Goals and expectations for every right winger on the Vancouver Canucks’ roster
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
1 month ago
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Welcome back to our series here at CanucksArmy in which we’ve been breaking down the Vancouver Canucks’ depth chart by laying out reasonable expectations and goals for every player on their depth chart. So far, we’ve looked at the goaltenders, right and left shot defenceman, and today, we’re breaking down the Canucks’ right wingers!
Honestly, we could likely do an entire article about reasonable expectations for Andrei Kuzmenko next season, because it’s a long and debatable subject. And one day this summer, we probably will do just that. But for our purposes today, Kuzmenko finds himself at the top of the Canucks’ RW depth chart after a memorable debut season in Vancouver.
Everybody waited for Kuzmenko’s sky-high shooting percentage to come crashing down to earth, but it never really did. In fact, it stayed considerably higher than all of his peers right up until the final horn of game 82.
While it’s not unreasonable to expect that Kuzmenko’s NHL-leading 27.3% shooting percentage will decrease next season, there are still plenty of reasons for optimism next season.
Kuzmenko found himself stapled to the bench on multiple occasions under Rick Tocchet, and the Canucks’ new head coach made his desire for Kuzmenko to reach a “new level of fitness” well-known.
Kuzmenko never seemed to push back at Tocchet’s criticisms, and has been working out plenty while vacationing in Bali this offseason. If Kuzmenko can come into camp in the shape Tocchet wants him in, there’s no reason to believe that Kuzmenko isn’t once again going to be Elias Pettersson’s most consistent winger this season. If he finds himself in that spot and back on the first power play unit, it’s not unreasonable to expect Kuzmenko to break the 30-goal mark once again after a 39-goal NHL debut season.
The goal for Kuzmenko will likely be to push his goal total to 40, and perhaps to become a point per game player after finishing 2023-24 with 74 points in 81 games. At the very least, Kuzmenko will hope to not take any sort of dramatic step back next season in terms of production.
Typically sitting at the top of the Canucks’ RW depth chart, Brock Boeser finds himself once again looking to have a bounce back year. As chronicled by Postmedia’s Ben Kuzma last week, Boeser has a new trainer this offseason and is putting an emphasis on his conditioning and foot speed.
It seems like almost every year Boeser has some sort of unforeseen setback holding him back from returning to his former level of play, but given how he played under Rick Tocchet down the stretch — plus the obvious improvements that would come in his game from adding some speed — there’s reason to be optimistic about Boeser’s 2023-24 campaign.
Boeser tallied nine goals and 19 assists in 36 games under Tocchet, and made it clear that he wanted to remain a Canuck amid plenty of trade speculation. As a whole, Boeser somewhat quietly put up 55 points this past season — one shy of his career high of 56 in 2018-19 — and played in a career-high 74 games.
It’s safe to expect Boeser to put up at least 40 points, and a lot of fans will be expecting a big year for Brock. As for his goals this season, you have to think Boeser’s big goal remains the same as what it’s been for some time now: Scoring 30 goals in a season.
Conor Garland’s 5-on-5 point production shouldn’t be ignored, but overall, the 27-year-old winger was probably hoping for more in his second season as a Canuck. As a whole, Garland tallied 17 goals and 29 assists through 81 games played. 15 of Garland’s 17 goals came at even strength, putting him one goal shy of JT Miller for 5th on the Canucks (Bo Horvat finished 3rd with 17 and is no longer a Canuck).
Additionally, Garland finished the season with the fifth-most even strength assists among forwards. His lack of power play time hasn’t helped his point totals, and while he’s still scoring at 5-on-5, Garland hasn’t been the best fit in Vancouver. Perhaps a coaching change can turn things around for Garland, but as it stands, we expect him to be a solid middle six winger for this team.
His goal will be to keep the even strength scoring numbers high while also earning himself some more reps on the power play so that his overall point totals start to rise.
It’s time for Vasily Podkolzin to take that step that we were all hoping to see last season. After splitting his time between the NHL and AHL last season, Podkolzin should be a top-nine forward this coming season for the Vancouver Canucks. If Podkolzin can “let it hang” and become one of Rick Tocchet’s dogs, we could see a breakout year for the former 10th overall pick.
