Monday Mailbag: Abbotsford’s playoff run, Nils Höglander’s spot in the NHL next season, and where the Canucks are looking for free agents

Photo credit:Matthew Henderson
By Faber
1 year ago
Back again with another Monday Mailbag here at CanucksArmy!
The Vancouver Canucks continue to win games, the AHL team is on track to host a playoff game, and many of the prospects are diving into their playoff rounds.
There’s a lot going on in Canuckland and one big topic is ice time.
Quinn Hughes is fourth in average ice time since Rick Tocchet became the head coach and has been averaging 25:43 a night. If you look back over the past 12 games, Hughes is averaging an astounding 27:55 per game. It’s a lot of minutes for a defenceman on a team with no hope for the playoffs. Much of the ice time is low-intensity minutes on the power play but still, you are asking a lot of a player who doesn’t have an off switch of his own.
Hughes is a competitor and he will go out and give you everything he has on a nightly basis. It just seems a bit much is being asked of him at times. It’s a tough balance because you want to see how Tocchet can utilize Hughes in his system, but at the same time, this team needs to ramp up for the 2023-24 season, not a late push this year.
It’s not all necessarily about Hughes either. I’m sure he is capable of handling a large workload, he’s been doing it all throughout his hockey career.
This could be a good time to really see what Christian Wolanin looks like with 20 minutes of ice time or maybe just spread some ice time out for a Guillaume Brisebois or Kyle Burroughs.
It’s not the worst thing in the world to see Hughes playing 26 minutes a night. He’s their top defenceman and that’s what number one defencemen do. We are curious to see what happens when Filip Hronek returns from injury. Hronek has been skating out at 8 Rinks in Burnaby and could be practicing with the Canucks when they return from their current road trip.
We’re excited to see what the defence corps looks like with Hronek added into the mix. If he can live up to the hype, Hronek can be a vital piece to the Canucks’ top-four for years to come. It should also lighten the load for Hughes and that would just be nice. I think a lot of Canucks fans are with me when I say that it’s a bit worrisome to see multiple games of Hughes with over 30 minutes of ice time. The kid is asked to do a lot and maybe this is a time when you can release some of the pressure on his game and let him adjust to the structure instead of attempting (and often succeeding) to carry this team from the backend every game.
With all that being said, let’s not waste any more words. We’ve got great questions this week from the wonderful people of #CanucksTwitter and I’m all set to dive into the mailbag.
No more wasted words, it’s mailbag time, let’s go!
All three options are viable but from what I’ve heard from sources, the Canucks will likely be highest on NCAA guys, followed by Europeans and then CHLers coming in third place on the podium of spring free agents.
We have heard a lot of names from the NCAA be connected to the Canucks. There’s not as much smoke around the European class as it is a weaker class than past seasons. There is no Andrei Kuzmenko coming from the KHL or anything like that. As for the CHL free agents, I’m sure there’s been talk about some of these guys, but we have not heard a peep when it comes to potential signings from the WHL, OHL, or QMJHL.
We have heard about the Canucks looking to work out some CHLers at their development camp but that is still pretty far away from a CHLer earning an NHL contract spot in a similar way to Arshdeep Bains. You will likely see some CHLers come to development camp and compete at the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton but those players will likely be on AHL contracts like Tristen Nielsen or Quinn Schmiemann.
The Canucks currently have five contract spots and if we had to guess, it’s likely to be filled by three or four NCAA guys.
They will certainly be getting some players back down to the AHL before the playoffs.
Vasily Podkolzin, Noah Juulsen, and Christian Wolanin are three players who will be eligible to go down and play in the playoffs with Abbotsford.
Last season, Podkolzin was dropped in the AHL for the playoffs and things didn’t work out well for the Abbotsford Canucks as they were swept in the play-in series. Now, each of Podkolzin, Juulsen, and Wolanin has spent a good chunk of this season in the AHL. Their addition for the playoffs is going to be more of a boost than a drop-in. These guys know the coach well from their time this season and will bring an added jolt to the AHL roster.
They are interested in right-shot defencemen Jake Livingstone and Sam Malinski.
We’ve heard Max Sasson and Max Andreev as two forwards to watch.
Livingstone should go deep into the NCAA tournament but Sasson, Malinski, and Andreev are three names who could be out before the month passes to April.
We also expect the Canucks to land some NCAA guys on AHL deals. Just like they did last season with Marc Gatcomb last year.
You’d hope to see Jack Rathbone and Nils Höglander back in the NHL. They aren’t on our prospects list, but are still young players.
It’s going to require an injury to get any more players from Abbotsford up to Vancouver this season as the Canucks reached their four-call-up limit within 35 minutes of the deadline passing.
Aside from that, Linus Karlsson is another guy who is deserving of a look in the NHL.
It looks like Daimon Gardner has been playing fine since tearing his MCL at the beginning of the season. He’s got nine goals and 22 assists through 33 USHL games with the Tri-City Storm. We’ve caught some highlights here and there on him but haven’t spent a lot of time scouting the player this season.
We are waiting for him to go to Clarkson in the NCAA next season to really begin evaluating him. If he was shredding the USHL, we would have spent more time on him.
As for Jackson Dorrington, we have had a lot of viewings of him this season and have really liked his toughness on the backend. He was a teammate of Aidan McDonough at Northeastern and played most of the season on the right side even though he is a left-shot defenceman.
Dorrington finished the season with no goals and six assists through 35 games and was a steady defensive presence for Northeastern on their second pairing for most of the season. He skates well, loves to hit and always protects his crease. Long road for him to become a legit NHL prospect but early returns have certainly not been bad.
The only name that really comes to mind on this question is right-shot defenceman Filip Johansson.
He’s been eating up big minutes in the SHL this season and saw a nice jump in his offence compared to what he did in his first three SHL seasons.
It’s no shocker for me to say that the Canucks are weak on the right side of their defence and Johansson will be given a chance to succeed in the NHL this year. It will likely be a similar scenario to Nils Åman.
Johansson will be given a chance and if he looks like he fits the part, some NHL time will come his way.
There just aren’t any dark horses this season. Maybe we will have one for the 2024-25 season.
Likely see Nils Höglander in a bottom-six role and Linus Karlsson will probably start in Abbotsford.
It’s really going to depend on what the Canucks do with their wingers like Brock Boeser, Connor Garland, Vitali Kravtson, Anthony Beauvillier and more.
There’s a lot to sort out with this team on the wings.
I have not heard anything about the Canucks being interested in Samuel Johannesson.
He had a strong offensive season and is one of the few defencemen to watch for as a European free agent.
No question in my eyes.
I’d choose Conor Garland for that return.
It feels like enough as it creates much-needed cap space while adding two prospects and creating middle-six opportunities on the wing for guys like Vasily Podkolzin, Nils Höglander, Vitali Kravtsov, and even Jonathan Lekkerimäki and Danila Klimovich down the road.
Garland has three more years on his contract after this season. This trade proposal of yours would really open up some doors for young players over the next three seasons.
Well, that wraps up another Monday Mailbag here at CanucksArmy.
Thanks to everyone who sent in a question this week. We wouldn’t be able to do this article without you.
Enjoy another week of Canucks hockey and we will see you next Monday.

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