of his game and his motor is unchallenged on this Canucks team. Podkolzin makes so much sense as a linemate for Pettersson and that’s why our second bold prediction is that Pettersson’s most consistent linemate during the 2022-23 season is going to be Podkolzin.
Last year, Podkolzin was third amongst Pettersson’s most consistent linemates, trailing Brock Boeser and Conor Garland.
The duo of Podkolzin and Pettersson had great numbers together, being on the ice for 10 goals scored while only having five goals against. Their expected control of goals scored was 53.73%. These two talented young forwards have had another year to learn lessons about the NHL and both do such a great job of moving the puck through the neutral zone to set up the opportunity for scoring chances.
Both players are extremely intelligent when it comes to how they attack the net and after playing nearly 300 minutes together last season, chemistry is likely only to grow between Podkolzin and Pettersson.
We also like the mix of Kuzmenko or Boeser as the third player on this line.
Podkolzin can play both sides of the ice and seems to have good off-ice chemistry with Kuzmenko. When healthy, Boeser is arguably the best shooter on this team and with Pettersson and Kuzmenko as the base, you have some options with who the third player is on that line.
This prediction also lends itself to be more possible as we are seeing Boeser start the season on a line with Miller and Tanner Pearson, instead of seeing Boeser on a line with Pettersson as we saw so often last season
Bo Horvat is traded at the deadline
It’s a bold take but we have seen this brought up in the comments section or on social media quite often since J.T. Miller put pen to paper back in early September.
The Canucks have their top-two centres locked in for the future with Miller and Pettersson and though the salary cap is projected to rise, Horvat’s highest value to this organization may come in the form of a trade to acquire a right-shot defenceman who can legitimately play top-four minutes.
Dante Fabbro and Bowen Byram are on expiring RFA deals, so they are a couple of names to look at. Matt Dumba’s name seems to always be one to look at.
There are also plenty of prospects to keep an eye on if the Canucks want to take the long path to find a partner for Quinn Hughes.
This current management group and coaching staff weren’t here when the organization made Horvat the captain of the team. They have players like Miller, Hughes, and Pettersson who could take on the challenge of being this team’s captain.
From what we’ve heard in recent news, the Canucks and Horvat’s camp are pretty far away from finding common ground on a contract. Any captain in a Canadian market on an expiring contract will have questions about their future with the organization. Horvat has been a good soldier for the Canucks in his time here but he might not be the leader that this team needs as they push to change the culture and become a winning organization.
Moving on from Horvat would definitely hurt the offence and put a gaping hole at the third-line centre position. But tough decisions are going to need to be made if this team is going to rebuild their defence and make it adequate to generate a true belief that this team can be a Stanley Cup contender.
It’s not likely to happen but with a new management group and a player who is likely looking for an extension with a minimum average annual value of $7,000,000, it wouldn’t hurt to explore your options with the current captain. Horvat absolutely holds a lot of value around the league and many teams could see Horvat being their second-line centre.
With Horvat not having a contract, this story is not likely to go away any time soon.
The Canucks land the top NCAA free agent
The top NCAA free agent of this year’s class is the big, right-shot defenceman out of Minnesota State, Jake Livingstone.
Livingstone is 6’3”, sturdy in his own zone, had 33 points in 41 games last season, and oh, by the way, he was born in British Columbia and represented by a local agent.
Adding a right-shot defenceman from the NCAA would be a win in its own right for the Canucks. But landing a right-shot defenceman who is widely viewed as the top NCAA free agent would be a huge win for the Canucks.
We caught up with Livingstone in the summer to check in and see if he was attending an NHL development camp and learned that he did not in fact attend any team’s camp. He wouldn’t confirm if he was invited or not but we have to imagine that many teams reached out.
Livingstone’s agent, Richard Evans is local to the Vancouver area and has his Wasserman Hockey office located in Surrey, BC. The group has worked out many deals with the Canucks in the past including the AHL team’s recent addition of one of their clients, Michael Regush.
Two more Wasserman-represented players signed with the Canucks this past summer. Dakota Joshua and Sheldon Dries are represented by Evans.
There’s clearly a relationship between Evans and Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin. They have worked out deals over the summer but also we’re unable to come to a number that worked last season in the case of Tyler Motte.
The Canucks might be in a position where they can offer Livingstone immediate ice time in the NHL. Depending on where the team is at in early April, offering Livingstone ice time could end up being a possibility if this season goes south before the final month of the season.
Even if the Canucks are in a playoff race, Livingstone might be good enough to play in the Canucks’ defence. This kid has size, skill, and continues to improve his skating through his years in the NCAA.
Livingstone played in the BCHL from 2016-2020 and will turn 24 right around the time he signs a pro contract. What you’re getting in Livingstone is a well-rounded, right-shot defenceman who has size, poise with the puck and a strong slap shot.
The key is that he is a big, right-shot defenceman.
I feel like I can’t stress that enough.
If the Canucks can land this kid and bring the BC-boy home, it would be a huge win for the organization and an impressive feat to sign the top European free agent and the top NCAA free agent within 10 months of each other.
Let’s hear your bold takes in the comments section!
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