Roundtable: How many Canucks will score 30 goals this year? Who should play with Pettersson?

By Faber
10 months ago
Welcome back to another CanucksArmy roundtable.
I sent out four questions to our contributors at the site and we will answer them here and will be open for discussion in the comments section.
By the looks of the comments from the last article, this type of article seems to create some fun discussion and it also outs your favourite and least favourite writers here at CanucksArmy. That feels like a win-win.
So, we’ve got a ton to get to, so, let’s not waste any more words.
It’s roundtable time!

What’s your ideal breakdown of starts for the goaltending group?

Stephan Roget: Ideal definitely means that Thatcher Demko is healthy all season long, so let’s slot in a Jovanovskian 55 starts for him. I could be argued up to 60 because he missed time last year and the odds of a lengthy playoff run are slim to none, but I think 55 is a better balance of workload. Beyond that, I do like the idea of using any simultaneous homestands for Abbotsford and Vancouver to bring Arturs Silovs in for as many starts as possible. Don’t carry him as a full-time backup, but do call him up often, and get him into at least 10-15 games if you can.
If Silovs is on a roll, and if that roll can continue into the big leagues, room should be made for it. Spencer Martin takes the rest, probably plays far less than the average backup, and is frequently waived so that Silovs can come up. Thems the breaks.
Cody Severtson: Thatcher Demko: 55 starts max.
Backup: 27 starts, whether Spencer Martin, Arturs Silovs, Nikita Tolopilo, Zach Sawchenko, or Jonathan Lemieux are playing backup spot duty.
Vegas and Colorado showed how winning the Stanley Cup without a 65+ start netminder was possible. Demko is coming off an underwhelming season during which his best performances came during garbage time. Assuming the Canucks don’t start the season 0-7 and aren’t out of playoff contention by the end of October, the team should do everything they can not to manage Demko’s schedule and avoid re-injury.
Lachlan Irvine (noted goalie guy): As we saw last season, relying entirely on one goaltender just isn’t as possible in the NHL as it once was. Evenly dividing the workload between two goalies is still a radical idea to most head coaches, but a 65-35 split is much less so.
Ideally, Rick Tocchet will be able to rely on either Spencer Martin or Arturs Silovs for around one start every week, keeping Thatcher Demko as fresh as possible throughout the year and into a potential playoff run. But if the Canucks can get around 30 quality starts from their backup options, it should set them up quite nicely.
Isabella Urbani: There’s nothing ideal about the Canucks’ goaltending situation at the moment. Thatcher Demko is coming off an injury and there is uncertainty about who the backup will be. In a perfect world, Demko starts as many games as possible. Nothing quite like Brodeur, but 60-65 easily, injury free. That being said, I don’t think he’ll end up being that far off from that mark. It really depends on the support he receives from the defence, and whether the Canucks can afford to give him a night off. There’s an early challenge with three back-to-backs in November.
Michael Liu: Ideally, Thatcher Demko should be getting around 55-60 starts in the regular season and whoever is the backup taking up 20-25 games. While Demko can probably handle more starts than that, I’d ideally like to see him get more of a rest than in seasons past. He does have some injury concerns at this point in his career and it’s not really worth pushing him past the breaking point, especially if the season doesn’t go the way the Canucks want it to go. That being said, I can also see Demko getting a string of starts toward the end of the season if Vancouver is in the playoff race. So, it’s probably beneficial for him to be well-rested in that scenario.
Chris Faber: Last year, only seven NHL goaltenders made 60 or more starts and only 13 made 50 or more starts. I believe Thatcher Demko will be in the top-13 for games played and will likely see 50 or more starts next season. As much as you want to plan for a goaltender to get some rest, if Demko gets hot at a crucial part of the season, I’d bet that he sees a heavy dose of starts. It’s likely to come near the end of the season if the Canucks are in contention for a playoff spot.
Ideally, I’d see Demko getting 52 starts with Spencer Martin getting 18 starts and Arturs Silovs sneaking in for 12 starts and showing well he transitions to being the backup for the 2024-25 season.

Tristen Nielsen, Max Sasson, Linus Karlsson, Aidan McDonough, Jack Rathbone or Cole McWard — Who will play the most games with the Vancouver Canucks next season?

