Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Expectations and goals for every left shot defenceman on the Vancouver Canucks’ depth chart
7 months ago
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Last week, we broke down expectations and goals for every goaltender and right-shot defenceman on the Vancouver Canucks’ depth chart, and today, we’re continuing that exercise with the left shot defencemen in the Canucks’ organization.
Quinn Hughes had a stellar 2022-23 campaign, picking up Norris Trophy votes, finishing second in points among all NHL defencemen, and most importantly to him, squashing any doubt that he can defend at the NHL level. Hughes excelled in all areas of the ice this past season and emerged as a true number one defenceman.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Hughes’ season is that he did it with a seemingly constant rotation of defence partners. Ethan Bear, who doesn’t seem like he’ll return to the Canucks following offseason shoulder surgery, was Hughes’ most consistent partner, but the Canucks’ top blue liner got reps with Tyler Myers, Luke Schenn, and even Noah Juulsen to close out the season.
While none of those names particularly jump off the page as difference makers, any pair Hughes was on last season was the Canucks’ best pairing, regardless of who he was partnered up with. With the additions of Carson Soucy and Ian Cole to the Canucks’ blue line via free agency, Hughes should have a more stable defence partner this season, and at the very least, should see his penalty killing minutes and total ice time decrease.
Expectations for Hughes should to continue to be the Canucks’ number one defenceman, and to not take a step back at either end of the ice following this past season. As for goals, Hughes is certainly hoping to lead the Canucks to the playoffs, and if he does that, he should garner more serious consideration for the Norris Trophy.
Carson Soucy is going to want to endear himself to Canucks fans early. The Canucks’ most expensive and lengthiest free agency signing of the offseason, the 6’5 Soucy has predominantly played in a third pair role for most of his career. He’s an exceptional penalty killer and gave the Canucks plenty of reason to believe that he can be a legitimate top four defence option with his play last season in Seattle.
Soucy is capable of playing the right side, so it really wouldn’t come as much of a shock to see get an extended look or two alongside Quinn Hughes on the Canucks’ top pair.
Our expectation for Soucy is that he’s able to join the Canucks’ blue line and raise their overall capability at 5-on-5 but more importantly, manage to improve the club’s abysmal penalty kill.
Like Soucy, Ian Cole signed with the Canucks in free agency, and like Soucy, he’s a left shot defenceman who is also more than capable of playing the right side. This makes him a candidate to potentially play with Hughes on the first pair, or to anchor a different pairing alongside anybody from Filip Hronek, Tyler Myers, or even a young player like Christian Wolanin, Akito Hirose, Jack Rathbone, or Jett Woo.
In both Soucy and Cole, the Canucks are getting versatile defence-first defencemen. Much like with Soucy, our expectation is that Cole manages to improve the Canucks’ penalty kill and raise the bar for defending at 5-on-5. As for goals, Cole will certainly be looking to prove once again that he can still play in a top four role, and maybe when he’s 35 next summer, he can earn another one-year deal and keep his NHL career going.
Speaking of recently signed free agents, we recently wrote about how you shouldn’t sleep on Matt Irwin’s potential impact on the Canucks’ lineup. Sure, he’s likely fighting for a final roster spot, but this is a guy who hasn’t played an AHL game since 2016. With over 450 NHL games under his belt — 61 of which came last season with the Washington Capitals — we expect Irwin to raise the level of competition at Canucks training camp in the fall.
His goal? Simple. Make his hometown team out of camp, earn a spot in the opening night lineup, and stay there all season.
Among those who will be battling with Irwin for a spot in the opening night lineup is Christian Wolanin. Named the AHL’s top defenceman last season, the 28-year-old got an opportunity with the Canucks and ran with it. Wolanin has spoken numerous times about how thankful he is for the opportunity he got to play with the Abbotsford Canucks last season.
He ran the power play, killed penalties, and played big minutes for the AHL squad last season. Wolanin truly did it all for Abbotsford last season, and didn’t look out of place in his 16 games with the Canucks at the NHL level. Our expectation is that Wolanin will build off of what he did last season. At the very least, he’ll be Abbotsford’s number one defenceman and first call up option, and at the most, he’ll be an everyday member of the Canucks’ bottom four defence group right from opening night.
Also fighting for a roster spot and a spot in the lineup is 24-year-old Akito Hirose, who chose the Canucks as an NCAA free agent this past spring. Hirose appeared in seven games for the Canucks towards the end of the season, and like Wolanin, he didn’t appear particularly out of place. He even managed to tally the first three assists of his NHL career. He’ll be battling with the likes of Irwin, Wolanin, Cole McWard, and Noah Juulsen for the final roster spots with the big club.
There’s going to be healthy competition, so obviously Hirose’s goal is to make the club out of camp in his first full NHL season. Our expectation is that he goes down to Abbotsford and further develops his game. Partly because there’s more value in Hirose playing in games, an opportunity he may not get in Vancouver if he’s the seventh or eighth defenceman on the NHL roster.
Some believe in Jack Rathbone’s NHL potential, others don’t. Rathbone didn’t get much of a look under former head coach Bruce Boudreau, but could the 24-year-old defenceman benefit from a stronger defensive system under Rick Tocchet?
