5 takeaways from the Abbotsford Canucks’ first weekend homestand
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
By Dave Hall1 month ago
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The Abbotsford Canucks hosted the Calgary Wranglers over the weekend to open up their home schedule at the Abbotsford Centre.
In a rematch of last year’s intense playoff series, which saw the Wranglers eliminate the Canucks, this was just the first installment of what is poised to be a tremendous rivalry over the course of this season.
This time around, the Canucks are sporting a very entertaining roster, which includes several (NHL) fringe veterans and tons of skilled youth.
The Canucks were coming off back-to-back wins in their season-opening weekend in Laval and were hoping to keep that pace going against the 1-0-1 Wranglers.
The weekend did not disappoint.
Despite the Canucks suffering losses in both matches, the weekend was filled with an extraordinary amount of action, offering 18 goals between the two clubs.
These two will face-off 10 more times this season, so brace yourselves for some drama.
Let’s get into five takeaways from the weekend.
They’ve got some swagger
While the Vancouver Canucks have experienced criticism for lacking an identity in recent years, and are often pegged as a “soft” hockey club, their affiliates do not appear to share that same sentiment.
Abbotsford’s lineup is brimming with energy and play a fast-paced style of hockey that is sure to have opposing teams circling their matches on their calendars labeled: “Tough night”.
With four lines that can generate excitement and contribute to the scoresheet, we learned over the weekend that they are not going to go down without a fight.
They are skilled, quick, and resilient.
If you shut Saturday night’s game off early, I hate to tell you, but you missed out…big time.
While trailing by three goals with just four minutes remaining in the third period, the Canucks poured on the heroics.
Thanks to a late-period power play, the Canucks got to work and Nils Åman kick-started what would be an incredible comeback.
Over the next two minutes, Abbotsford would go on to score two more goals to tie the game up 6-6 and force the game into overtime.
Thank you, Åman hat-trick goal.
While they would eventually take the loss in overtime, it just goes to show the resilience that is primed to offer maximum entertainment for the Abbotsford fans this season.
It should be a fun year in the AHL.
It’s Danila Klimovich
Following an improved sophomore season, in which we saw him post 17 goals and 29 points, there were high hopes that he would step in as a 20-year-old, break open the door, and demand an elevated role in 2023-24.
Well, just four games into the new season, we have yet to see such a thing.
For starters, Klimovich had a quiet training camp. While he is still young and developing, we were hoping to see a little more pop in his game, especially having two years of professional experience under his belt.
He was outshone by other young prospects, some of whom were attending their first NHL camps, and ultimately failed to stand out from the crowd.
He followed that up with a disappointing opening series in Laval last weekend.
In two games, despite lining up on the club’s second line alongside Arshdeep Bains and Nils Åman, he contributed just one shot on goal, took two penalties, and was strongly overshadowed in each match.
On Friday, Head Coach Jeremy Colliton shared his perspective on the lineup and the standards he aims to set for the season. Though he didn’t explicitly mention Klimovich, the message was clear, and the young player found himself watching the weekend series from the press box.
“Well, I mean, we’re fortunate right now, we got a lot of good players and so it’s going to force everyone to play at a high standard, you know, with them without the puck and being competitive and playing for the team doing things, protecting your teammates with how you play. And that’s what we need from everyone. And I think that’s how we’re going to have success this year, both as a team and individually, so that’s kind of standard that’s been laid down.”
Klimovich was ultimately replaced by rookie, Josh Bloom, for the weekend.
Even with an injury to Tristen Nielsen, which kept him out of the lineup on Saturday, Colliton brought in Marc Gatcomb — over Klimovich — to make his season debut.
It’s a telling turn of events, and it’s evident that Klimovich is going to have to find a way to get his game in check and play an all-around game, should he hope to see consistent minutes this season.
Now in his third year, it’s clear that his leash will be just a little bit tighter, and untimely mistakes and poor performance will cost more.
It’s not exactly the narrative we were hoping for early on, but let’s hope he can turn things around and find another level when he does eventually draw back into the lineup.
*Rick Dhaliwal of Dhali & Dhali reported on Twitter that Klimovich was injured for Saturday’s game but healthy scratched on Friday.
Josh Bloom fits right in
Taking Klimovich’s spot on Friday night was 20-year-old Josh Bloom, who made his professional rookie debut after being a healthy scratch for the club’s first two regular season matches.
With a reputation for playing hard-nosed hockey, Bloom slid right in next to Bains and Åman, and looked right at home in a professional setting.
He certainly came as advertised.
We had a breakdown of his debut from Friday, but he was up to his usual antics, hounding puck carriers and causing havoc for the Calgary Wranglers.
He drew back into the lineup on Saturday, and given the energy he brings, it’s hard to imagine him not solidifying a permanent roster spot.
Jeremy Colliton spoke highly of Bloom after Friday’s match and alluded to him playing the game that he, and all of us, were hoping he would play.
“ [I] really like Bloom,” said Colliton. “I thought he skated well and created chances, won some battles, and took the back of the net. Played the type of game I was kind of hoping he would play, so that was a good sign.”
We really liked what Bloom had to offer, and are confident in his potential to bring bottom-six intangibles to an NHL lineup down the road.
The Vasily Podkolizin project is looking good
Perhaps a trip to the AHL is just what the doctor ordered.
Is it ideal that he’s regressed back to the AHL? No.
But, are we happy that he’s finally grabbing points and gaining some much-needed confidence? You better believe it.
With three points over the weekend, Podkolzin now leads the team in goals (4) and sits third in points (5) over four games.
He appears to playing with a much-needed confidence boost and is taking his time to make more patient plays.
To put it simply, he’s looking like the player we thought the Canucks had when he was drafted 10th overall in 2019.
Podkolzin currently sits with 18 shots in four games, which not only leads his team but sits fourth amongst all AHL skaters.
Setting up on the half-wall, we witnessed a side of Vasily that has not been shown since his move to North America, and he is confidently firing off one-timers at will.
Yes, folks, Elias Pettersson’s office.
On Friday, he did this.
The very next day, he did it again.
While it may not be ideal to some, Podkolzin is in a good situation right now.
He’s playing good minutes and finally getting the feel for what it is to be looked upon to produce in crucial moments of a game.
Sometimes, it’s just nice to be the go-to option.
Where in the world is Nikita Tolopilo?
The one benefit to the AHL back-to-back schedule is that it allows goalies to get into more games, with teams typically splitting the duties.
This was the case in week one, where Arturs Silovs and Nikata Tolopilo each took a game, both earning wins.
This week was a little different, as both Silovs and Calgary’s Dustin Wolf saw action on both nights this weekend.
As much as we love to see the Silovs/Wolf rivalry continue, it was interesting that Colliton elected to start their netminder on consecutive days.
Tolopilo, 24, made his North American debut in Laval last week and was lights out. He stopped 41 of 44 shots and made several phenomenal saves to seal his first win of the year.
With that in mind, we were a little surprised to not see him get any action over the weekend to continue to build on the backs of a very strong debut.
And while Silovs didn’t play poorly, per se, he ended up letting in seven goals on 37 shots, and in hindsight, the team probably wants that decision back.
At the end of the day, Silovs is the go-to and is expected to see a lot of action over the year.
Back-to-back losses are tough, but Abbotsford can hold their heads up high knowing that they put up solid efforts over the weekend.
This club looks poised to offer must-watch hockey over the course of the 2023-24 season, and we will have it all for you here at CanucksArmy.
You do not have to wait long, as the Canucks are set to host the Colorado Eagles on Tuesday night for a 7:00 pm showdown at the Abbotsford Centre.
Make sure to tune in.
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