Stephan Roget: Did we all just forget about Aidan McDonough?
Last year, there was mild panic that he was not going to sign and become a free agent. Then he signed, played a few lacklustre games, and seems to have been largely forgotten about as a potential future piece. McDonough will be 24 a month into the season, so his time is rapidly approaching. Of the list above, he stands the best chance of seeing games in 2023/24, and besides Cole McWard, the best chance of playing a long-term role in Vancouver.
Cody Severtson: I’m sure it will be McDonough or Rathbone, so let’s get wild with this question! And feel free to call me crazy, but my dark horse pick for most games with Vancouver next season is Max Sasson.
Maybe I’m biased because I liked Sasson’s on-ice chemistry with Nils Höglander so much during the Abbotsford Canucks’ regular season and their brief playoff run. But during his brief stint in Abbotsford, I think the kid showed the work ethic, wheels, and IQ required to earn and deserve a healthy look with the club.
Though his stat line won’t show it, Sasson was a big part of Abbotsford’s playoff run. Through six games, Sasson played crucial minutes at five-on-five in a 2C role alongside Nils Höglander and veteran winger Kyle Rau. If he can have an impressive camp and wow the coaching staff with his work rate, I’d bet on him earning NHL reps! It certainly helps that he’s a natural center too.
Lachlan Irvine: Aidan McDonough never looked that out of place during the late stages of the season with the big club. If things go just as well for him in Abbotsford, it shouldn’t be too long into the season before he gets a call-up.
Besides McDonough, Jack Rathbone will certainly earn some playing time here and there, and I can see Cole McWard getting some opportunities in the second half of the year depending on his development.
Isabella Urbani: It’s really going to boil down to injuries and whoever gets an opportunity and rolls with it best. Knock on wood, but the Canucks’ backend tends to drop like flies. They didn’t pick up the youngest or most injury-free defenceman with Cole. Out of the group, Rathbone will be the first to get a game in, more of a question of whether he’ll actually finish with the most.
Michael Liu: My brain says Jack Rathbone but my heart says Tristen Nielsen.
Rathbone has been on the bubble for three seasons now, and he needs to establish himself as an NHL regular soon. McWard is waiver-exempt so there’s some flexibility where he’ll play next season, and the other forwards will probably be featuring for Abbotsford as opposed to scrounging for minutes with Vancouver. The only one in this group that the team will want to take a long look at at the NHL level, and the player that should be making a statement, is Rathbone.
My heart’s guess is that Nielsen plays the game a lot like Tyler Motte, and I could totally see him cementing himself as a bottom-6 fixture for the Canucks with his tenacity and smarts. He’s definitely got the talent to be a depth piece on a good team in the NHL, and that level isn’t far away for Nielsen.
Chris Faber: There’s lots of debate here and I’m going to say a name that didn’t even get mentioned once in the previous five answers — Linus Karlsson.
After leading the Abbotsford Canucks in goals last season, Karlsson is coming back for his second pro season in North American with the confidence that he can score in the second-best league in the world. He will get a chance to play some NHL games this season and I believe he will be liked by Rick Tocchet in a bottom-six role. For those who didn’t follow the Abbotsford Canucks closely last year, let me tell you that opposing teams just hate playing against Karlsson. He hits, he slashes, he chirps, and that smile, that damned smile. Karlsson finds a way to piss off opponents every night with his combination of aggressiveness and skill. He scores from anywhere on the ice and if he can kill penalties at the NHL level, he will find games in the NHL lineup.
This kid will surprise some people next season — he’s my pick of the group to play the most games with the Vancouver Canucks next season.

How many Canucks will score 30 goals next season?

Stephan Roget: Health-permitting, Elias Pettersson is a lock. Andrei Kuzmenko could see a 5% drop in his shooting percentage and STILL hit 30 goals, so he’s fairly close to lock territory, too. JT Miller has posted 32 goals two seasons in a row and seems prepared to take on an even greater load this year with Bo Horvat gone. That probably includes more goal-scoring opportunities, so he very likely hits it, too.
That’s three comfortable selections.
But I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the Canucks will actually have four 30-goal scorers in the 2023/24 season and that former sniper Brock Boeser will be the D’Artagnan joining the Three Musketeers listed above. Horvat’s absence should mean more chances for Boeser to shoot in all situations, but especially the power play. As such, he’s finally gonna cross that 30-goal threshold — or at least hit it right on the nose. In a big show of confidence, I’m also going to cheat a little and say that if Boeser doesn’t hit 30, Ilya Mikheyev is my backup option.
Cody Severtson: All of them. Just kidding. Though, that would be pretty incredible, don’t you think?
‘After breaking the NHL record for most goals in a single season by a team with 600 goals in 82 games, the Vancouver Canucks enter the 2023-24 playoffs as the 2nd wildcard team with a goal-differential of plus-6.’
Realistically, Pettersson and Miller are the only two guys you can pen to crack 30 goals this upcoming season. I don’t want to jinx Brock Boeser, and I have zero confidence that Andrei Kuzmenko can replicate his ’14th highest single-season shooting percentage in NHL history’ in his sophomore year.
Lachlan Irvine: We all know three names that belong in the mix. But besides Pettersson, Miller and Kuzmenko, I’m gonna throw a crazy wild card out there with Ilya Mikheyev.
Mikheyev scored 13 goals in 47 games last season, despite playing all of those games on a torn ACL. If his injury hasn’t impacted his ability to play at top speed, Mikheyev is going to get leaned on a lot more this year and could end up doing something magical. Hey, stranger things have happened.
Isabella Urbani: Three players with 30-goal seasons last year, same three plays with 30-goal seasons this year. JT Miller, Elias Pettersson, and Andrei Kuzmenko. The next closest Canuck to the 30-goal mark was Boeser with 18. Boeser’s never reached the 30-goal mark before, but he was one-goal shy in his rookie year. He’s the best bet to sneak into the 30-club this season if anyone else does. I can’t imagine how good that would be for his confidence.
Michael Liu: The Canucks will have Elias Pettersson, J.T. Miller, and Andrei Kuzmenko hitting that 30-goal mark, while there’s an outside chance Brock Boeser can join them in the aforementioned threshold.
Pettersson and Miller speak for themselves with their track records, and while Kuzmenko will definitely see a dip in production, playing alongside Pettersson should make getting to 30 goals relatively achievable even with a lower shooting percentage. Boeser has spoken a lot about being a 30-goal scorer, being on pace for a number of seasons in his career but never hitting that mark. There’s been a lot of talk about his new trainer and the work that he’s put in this offseason. The hope is that this change in his offseason can translate to hitting the 30-goal mark.
Chris Faber: I’m going to say that three players hit the 30-goal mark next season.
Elias Pettersson, J.T. Miller and Andrei Kuzmenko are my picks with each player having double-digit power play goals next year as the Canucks’ power play climbs into the top-five of the NHL. I can see Brock Boeser, Ilya Mikheyev and one of Vasily Podkolzin, Conor Garland or Anthony Beauvillier hitting 25 goals next season as well. They will almost have four 30-goal scorers next year but ultimately, I see only three getting there.

