7 stories to watch in the AHL season opener for the Abbotsford Canucks
Photo credit:@klim_18_ on Instagram
By Faber1 month ago
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It’s true that the AHL is a slower league than the NHL and it is represented in their schedule as well.
The AHL regular season kicks off this weekend and with that comes a bunch of Abbotsford Canucks updates here at CanucksArmy.
We’ve got an exciting AHL team to cover this season. The Abbotsford Canucks are young and hungry after a second-round exit in last year’s Calder Cup Playoffs at the hands of their biggest rival, the Calgary Wranglers.
On Thursday, we had Abbotsford head coach Jeremy Colliton on Canucks Conversation and it’s a great interview to get some information on the AHLNucks. I’ll include the YouTube video here and then let’s dive into seven stories to watch for this coming season on the farm.
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Alright, let’s dive in!
What’s going on between the pipes?
You can expect to see a lot of Arturs Silovs in the Abbotsford crease this season.
The 22-year-old Latvian star of the summer has only played in 55 AHL games but has some experience at the NHL level and at the World Championships under his belt as he moves into the standalone starter for the Canucks this season. Silovs has the potential to be one of the AHL’s top goaltenders this season and with a strong structure in front of him, his numbers will likely continue to impress us throughout the year.
Even with Zach Sawchenko in the mix, it looks like Nikita Tolopilo will be the backup for Abbotsford to begin the season.
Tolopilo is a 6’6″ goaltender with good movement in the crease and has a lot of room to grow his game with Abbotsford goalie coach and noted ‘wink guy‘ Marko Torenius.
With so many back-to-backs in the AHL, we will get a heavy dose of the backup but this may be the first season where we start to see Silovs get some of those back-to-backs in a similar way to how Dustin Wolf played in his second AHL season.
Get ready for a lot of Vasily Podkolzin
Though he didn’t have the preseason we were all hoping for, Vasily Podkolzin is in a great spot with the Abbotsford Canucks to begin a year with development in his crosshairs.
You can expect to see Podkolzin on the top-line while also seeing minutes on both the power play and the penalty kill. Colliton even mentioned that there might be some time for Podkolzin at centre and even if he isn’t taking faceoffs, he could be playing the centre position during the transition from a draw to back-and-forth play.
The main thing we want to see from Podkolzin this season is letting himself just play hockey. He’s such a coach’s pet, and that can be a good thing but this kid has a lot of natural talent that sometimes struggles to show when he’s worried about pleasing his coach. There’s less pressure in the AHL and his teammates will be looking to him to be one of the more dominant players throughout however long he stays in the AHL.
Get ready for 23-minute nights in Podkolzin’s future. This kid is going to play a ton and has the potential to be one of the more dominant players in the AHL this season.
Aidan McDonough is going to get a lot of power play time
We’ve seen him torch goalies in the NCAA over the past few years and it’s now time for Aidan McDonough to get to work on the power play in a pro league.
The 23-year-old has a tremendous one-timer and he should be on the right half-wall on the first power play unit to begin the season.
We’re curious to see how he looks at five-on-five after rounding out his game in his final two NCAA seasons with Northeastern. There’s a lot to like about this kid who is just on the outside looking in at an NHL job. If McDonough can produce at five-on-five and play a physical game, he will get a shot with Vancouver at some point this season but there’s a lot of competition on the wings for a call-up, so we will have to see who rises to the top of the call-up board.
The defence is very good
There’s strength in all three parts of the Canucks’ AHL roster but the defence may be the ultimate strength of the club.
Leading the charge is the reigning AHL Defenceman of the Year, Christian Wolanin.
Wolanin is a points machine in the AHL and he snaps the puck with ease through the tightest lanes.
Jett Woo, Cole McWard, and Filip Johansson should lead the way on the right-side and this trio is the most solid right side I’ve ever seen for the Canucks’ AHL defence depth.
Woo and McWard will play it out in the top-four with a call-up to the NHL being their ultimate goal this season. We expect to see both Woo and McWard in Vancouver at some point but for now, they are anchoring the right-side of the defence and will get a lot of minutes in the top-four.
Matt Irwin brings a veteran presence to Abbotsford and he’s going to be a protector of the young stars on this team. We love the addition of Irwin to the organization. Get on the Irwin hype train — we love a good local (35-year-old) ‘kid’.
The defence corps also features Jack Rathbone, who is more often than not, dominant in the AHL.
Our expectations for the opening night pairings is something like this.
|Christian Wolanin||Cole McWard|
|Jack Rathbone||Jett Woo|
|Matt Irwin||Filip Johansson|
Alex Kannok Leipert, Quinn Schmiemann, and Chad Nychuk will add depth to the defence.
Jermaine Loewen has Big
Vinny shoes to fill
After the Canucks traded their AHL tough guy Vincent Arseneau to the Providence Bruins, it left a big hole on their club on who was going to be the protector of the team as they move forward.
Big Vinny was a dog and nobody messed with him on the ice. The Canucks signed former Kamloops Blazers captain Jermaine Loewen this season and he, along with Irwin and Kannok Leipert will have to be the tough guys on this team.
Nobody should be able to take a run at Danila Klimovich, Vasily Podkolzin or Aatu Räty without having to answer for it.
Loewen will become a fan favourite at the Abbotsford Centre and if he can add a bit of offence, that’s a bonus.
The 23-and-under players are driving the bus
This is a young team and though they have a veteran presence from guys like Irwin, John Stevens, and Sheldon Dries — this team is going to run through the youngsters.
Here’s a look at all the players who are 23 and under on the roster.
Let the 20-year-olds COOK
This is somewhat building off the last point but two of the prospects we will be following the closest this season are Aatu Räty and Danila Klimovich.
Räty will be playing in his second season over here in North America while Klimovich begins his third year. Each of these players has a lot of potential but we’re now at the stage where development should be the main focus.
The 20-year-old duo might end up playing together on a third line with someone like Arshdeep Bains rounding out the group and with a lot of bottom-six matchups, they should be able to produce a lot of offence at five-on-five.
We also want to see each of these two on the special teams units, with Räty seeing time on both the penalty kill and power play while Klimovich should get time on the power play.
There’s so much more we could get into about this team but we will instead just wait for them to take the ice on Friday night as the team embarks on the 2023-24 AHL season.
Be sure to check out the latest NHL lines with online sportsbook Betway!
You can watch Friday’s game, along with all of the opening weekend’s games for free with AHLTV giving everybody free access if you create an account on their site.
Here’s a link to AHLTV if you want to watch them play in Laval this weekend. Friday’s game is scheduled for 4:00 PM PST and they are back in action on Saturday for a noon PST start.
We will have a postgame report here at CanucksArmy after Friday night’s game. Be sure to keep it locked here at CA!
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