Klimovich, Woo, Bains: Who will play the most NHL games with the Canucks next season?
Photo credit:James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
By Faber6 months ago
The Abbotsford Canucks closed out their 2022-23 year with a second-round series loss to the AHL’s best team in the regular season, the Calgary Wranglers.
Even though the AHL team didn’t go on a deep playoff run, they gained a lot of experience and were one of the youngest teams in the AHL.
Three young players stuck out above the rest in terms of the progression they made this season. These three players each have very unique paths to this point in their young hockey careers but all three have something in common.
They are more than likely going to play NHL games in the coming years.
We will spend a bit of time talking about each of these three players’ seasons and include some quotes from Abbotsford’s Head Coach Jeremy Colliton and Abbotsford’s General Manager Ryan Johnson.
In the end, we will discuss which player we believe will play the most games in the NHL next season.
Danila Klimovich, 20 years old, RW, 2021 second-round pick
After a year to establish comfort in a new country during his rookie year in 2021-22, Danila Klimovich thrived in his sophomore season. The young Belarussian began the season as a teenager and finished the year with 17 goals and a team-leading +15 plus/minus.
“It’s a hard league to play in,” said Colliton when asked about Klimovich’s success as a teenager in the AHL. “I think it’s underestimated, the challenge that it is for young players to succeed here. As a coach, you’re just trying to build trust and build a relationship and [as for] the language thing, he’s gotten a lot better. So it’s much easier to communicate. I felt that as the year went on he was better able to understand what we were asking of him. It’s a big year for him, he’s had two years of pro, and should now understand the standard that’s expected. I’m excited to see how he responds to that challenge, but obviously, he’s not there yet. But if you look at the start of the year to now, he certainly took some big strides and that’s exciting.”
He showed extremely well in his limited power play time and was mostly used in a bottom-six role throughout the season.
“Danila took huge steps this year in the details of his game that we knew he needed to — to give himself a chance to give himself a chance to play a bigger role,” said Johnson. “His wall-play, attention in the defensive zone, managing the puck and managing the game. A lot of little things, but he really started to understand those parts and their value to the overall game and how they would impact a team to win a hockey game. This may sound very basic, but it is really something that we focused on with him and he is acceptive of it. And you saw all the natural parts of his game flourish — his ability to score and to finish. Even watching him in the playoffs and being physical and competing, I think he’s learned these parts of his game not just to be a good hockey player but [how to] be a really good teammate.”
Klimovich’s level of coaching before he got to Abbotsford surely had to be low and he definitely wasn’t working with hockey Hall of Fame development coaches like Daniel and Henrik Sedin. Klimovich could have still been playing junior hockey this season but putting up 17 AHL goals in his draft-plus-two-season is certainly impressive.
“You get excited,” said Johnson when talking about Klimovich being so young and having success in the AHL. “Actually, next year should be his rookie season, and he scored 17 goals this year in the American Hockey League which is quite a feat. Expectations for him moving forward [are to] keep growing, playing a bigger role, and being able to play in all situations. He’s really mature, and for a kid that’s just 20 years old, there’s so much room to grow and we’re not even close to what his ceiling is. So it’ll be another exciting offseason for him and the expectation for next season is [that he] just takes another big step.”
The big step next year might even result in Klimovich getting some NHL games. We didn’t think it would happen this year but now that we are looking back at the progression he made, there’s certainly a chance he is a call-up option for a top-six role if the Canucks end up needing a scoring winger at the NHL level.
Jett Woo, 22 years old, RD, 2018 second-round pick
After falling out of our top-10 prospect list, Jett Woo bounced back this year. He played both the left and right side on defence and didn’t even line up as a forward this season.
Woo improved the way he thinks the game. We believe it had a lot to do with the new coach Jeremy Colliton and the belief that he had in him from Ryan Johnson.
“Jett’s put himself in a conversation to come and compete for a spot next year in Vancouver or worst case, I see him as a guy that’s going to play games next year because of the growth and how far he came along here as a player, a person, and a professional,” said Johnson.
