Expectations and goals for every right-shot defenceman on the Canucks’ depth chart

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
David Quadrelli
1 year ago
Welcome to our series here at CanucksArmy where we will go over every single player on the Vancouver Canucks’ depth chart and break down reasonable expectations and goals for their 2023-24 season. On Tuesday, we kicked things off by breaking down the goaltenders in the Canucks’ organization.
It’s the position that the Canucks’ depth chart has been the thinnest at in recent years. As you’ll see today, the acquisition of Filip Hronek at the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline and the selection of Tom Willander at the 2023 NHL Entry Draft have certainly helped the cause.
The Canucks don’t have an embarrassment of riches in the form of right-shot defencemen by any means, but they have improved their depth at the position as an organization. Here are our expectations and goals for every right-handed defencemen in the Canucks’ organization.
Filip Hronek: Be a legitimate 2/3 defenceman
When the Canucks acquired Nate Schmidt a few years back, the expectation was that he would be a perfect defenceman to play with or right behind Quinn Hughes. Sound familiar?
Yes, the same has been said about 25-year-old Filip Hronek, who the Canucks acquired from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for a first and second round pick ahead of the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline. This time, there’s more reason to believe that Hronek will be a better fit than Schmidt was.
Hronek appeared in just four games after his trade to the Canucks, but got some reps in with Quinn Hughes and spent some time being the primary driver on a pairing with a number of different partners. In that time, Hronek appeared to be a capable defenceman and a nice fit with virtually everybody he played with.
Not wanting to risk him re-injuring the shoulder injury he was dealing with when the club traded for him, the Canucks shut him down at the end of March. But Hronek’s track record and performance in those four games have many Canucks fans convinced that he’ll be the legitimate top pairing defence option on the right side that this organization has longed for since Chris Tanev departed in 2020 free agency.
The expectation for Hronek is to be this team’s second-best defenceman, and by a pretty wide margin. The goal for Hronek personally is likely to put up a boatload of points so that he can get paid in restricted free agency next summer, and hey, if he’s putting up points and is competent defensively, there won’t be many Canucks fans complaining.
Tyler Myers: Prove the doubters wrong in year five
With all signs pointing to Myers being a part of the Canucks’ blue line this season — GM Patrik Allvin said as much not long ago — Myers finds himself comfortably in the second spot on the Canucks RHD depth chart.
That being said, both Carson Soucy and Ian Cole are left-handed but are more than capable of playing the right side. This means that Myers could very well find himself getting third-pairing minutes at some point in the season. He could also find himself as Quinn Hughes’ partner on opening night. There’s no real way to know for sure where Myers will slot in, but we do know that the Canucks now have options thanks to their newfound blueline depth.
Our expectation for Myers is to be a solid bottom four option for the Canucks while being chaotic as ever. The goal for Myers will be to prove his doubters wrong and show that he’s still a capable top four option as he heads into the final year of his five-year deal with the Canucks with unrestricted free agency looming.
Noah Juulsen: Stick as the 7th defenceman
Juulsen finds himself third on the right-handed defencemen depth chart, but he’s unlikely to find himself in the lineup despite this positioning. As mentioned above, Cole and Soucy can both play the right side, and we’d project the Canucks’ blue line to look something like this on opening night.
Quinn Hughes-Ian Cole
Carson Soucy-Filip Hronek
Christian Wolanin/Akito Hirose/Jack Rathbone-Tyler Myers
Could Cole find himself on the third pair with Juulsen slotting in? Maybe, but the point is that Juulsen isn’t a lock to be in the opening night lineup as of now. Our expectation is that he sticks as the 7th defenceman or the first call-up option from Abbotsford, but his goal should certainly be to play so undeniably well that the Canucks don’t want to ice a defence corps that he’s not a part of on a nightly basis.
Cole McWard: Take steps to becoming an NHLer
At Canucks development camp last week, Cole McWard didn’t stand out as somebody who is a sure-fire lock to have a long NHL career, and that’s perfectly fine. He got a five-game stint with the Canucks late last season after signing out of the NCAA and even tallied his first NHL goal in the process.
