A brief review of the Abbotsford Canucks 2023-24 season and a preview of their weekend series against the Manitoba Meese

Photo credit:Cody Severtson
Cody Severtson
4 months ago
Welcome back, folks, to the Abbotsford Canucks’ preview series!
I figured it was about time I did another one of these since it’s been quite a while since I last updated you on what’s happening on the farm!
The last time I did one of these, I think we were still advertising the 2024 bZ4x from Toyota—a GREAT VEHICLE, by the way!
So let’s shake off the rust, see what’s happened with the farm in the five weeks since we last reviewed the team’s state, and see what’s in store for Abbotsford this weekend!
Team Stats
Division Standings
The club is still mired in mediocrity through the 2024 portion of the season.
In 2023, the club lost nine times in regulation and 11 times overall through 28 games played. Since the calendar rolled over, they’ve lost 14 times in regulation and 18 times overall through 32 games.
The bad news is that they are dead last for the final Calder Cup Playoff spot in the Pacific Division’s side of the Western bracket.
The good news is that they have a 13-point lead over the eighth-placed Henderson Silver Knights and a 16-point lead over the ninth-placed San Diego Gulls. The worst-case scenario is that they enter the playoffs as the last seed.
The other bad news: they just got rocked by those same Henderson Silver Knights 7-3 on home ice in the first game of a back-to-back.
The immediate rebuttal to that is, “They beat them in the second leg 8-3!”
However, remember that Henderson was starting an ECHL netminder in the second leg: Isaiah Saville, who is 85th among all AHL goaltenders by save percentage and 86th by goals against average.
Death, taxes, and Abbotsford losing the first leg of a back-to-back are the only true constants in life. To copy what I wrote in the Monday Mailbag, it’s astonishing how bad Abbotsford is to start a series.
This season, the club has played 24 back-to-backs, 48 games total.
In the first leg, the club’s record is 8-15-1-0, good for 17 points and a .354 point percentage. However, the club has been outscored 85 to 59 in those games, a minus-26 goal differential.
In the second leg of a back-to-back, the club has an 18-4-2-0 record for 38 points and a .792 points percentage. The club has outscored their opposition in these games by a whopping 96 to 59, a plus-37 goal differential. Three of the club’s four shutouts (all from Arturs Silovs) came on the second leg of a back-to-back.
The Abbotsford Canucks final 12 games of the season are all back-to-backs.
Fortunately, only four of those games are against top Pacific Division teams in Colorado and Coachella Valley. Unfortunately, another four are against the Calgary Wranglers, who’ve historically dominated Abbotsford in the regular season, and another four are against the Central Division’s Manitoba Moose.
The things to look out for down the stretch are the debuts of Elias Pettersson and NCAA signee Christian Felton while also seeing which prospects step up to earn Black Ace call-up considerations for the Vancouver Canucks impending Stanley Cup Playoff run.
League Stats
The Abbotsford Canucks were once one of the top teams in the AHL by shooting percentage, peaking around 4th in the league by December. Since then, their shooting percentage has cratered down to 16th in the league at 10.4%. The downtick coincides with an uptick in shot generation. Since Abbotsford has spent so many games in 2024 trailing, their shot rate has spiked to ninth-most in the league, averaging over 30 shots per game.
Defensively, their save percentage has slipped to league-average at .903 percent between Arturs Silovs, Nikita Tolopilo, and Zach Sawchenko. Additionally, their shots-against rate has ticked down only slightly to less than 30 shots per game.
Based on my tracking, the Abbotsford Canucks have narrowly outshot their opposition at 5-on-5 when in a tied game state (270 to 268).
Scoring Leaders
Since returning from a brief stint in Vancouver, Arshdeep Bains has nine points in nine games.
Since returning from his latest cup of coffee, Linus Karlsson has 22 points in 20 games.
After missing all of January and the first two weeks of February with an injury, Sheldon Dries has 16 points in 16 games.
Aatu Räty had a stretch where he had just three points over ten games, all on the power play, two of which were secondary assists. After going seven games without any points, Räty exploded with a franchise-record-setting four-point first period against the Henderson Silver Knights. The four points tied Räty with Dries for third-most on the team.
After missing nine games with an undisclosed injury, Max Sasson returned to the lineup and racked up four points in three games.
Honourable mention: Aidan McDonough sat out for six games as a healthy scratch, then nearly matched his season total in points in his first ten games back, racking up seven points, including four goals.
At 5-on-5, Bains continues to lead the team with as many primary points (goals + primary assists) as the next leading scorer has total points.
