Monday Mailbag: Canucks training camp, Wolanin for 3LD, and will Jonathan Lekkerimäki go to the AHL next year?
Photo credit:Matthew Henderson
By Faber2 months ago
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Oh boy, do we ever have a lot to talk about this week.
After a busy few days down in Victoria for Vancouver Canucks training camp, part of the team travelled to Calgary to face off with the Flames in game one of the preseason.
We were happy to once again be in attendance for training camp and it was pretty cool as CanucksArmy got their first media access for training camp back in 2019 when Cory Hergott and myself attended that camp.
There were some surprises throughout the lineup, but none more than Arshdeep Bains and Nils Höglander, who were in primetime roles with the Canucks after not playing a single game for the Vancouver Canucks once Rick Tocchet took over the coaching duties.
Bains skated with Pius Suter and Conor Garland, while Höglander was linked up with Elias Pettersson and Andrei Kuzmenko.
One of Bains or Höglander could have been just holding a position for Ilya Mikheyev, who returned to Vancouver for personal reasons just ahead of day one at camp. Odds are that it was Bains who was holding the spot for Mikheyev, but if that is the case, then starting with Pettersson and Kuzmenko is a plum spot for the young Höglander.
There are obviously going to be more changes to the lineup before opening night and we will be following who Bains and Höglander play with throughout the preseason. What we know now is that both of these 22-year-olds got a great spot to kick off the 2023-24 season.
We put out the call for questions early Sunday morning and got a ton of great responses from the wonderful people of #CanucksTwitter.
Let’s not waste any more words, and instead, dive into the mailbag and get to this week’s questions.
Consistent readers of this website already know my answer to this question. I’m rocking with the AHL defenceman of the year from last season, Christian Wolanin.
As much as Akito Hirose impressed in his short NHL stint last season, Wolanin is just a much more advanced defenceman. He is better under pressure, plays defence better, moves the puck better, and has a knack for getting the puck on net or into the hands of his teammates in high-danger areas of the ice.
Wolanin was drafted in 2015 and got his first taste of the NHL during the 2017-18 season when he came out of the University of North Dakota after dominating from the backend with 12 goals and 23 assists in 40 NCAA games. From there, Wolanin struggled with injuries and was shuffled down the depth chart so much that he got caught on the Black Aces team during the COVID season. He exploded offensively last season and put up 55 points in 49 AHL games.
We are looking at a defenceman who has learned a lot about his game and what he needs to do to become an everyday NHLer. That’s the difference between Wolanin and Hirose.
Though Hirose was impressive in his seven games, he only played against two playoff teams and was primarily upon against teams that were out of contention for the postseason.
A season in the AHL will be great for Hirose and I expect to see him called up at some point in the year. Once Hirose understands how his game needs to adjust to being an everyday pro, he will be a nice depth add to the Canucks’ defence but for now, Wolanin is the guy I’d be rolling with.
Guillaume Brisebois spent the entirety of training camp alongside Tyler Myers and I’d watch to see if he ultimately is the dark horse who ends up winning the job on the third-pairing. Time will tell. Somewhere, Jim Benning is telling someone, ‘I told ya so.’
If Jonathan Lekkerimäki has a good enough season, he will be coming over to North America.
A first-round pick with that much potential needs a season or two to get the confidence to come over to North America and be able to play in the NHL. The question here, however, is not about a player coming over to play in the NHL, Key18 asked if I forsee Lekkerimäki coming over to play in North America and for that question, my answer is a bit muddy.
Lekkerimäki would likely be making a lot more money in Sweden if he decided to stay there instead of playing in the AHL. The average salary in the SHL is about $230,000 while Lekkerimäki’s AHL salary would be $82,500. The other thing is that Lekkerimäki is likely paid much more than the average SHL player. Stars get paid in the SHL, and Lekkerimäki is quickly establishing himself as a young star in his home country of Sweden.
Money aside, Lekkerimäki will likely want to be physically ready for North America and that will take a lot of development that may be easier on him in the SHL compared to the AHL. The Canucks could end up convincing him that Abbotsford is the best place for him to develop, and they could be right. With the Sedins, Jeremy Colliton, Gary Agnew, Mackenzie Braid, and the rest of the Abbotsford staff doing a great job with the AHL club since their move from Utica, the farm club down the highway is quickly becoming a destination that is known around the league to have a solid path to the NHL for players who are on the outside looking in as everyday NHLers.
As much as I’d like to see Lekkerimäki at the Abbotsford Centre next season, I’d bet that he does another year in the SHL unless he makes huge strides in his play away from the puck while continuing to score at a high pace in the SHL so much that bringing him over to the NHL is the right call. Coming over to the AHL doesn’t feel like it’s in the cards for this specific prospect.
As someone who grew up on Vancouver Island, I think it’s a great idea to host Canucks training camp down in Victoria every five years or so.
Obviously, the facilities are a lower level than Rogers Arena or some other rinks around British Columbia but the rink is certainly big enough and heck the width of the concourse is about the same as Rogers Arena so there’s a lot of room.
We all know that Canucks fans are scattered throughout British Columbia and perhaps the team should look somewhere in the interior for a training camp in the future. As for hotel and accommodation, there seemed to be no problem as there aren’t as many rooms required as say a concert or major event. I thought the arena did a good job, the staff was very nice and as I know well, the Island folk are good people. The nightlife was great as well.
The only downside is BC Ferries.
It’s always great to be able to catch up with some of the other media members for a night out and to watch how many people freak out when they meet Dan Murphy.
‘Kissed by a Rose’ — ‘I won’t go home without you’ — ‘Iris’
I played for a bit last summer when I moved to the building beside Rogers Arena because there were two gyms and two Pokéstops accessible from my apartment but that feeling died off for me.
I’d set the odds at +200. Who knows what will happen in terms of injuries or Ilya Mikheyev’s status as he looks to return from ACL surgery.
This concludes another Monday Mailbag here at CanucksArmy. We will see you next Monday and thanks to everyone who sent in a question this week.
Enjoy the return of preseason hockey and don’t watch the highlights of Sunday’s game against the Flames.
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