The one thing we would love to finally see is Podkolzin killing penalties. During his time in the KHL along with Russia’s U20 team, we thought Podkolzin’s best part of his game was his penalty killing. The dude was a shot-block magnet and had enough pace to create scoring chances the other way when he forces a turnover. It’s time to see him kill penalties in the NHL.
Acquired in the late October trade that sent goaltender Michael DiPietro and prospect defenceman Jonathan Myrenberg to the Boston Bruins, Jack Studnicka struggled to find a constant spot in the Canucks’ lineup. Between injuries and subpar play at times, Studnicka appeared in 47 games with the Canucks this past season.
He played some centre — the position he played in junior — for the Canucks, but played far more on the right side, typically on the fourth line. Studnicka wasn’t able to forge himself much of a role with the Canucks, but he seems like a player who could be a dark horse candidate to earn a spot in the lineup out of camp.
Our expectation is that Studnicka comes in and fights for the 13th forward spot with the NHL club, and we wouldn’t be surprised if a big offseason helps him in that effort. The goal will obviously be to earn a fourth line spot and keep it for the entirety of the year. Can Studnicka manage to do that with players like Vasily Podkolzin and Nils Höglander knocking on the door?
After leading the Abbotsford Canucks in goals last season with 24 and being the only Abbotsford player to play in all 72 AHL games, Karlsson is on the cusp of getting into the NHL. We liked that he began to kill penalties last season and also looks to be more of a well-rounded player than he showed us in the SHL. This kid is tougher than you expect and he has good size at 6’1″. We could see Karlsson getting some time in Vancouver’s bottom-six next season but with so much competition on the wings, Karlsson may be with Abbotsford for another season. He is expected to be one of the leading scorers in Abbotsford once again and will continue to hone his craft here in North America.
We don’t know what to expect from next season aside from him scoring goals in the AHL and potentially getting into a handful of NHL games.
It’s pretty wild that Danila Klimovich is heading into his third AHL season next year. The 20-year-old sniper needs to see more power play time this season and get even-strength time with some skill players. Gone should be the days of Klimovich playing fourth-line minutes in the AHL. He’s ready for more and he’s ready for better offensive linemates. We’re not certain if Klimovich is going to play in the NHL next season and would probably bet against it. What we do know is that Klimovich made massive defensive improvements last year and if he can continue to build on that next season, he continues to look like he’s on track to become an NHLer.
The 19-year-old will have a lot of eye balls on him next season as he returns to the SHL after a year in the Swedish second division. On top of that, he is projected to be one of Sweden’s leaders for the 2024 World Junior Championships which is hosted in his home-country of Sweden.
Jonathan Lekkerimäki showed extremely well in the Allsvenskan playoffs last year but was mediocre at best during the regular season. We need to see this kid find the magic that he had in the playoffs. If there’s top-line potential in Lekkerimäki’s game, he needs to prove it this coming season. At the time of his draft, we thought he was one of the purest scorers in the 2022 draft but that didn’t show up during the 2022-23 season. We just want to see Lekkerimäki get back to what he does well — score goals. He should get a lot of power play time and is likely to be a consistent piece of Örebro’s top-six next season.
The pressure is on but he’s still only 19 years old, so we will see how things shake-down this season.
Top-six minutes in the SHL are coming for the 19-year-old Swede. Lucas Forsell took off last season and was the leading U20 scorer in the SHL. No U20 player had more goals than Forsell and he will look to build on what he did last year. You can expect to see him be used on the power play as well as top-six and potentially top-line for Färjestad. We want to see him grow his game but continue to build on his strengths.
Forsell is looking like one hell of a seventh-round pick and if he continues to show well, he could be in North America in the coming years.
He’s heading back to the KHL. Vitali Kravtsov got himself a qualifying offer from the Canucks on June 30th and that results in the Canucks owning first dibs on his NHL rights until he turns 27 years old. We will follow what he’s up to in the KHL but Kravtsov didn’t look like much of an impact player last season during his limited time with the Canucks. The kid is still just 23 years old and has a good relationship with Vasily Podkolzin. This story will be around for the next four years but we’re not yet sure if anything will come of it. Remember Dmitry Zhukenov? The Canucks still have his NHL rights.
Note: Any winger you thought we forgot has simply been placed in the LW category and you will see them there when that article drops later this week!
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