Honourable/slightly dishonourable mention: Akito Hirose scored his first point of the 2023-24 season with a secondary assist on Aatu Räty’s first goal against the Silver Knights last Sunday.
The point finally gave Hirose a blue bar on the 5v5 points per game chart. The only player on the roster without a point at 5-on-5 is Guillaume Brisebois, who left midway through Saturday’s game against Henderson with an undisclosed injury. Hopefully, the injury is not related to the concussion issues that held him out of the lineup through the entirety of the 2023-24 campaign.
Through 2024, the Abbotsford Canucks have been outscored 64 to 59 at 5-on-5; as such, the on-ice goal differential numbers have gone a little haywire.
I decided to look at the split between the first 28 games played (2023) and the 2024 portion of the schedule to see how deployment and control of goalscoring at 5-on-5 have shifted, if at all.
The biggest turnaround story is Filip Johansson, whose 2023 campaign saw the club control goalscoring at 5-on-5, worst with him on the blue line. The Canucks were outscored 18 to 12 with Johansson on the ice at 5-on-5. At forward, the Canucks were outscored the most at 5-on-5 with Marc Gatcomb and Alex Kannok Leipert on the ice. AKL has played most of the season off role as a fourth-line forward and even fourth-line center, so it feels unfair to factor his on-ice goal differential numbers relative to position, given how infrequently used he’s been in his role.
The player who has been on the ice for the best share of goalscoring at 5-on-5 since the calendar rolled over to 2024 has been Johansson. The Canucks have outscored their opposition 22 to 10 with Johansson on the ice at 5-on-5. Gatcomb recovered through 2024 to go even in goalscoring control (9 to 9).
John Stevens has led all forwards through 2024 to date, with Abbotsford outscoring the opposition 25 to 14 with him on the ice at 5-on-5. Jett Woo and Nick Cicek have spent most of their ice time together at 5-on-5 but have struggled massively to prevent goals against. With Cicek on the ice at 5-on-5, the Canucks have been outscored 27 to 18, and with Woo on the ice at 5-on-5, the Canucks have been outscored 23 to 13, a team-worst minus-10 goal differential.
In the absence of time-on-ice metrics, goal control at 5-on-5 and individual production rate stats are the best we’ve got in determining how well a player is doing in their “minutes.”
Because I love my preview series readers so much, I dove into the data even further to see what we can learn about play control at 5-on-5 in a player’s minutes.
With the game tied, who has been on the ice for more goals for at 5-on-5 than goals against this season? That would be Fil Johansson!
Interestingly, two of the top five skaters by goal differential at an even-game state have earned call-ups to Vancouver! I’ve also heard that Max Sasson was heavily considered for a call-up before an injury sidelined him.
Scoring this season at 5-on-5 in an even-game state is also instructive for cup-of-coffee considerations. Karlsson was first, Bains second, while Woo was first among defencemen. Who were the leaders in defensive scoring in a tied-game state? Woo, and again, Filly Johansson.
Don’t be surprised if Johansson is one of the club’s black Aces come playoffs!
Injury Report
Christian Wolanin remains out of action due to injury. He’s missed 50 straight games and was last listed as “long-term” by head coach Jeremy Colliton.
Guillaume Brisbois missed last Sunday’s game against Henderson after leaving Saturday’s game midway through.
Games #61 & 62 versus Manitoba Moose
It’s been such a weird season that I actually thought these two clubs had played out their season series already. Alas, these two teams will meet four times in the next three weeks.
The Meese are on a bit of a hot streak, having won eight of their last ten, but due head into this weekend back-to-back on the heels of a 4-1 loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins.
The Meeses’s have the AHL’s 14th-best power play (19.3%) and the third-worst penalty kill (78%). The Canucks have the fifth-worst power play (16.4%) and the 6th-best penalty kill (84.2%).
Manitoba plays stingy hockey, giving up the eighth-fewest shots per game (27.7/GP), but their goalie platoon has been underwhelming. A platoon of Thomas Milic, Oskari Salminen, and ex-Canuck Collin Delia have combined for a well-below-league-average save percentage of only .885!
In stark contrast, Abbotsford is league-average by shots allowed per game. Still, their Silovs, Tolopilo, and Sawchenko platoon combined for at least a league-average platoon save percentage of .903. Both Salminen and Dellia have goals-against averages of well over 3.4 per game.
This could be one of the few season series in which Abbotsford actually wins the first game—something they’ve accomplished just eight times this season.

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