With the Canucks added depth, any conversations about McWard making the opening night lineup have essentially gone away for now, but he did show he has some promise through his five NHL games. The expectation for McWard is to go down to Abbotsford and develop, and the goal is to eventually make good on a potential NHL callup. At 22, there is still plenty of time for McWard to develop into an NHLer, and obviously, that’s going to be his goal.
Jett Woo: Build on last year
Jett Woo’s goals this season are fairly obvious. Either make the team out of camp or show extremely well when eventually given an opportunity at the NHL level. We’d expect Woo, who had the best season of his pro career last year, to get a shot with the big club at some point, but what we’re really expecting is for him to build on next year and take a step into becoming the number one defenceman down in Abbotsford with Christian Wolanin graduating.
Everybody on the development side down in Abbotsford in the Canucks’ organization speaks glowingly about Woo and the work he put in this past season, and we’re excited to see him build on that in 2023-24.
Filip Johansson: Get comfortable in North America
Filip Johansson came over from Sweden late last year and appeared in three games for Abbotsford during the Calder Cup Playoffs. Johansson looked out of place and uncomfortable in those games, and we’re not particularly surprised about that, given that he joined the team later than anybody and didn’t have much time to get comfortable with the team’s systems and the on-ice habits of his teammates.
The 23-year-old former first round pick was signed by the Canucks after the Minnesota Wild chose not to extend him a contract. He had his best season of his SHL career in Frolunda this past season and is now ready to make the jump to North America. Our expectation is that Johansson acquaints himself with the North American style of play, and becomes a regular fixture on the Abbotsford blueline.
Johansson’s goal should be to be a top pairing option for Abbotsford by the end of the season and maybe, just maybe, knock on the door for a shot with the NHL club at some point.
Tucker Poolman: Just get healthy
We don’t think Tucker Poolman is going to play again, but even if he were able to get healthy, there’s not really a spot in the NHL lineup for him anymore. No hockey-related expectation or goal here, we’re just wishing the best for Tucker Poolman as a person.
Now we’re onto the prospects, so it’s a great time for me to tag in our prospect guru, Chris Faber!
Tom Willander
Tom Willander finds himself at this spot on the depth chart simply because we’re now in the territory of unsigned players. The Canucks drafted Willander with the 11th overall pick at the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, and the club’s management group is very excited about Willander’s NHL future.
Willander will be off to Boston University for at least one season. He has a lot of confidence in his own game but has only been tested in J20 play. The speedy defenceman will get much tougher opponents in the hot spot Hockey East division. If he is able to step up and be a true number one this season, we can see him going pro in April. If he needs more time to develop, expect him to be NHL/AHL-bound in April of 2025.
Hunter Brzustewicz
We’ve basically perfected the spelling of Hunter Brzustewicz by now. The offensive-minded defenceman will return to the OHL after being the leading scorer out of draft-eligible defencemen. There’s a strong skill set here with Brzustewicz and if he can round out his defensive play to be able to compete with pros, we will see him get some NHL games one day.
It’s going to be a few years before that day comes. Let’s see how he cooks in the OHL.
Viktor Persson
After a down season with the Pelicans in Liiga, Viktor Persson will return to the Pelicans for the 2023-24 season.
His 2022-23 statline is far away from being impressive. He had three assists in 24 games with no goals scored. This kid will need to find some offence this coming season. His game tape doesn’t look great and he wasn’t used in the top four more than a handful of times last season.
It’s going to need to be a big year for Persson if he wants to be in NHL conversations.
Aiden Celebrini
We liked the pick of Aiden Celebrini in the sixth round of the most recent NHL Entry Draft. He has ties to the organization and we liked the way he measured up against the rest of the defencemen at Canucks development camp.
Celebrini didn’t have great offensive numbers with Brooks in the AJHL last season but he’s now off to join Willander and later be joined by his brother Macklin Celebrini at BU. Celebrini has good size at 6’1″ and he will be tested in Hockey East. That division is extremely competitive in the NCAA and if Celebrini can steadily improve over the next three years, we can see him at least getting some time with Abbotsford and maybe even Vancouver one day if he gets close to reaching his ceiling of potential.

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