We liked how Woo got back to what made him successful in junior — being physical and having strong spacial awareness while defending.
A lot of the time when a player makes the jump from junior to the AHL, they need to reinvent their game or reinvent how they can get back to leaning on their strengths. Woo proved that he could get back to what made him successful in junior, but it just took a few years of gaining confidence and getting stronger to reach that level.
Woo needs to play mean but under control to be successful and this was the first season where he was able to put the two together.
Johnson thinks that Woo will challenge for an NHL spot out of training camp next season, but also mentioned that worst-case, he will be a call-up option.
That’s high praise…
You’ll see if we agree later in the article.
Arshdeep Bains, 22 years old, LW, undrafted
We can’t say enough good things about the local kid.
Arshdeep Bains is everything you want in a CHL free-agent signing.
He was a Canucks fan when he was a kid, he’s great in the community, he was a standout in his junior league, and he changed his game to have success at the pro level.
“We gave him a lot of responsibility as the year went on, and certainly in the playoffs, but he earned it with his development throughout the year,” said Colliton when asked about the evolution in Bains’ game through the season. “He’s a skilled player, an offensive player, used to make plays at the level he’s playing at before. But it’s learning how to do that while also in a reliable way.”
Colliton was impressed with Bains’ improvements in his defensive play away from the puck, wall play, board battles, finding ways to advance the puck, and managing the puck through the neutral zone. Bains earned spots on the penalty kill and the power play and Colliton liked him enough to trust in the playoffs as one of the top penalty killers.
Bains had this success in a season that wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Early in the year, Bains was a healthy scratch for Abbotsford and he was deserving of those scratches — he wasn’t one of the best 12 forwards at the beginning of the season but by the end of the year, there were games where he was the best forward on the ice.
Who is going to play the most games in the NHL next season?
Before we answer this, we should establish what it would take for each player to get into the NHL.
Jett Woo: With the ability to play both the left and right side, Woo would simply need to be one of the best six defencemen in the organization to get into NHL games. A Tyler Myers trade opens up some doors, an Oliver Ekman-Larsson buyout also opens a spot. Woo is in a legitimate battle for the bottom-pairing at training camp next year. When you look at signed defenceman for next season, Woo is certainly in the conversation with Akito Hirose, Guillaume Grisebois, Cole McWard, Jack Rathbone, and Christian Wolanin. He’s clearly not at the level of Quinn Hughes or Filip Hronek but really has put himself into the conversation to be on the opening night roster.
Danila Klimovich: It’s going to be very difficult for Klimovich to crack the NHL out of camp. He would need to have a summer where he becomes an absolute monster and is somehow able to improve on his defensive play along the way. It’s an impossible ask but when some injuries happen to top-nine wingers, the Canucks may want to see what they got with Klimovich. We don’t see him sticking in a bottom-six role if he becomes a full-time NHLer —
Arshdeep Bains: Out of the three, Bains probably has the easiest path to the NHL. If he plays in the NHL next year, he profiles as a fourth-line winger who will kill penalties for you, never make mental mistakes and has good vision to help create offence at even-strength as he matches up against the opposition’s fourth line. Bains will be in a battle with players like Phil Di Giuseppe, Nils Höglander, Jack Studnicka, Sheldon Dries, Vitali Kravtsov, Dakota Joshua, Aidan McDonough, Linus Karlsson and Josh Bloom.
Our pick is going to be Arshdeep Bains.
He is already at a level where you’d be fine with him playing fourth line minutes in the NHL and if he can bring value to the lineup with strong play while shorthanded, he will be a great fit for the Canucks. Every coach that has had Bains loves his work ethic and how he plays the game — we expect Rick Tocchet to feel the same about the Surrey-born Bains.
Our prediction is that Bains plays 10-30 games next season and then gives himself a real shot to be a fourth-line contributor on a nightly basis for the 2024-25 season.
We won’t be surprised to see Woo get a dozen games or so and can see Klimovich getting a few games at the end of the season if he continues to progress well in the AHL.
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