Who are your ideal wingers for Elias Pettersson?

Stephan Roget: It’s hard to imagine a better fit than Andrei Kuzmenko. That definitely goes for this roster, and it’s honestly difficult, though not impossible, to find better fits on other rosters. Those two are, for the time being anyway, about as inextricably linked as it gets.
There are plenty of other options to join them, but my personal choice has to be Ilya Mikheyev. Anthony Beauvillier looked fine enough there last year, but the chemistry definitely tapered off toward the end of their run. Mikheyev-Pettersson-Kuzmenko, meanwhile, was one of the best five-on-five lines in the league for a good while and were only really hampered by Mikheyev’s ongoing and eventually-season-ending injury. With Mikheyev back at full health, he deserves the first and best shot at the job.
Cody Severtson: J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser.
That the Canucks abandoned their best forward line since Burrows-Sedin-Sedin after just one season of overwhelming success will never not be the most baffling thing.
The Lotto Line was a revelation, a line that played with their food, crushed at even strength, dominated on the power play, racked up points like there was no tomorrow and could turn games around on their own through inspired playmaking, hard work, and gorgeous goals.
The Lotto Line ship has likely sailed, but Canucks’ fans have been waiting for that inspired level of two-way hockey from Miller, and they’ve crossed their fingers for a return of “the flow” for some time. Why not get the band back together? After all, that line’s success was a key driving factor in the Canucks’ best post-season success since 2011. Why not now, with playoffs back on the menu?
Lachlan Irvine: I’m always a sucker for the Pettersson-Boeser connection, but with Kuzmenko set in stone on the left side, there might not be enough puck to go around. And since Miller is being relied on centring the second line, they’ll want someone to win puck battles along the boards to set Pettersson and Kuzmenko up for as many scoring chances as humanly possible.
If Boeser isn’t the top choice for Tocchet, maybe someone like Vasily Podkolzin or Ilya Mikheyev can work their way in there. Podkolzin might not be ready for full first-line duty yet, but he’s looked pretty good on Pettersson’s wing in seasons past. Maybe that extra year of seasoning in the AHL will make all the difference.
Isabella Urbani: Andrei Kuzmenko and Anthony Beauvillier. Beauvillier had some good, early chemistry with Pettersson when he joined the team at the start of the year. Kuzmenko and Pettersson were lights out all season. We might see Brock Boeser in there occasionally, maybe even Mikheyev depending on how streaky they get.
Michael Liu: Andrei Kuzmenko and Ilya Mikheyev, until Mikheyev gets bumped off by Vasily Podkolzin.
I believe that the Kuzmenko-Pettersson-Mikheyev line was the best fit stylistically for Elias Pettersson last year and if the trio remains healthy, it’s the best unit for the Canucks and the one that can bring out Pettersson’s strengths the most.
However, I’d ideally like to see Podkolzin improve enough to replace Mikheyev on this line because I really believe that his puck retrieval, protection, and hockey IQ can really complement Pettersson well. Hopefully, the younger Russian winger can take that step up this season.
Chris Faber: We saw enough from the Andrei Kuzmenko and Elias Pettersson duo to not take them away from each other.
As for the other winger, I see Ilya Mikheyev being the best bet if he’s healthy or Brock Boeser if he comes into next season looking different because of his changes to his offseason. I’m going to go with a Kuzmenko-Pettersson-Boeser line because I believe it creates the most potential for offence without moving J.T. Miller up from 2C.

That’s it for our second roundtable of the offseason.
If you’ve got a topic or question, leave it in the comments!

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