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Is Canucks free agent signing Kiefer Sherwood the next Dakota Joshua?

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Photo credit:© Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Liu
5 days ago
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It’s been too long since the Vancouver Canucks’ pro scouting was competent. For a good chunk of the 2010s, finding value-free agent adds was tantamount to impossible. Overpaying for the likes of Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel was par for the course when it came to filling out the club’s bottom 6.
That’s changed as of late. Vancouver’s been on a run of sorts when it comes to making bets on young players to develop and emerge within their system as contributors. The most notable of them all has been Dakota Joshua, whose rise from Toronto castoff to legitimate middle-6 contributor was the story of the 2023-24 season. His production and physicality consistently stood out in both the regular season and playoffs.
Joshua inked himself a $3.25 million AAV deal to stay in Vancouver for the next four years, barring a trade. It’s tidy business for the player, with the Canucks hoping that he can continue to establish himself as a solid top-9 piece as they look to contend. But, now that Joshua is being paid, who’s going to be the next player to emerge and overperform their contract value?
Enter Kiefer Sherwood.
It doesn’t seem like the most direct comparison off the bat. For one, Sherwood is 29 years old, while Joshua is 28. The latter stands at 6’3 and weighs 205 pounds, while the former is 6’0 and 194 lbs. Calling the winger the “next Dakota Joshua” might imply that he’s supposed to become a big bruising presence as well – but it’s more saying that Sherwood stands a real chance at improving as a Vancouver Canuck and cementing his place as a valuable contributor at the NHL level. But can Sherwood replicate that sort of Joshua-like improvement?
That’s not as far-fetched as it sounds. The 2023-24 campaign was the first season that Sherwood featured in more than 50 games since 2018-19 when he was with the Anaheim Ducks. In between that span, Sherwood has bounced between the AHL and NHL with the Ducks, Avs, and Preds organizations. He’s coming to the Canucks with more NHL experience than Joshua had at the same age, but really with only two full seasons in a bottom 6 role.
Last year with Nashville was his best year to date. Entrusted with a bottom 6 role consistently, Sherwood took that and ran with a 10-goal, 27-point performance in 68 games. It wasn’t the production that stood out though – it was more the style and brand of hockey that Sherwood brought to the Preds. Despite not being the biggest player on the ice, he wasn’t shy about laying the body, finishing 15th in hits and eighth in hits/60 minutes at 5v5. That, coupled with a relentless motor and foot speed made him a menace on the forecheck, something that the Canucks experienced first-hand in the playoffs.
His chippiness had the captain of the Canucks excited to see him on their side. “I talked to Quinn [Hughes], he was more excited about Sherwood than anyone. He said he pissed the whole team off there in the playoffs, playing hard,” Patrik Allvin said about the signing on July 1st.
While his NHL production hasn’t been impressive to date, there’s reason to believe that there is untapped potential when it comes to his scoring. For one, Sherwood has shown consistent production at lower levels, tearing up the AHL with the Colorado Eagles in 2021-22 with 75 points in 57 games. While production in the minors is never a guarantee to translate to the NHL, it at least shows that Sherwood can put up points and knows how to score. The other part would be the fact that Sherwood’s shooting percentage last year (in a career season!) stood at 9.1%, which is a couple of percentage points less than his previous two seasons. Even factoring that in, Sherwood was producing points at 5v5 at a comparable rate to Sam Reinhart. Smaller sample size and different deployment, yes, but that’s still pretty impressive for a fourth-liner.
That offensive potential is meshed with his already solid defensive metrics, with Sherwood producing a solid 52.20 CF% and 51.77 xGF% in his fourth-line minutes. While his results against better competition will remain to be seen, there’s at least a solid foundation to work with that gives justification for trying Sherwood out against better players. During the playoffs, the winger played more minutes against JT Miller than any other Canuck forward and was only on ice for a single 5v5 goal against.
It’ll remain to be seen if Sherwood can deliver these results in a Canuck uniform, much less in a bigger sample size. He averaged the least ice time of any Predators forward last season, which feels odd given the tools and rate metrics that he’s displayed thus far. Perhaps coming to Vancouver can help extract the maximum value from his game, in a system that’s built by a coach who should love his game and his profile.
It’s happened before, and that’s why Sherwood feels like the best candidate to be the “next Dakota Joshua”-esque player. Before arriving in Vancouver, Joshua only featured in a maximum of 35 games in a season, with a career-high of 8 points. Since then, he’s improved in both seasons, finding a bigger role not just production-wise but showing more and more flashes of that hard-to-play-against power forward. While being a power forward is probably not in the cards for Sherwood, there’s plenty of reason to believe that his pace, tenacity, motor, and physicality can translate into something bigger than he’s shown through 187 NHL contests to this point. The numbers are there and at $1.5 million AAV, it’s within reason to think that Sherwood can deliver under Rick Tocchet and overperform his contract value.
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