Rathbone showed plenty of promise following the 2021-22 AHL season in which he produced higher than a point-per-game with 40 points through 39 contests. While his point production took a hit this past season — thanks in part to losing opportunities to the likes of Christian Wolanin on a strong Abbotsford blue line — Rathbone has everything to prove coming into the 2023-24 season.
Our expectation is that Rathbone bounces back at the AHL level and that his point production increases. We also expect him to get a look with the NHL club at some point this season. The goal for Rathbone will be to impress the NHL coaching staff who he now has a clean slate with. Whether that opportunity comes in training camp, in-season, (or comes at all) remains to be seen.
Faithful, loyal, resolute, staunch, steadfast, constant.
These are just some of the words used to describe Guillaume Brisebois. Taken in the third round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Guillaume Brisebois is one of the longest-tenured players on the Canucks’ roster. He likes his situation with the Canucks, and the Canucks like having him as a depth option. Our expectation is for Brisebois to only help the Canucks’ depth.
Brisebois showed well in a career-high 17 NHL games last season, and the goal will obviously be to set a new career-high for games played. Briesbois plays a steady and safe game, and you’ll never hear a head coach say something bad about him. Travis Green, Bruce Boudreau, and Rick Tocchet have all spoken positively about what Brisebois brings as a depth option.
Now that we’ve landed on the prospects portion of the Canucks’ depth chart, it’s a perfect time for me to tag in CanucksArmy‘s prospect guru Chris Faber! Take it away Faber!
It’s difficult to confidently predict D-Petey’s spot in Örebro’s lineup as he returns to the SHL club for his second full season. The 19-year-old left-shot defenceman already has already dressed for 73 SHL through the past two seasons and he’s likely earned the coach’s trust. The roadblock for D-Petey is the fact that the entire top-four from last season is coming back for the 2023-24 year. D-Petey will need to work his way up the depth chart or be the next man up for the top-four when an injury occurs. We also see D-Petey showing well at the World Juniors and if he can work his way up into Örebro’s top-four, that would be another good step in D-Petey’s development.
The 2022 seventh-round pick is headed back to the Soo Greyhounds in the OHL after an eight goal and 50 points season. Kudryavtsev will likely be in his last year of junior hockey before making the jump to pro and we expect him to be one of the top-10 point-producing defencemen in the OHL this year. Kudryavtsev was 14th in points from a defenceman last season and we expect to see him continue to create offence at five-on-five as well as be a trusted quarterback of the first power play unit. Expect this kid in Abbotsford very soon. There’s some exciting skills in his game and we will have to see how he develops his game for the pro level.
Speaking of pro-level, let’s discuss Jacob Truscott. The two-way defenceman is heading into his fourth season with Michigan and will be the captain of the Wolverines for the 2023-24 season. It’s a huge honour for Truscott to lead Michigan and there’s going to be a lot asked of him next season. Michigan is not as stacked on the backend as they have in past years. Zach Werenski, Quinn Hughes, Owen Power, and Luke Hughes have been exceptional NCAA players in their time for the Wolverines and there will be expectations for Truscott to be the lead dog on the defence this season. He will be asked to do a lot but if he steps up to the plate, it will certainly have him prepared for the jump to pro hockey. Expect him to get power play time next season but be used heavily at five-on-five and on the penalty kill. This kid is going to play a lot and we expect to see his offence grow now that Hughes and Power, Truscott’s last two partners, are gone.
After being a depth piece for the powerhouse Seattle Thunderbird in the WHL, Sawyer Mynio will now see his ice time and role grow as the team graduates defencemen into pro hockey. Mynio will be a penalty killer and that’s been a part of his game we have really liked when watching tape. Expect him to be a top-penalty killer for what is expected to still be a very good team in the WHL.
We will get to see Jackson Dorrington in action next week with Team USA at the World Junior Summer Showcase. After that, he will be back at Northeastern and pushing for top-four minutes. We see him getting those top-four minutes next season and there’s going to be more time spent by us watching him live. This kid plays a physical game and can skate really well. Expect him to be a few years away from being able to make an impact at the pro level but he put himself on the right track with how he played in his freshman year.
It’s got to be a bounce-back season for Hugo Gabrielson. And honestly, we don’t know where that is going to be. We missed an opportunity at Canucks development camp to ask him if he is returning to Västerviks of the Allsvenskan. He was not great last year after coming off of shoulder surgery. He had zero goals and six assists in 35 games and we didn’t see much at all in the games we watched. He was averaging about 11 minutes a night and did not have good possession numbers — with a 41.9% Corsi in the 33 games that we tracked.
The AHL is just one step away for 22-year-old, Joni Jurmo but it’s going to take a big step this coming season. Jurmo has moved to his third Liiga team in four seasons after scoring five goals and adding eight assists in 52 games last year. He is being reunited with his World Junior coach from the 2022 tournament where Jurmo played some of his best hockey in the past few years. It will be interesting to see how he is used in the lineup but he needs to be consistently in the top-six to truly believe that he can make the jump to the AHL and have success on this side of the pond.
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