Monday Mailbag: Fourth line Högs, the best linemate for Pettersson-Kuzmenko, and the real ‘Trader Jim’ coming to life

Photo credit:Matthew Henderson
By Faber
1 year ago
Well, two blown multi-goal leads later and the regular season is off and running!
The Vancouver Canucks have begun their 2022-23 season with two regulation losses. They now head into back-to-back games on Monday/Tuesday with another road game on Thursday before the home opener on Saturday.
We’ve had a lot to dissect already this season, and it’s not all been rosy.
At least we have The Stanchies here to make things fun because the first two games have lifted fans up to a level of enjoyment that is stimulating just before crashing down to a level that makes you want to start taking an interest in the BC Lions.
Through all the ups and downs, we will be here every Monday, answering all your best and worst questions.
We’ve got that comment section all locked in now, so, be sure to use the #MM and ask away with your questions there. Heck, come back to it on Sunday night and dose me up with some fresh content instead of having a week-old question be answered like we will see today.
All that being said, let’s push aside the veg and get to the meat of this article.
Let’s see what the wonderful people of Canucks’ Twitter and Monday night commenters had to ask this week!
Well, let’s get the six-day-old question out of the way first. Because a lot has changed in those six days.
To start, with a fully healthy lineup, Curtis Lazar is likely the coach’s choice at fourth-line centre. Lazar is the right-handed shot that the Canucks need in the centre spot and so far, Lazar hasn’t looked out of place on the fourth line. The interesting thing is that Nils Aman has been the centre anchoring that fourth line. Lazar takes faceoffs on his strong side but the Canucks may have found some free money here with Aman, one of their European free agent signings from this summer.
Aman is big, moves well, and despite what we were worried about before the season, he continues to look big and move well in NHL games. We knew this kid was something special back at Canucks development camp when he was absolutely flying compared to the likes of Aidan McDonough, Jonathan Lekkerimäki, and other prospects.
It does, however, come as a surprise that Aman has been able to fit in this well in the NHL already.
When push comes to shove and every forward is healthy, we do expect Aman to be the odd man out. But by golly, we have been impressed with this free-money acquisition from the Canucks this season. He’s no $100 bill like Andrey Kuzmenko, but Aman looks like a crisp 10 right now.
As for Jack Rathbone, he clearly didn’t earn a role in the starting lineup out of the gate. The trade for Riley Stillman likely had something to say about that but with injuries to Travis Dermott and Tyler Myers, there was a clear route to make this team and he, unfortunately, didn’t show the coaching staff enough to get him into the lineup for one of the first two games.
Now, with Tucker Poolman injured, we should see Rathbone slot into the lineup and play with Stillman on a third pairing. What would be a real tell that this coaching staff isn’t feeling Rathbone would be if Stillman and the recently called-up Noah Juulsen play on the third pairing. Juulsen is right-handed and has more NHL experience than Rathbone.
We talked about it all summer. It’s “go time” for Rathbone and it’s not been the start that he and many Canucks fans hoped for. We’re hoping to see Rathbone in the lineup tonight against Washington and have a good game to show the coaches that he belongs at this level.
We’re going to guess that it will be Nils Höglander.
He was skating on a fourth line at practice on Sunday and from the looks of it, Lazar might be the odd man out if Ilya Mikheyev makes his return to the lineup.
We will have a much better understanding when we see the line rushes from Monday morning.
Be sure to keep an eye out for Quadrelli’s scenes from morning skate article as well as check out our live show on YouTube at 1 pm.
We might see Lazar bump Aman out and the fourth line of Dakota Joshua, Lazar, and Höglander be assembled. That’s what I would like to see. As much as Aman has impressed, let’s see what Höglander looks like in that fourth-line role. I can almost guarantee his DAWG rating goes up.
Right now, we’d go with Vasily Podkolzin.
It’s clear that Elias Pettersson is locked in this season and is showing early chemistry with Andrey Kuzmenko. If you throw a big body who works hard, it could get even more scoring chances as well as tilt the zone time just enough to see more goals from Kuzmenko and Pettersson.
If healthy, Brock Boeser would be another option to consider but I don’t think I’m the only person who thinks he’s not at 100%. We all saw those first two games — Boeser is missing that bite on his shot and isn’t very physically engaged. He will hopefully bounce back soon but it’s hard to imagine that his surgically repaired wrist is back to full health after just a few weeks.
Game 20 is on the road in Colorado to face the defending Stanley Cup champions. The date is November 23rd, and the Canucks are kicking off a short three-game road trip in Denver.
The team will have played 12 road games and eight home games by game 20. It’s hard to think that the team could be out of it by the end of November so I’d have to say that still being in it would look like something over 18 points.
That is the low bar for being in it. If you see this team stumble up to the 20-game mark and have something like a 6-12-2 record, they are dancing with being out of it early.
We are going to see winning streaks and losing streaks with this team.
That’s what a team that relies on goaltending and special teams looks like.
So far, the special teams hasn’t helped them secure any points in the standings and that will need to change, and change quickly.
Anything under 18 points would really concern us.
I doubt we ever see Karel Plasek, Jackson Kunz, or Matthew Thiessen play in the NHL. They are all moving into their young 20s and haven’t shown a lot of progress to indicate that the NHL is in their future.
As for some other interesting names that are lower ranked, we like (RD) Filip Johansson, (RW) Lucas Forsell, (LD) Jacob Truscott, and (LD) Jackson Dorrington being better long-shots to bet on.
The team on paper looks worse and will really miss Rathbone and Madison Bowey.
They likely got worse in the short-term when it comes to goaltending from just how good Spencer Martin was for them last season as well.
As for the forwards, though they don’t drive the bus in the NHL, players like Justin Bailey, Sheldon Rempal, and Nic Petan were excellent offensive producers in the AHL.
The team is younger, which we like, but on paper, it looks like a worse team.
That being said, there is more excitement in our eyes when we look at this team because instead of relying on offence from Rempal or Petan, we are now looking to Linus Karlsson or Danila Klimovich to be those guys. This is exciting because the AHL is about development and there are some younger players to get excited about playing down the highway at the Abby Centre this season.
It will be interesting to see if the Canucks end up starting the season something like 3-8-1 in the first dozen games.
We know that Jim Rutherford likes to shake things up when he needs to and a poor start to a season with a lot of hope definitely presents a situation where a big move could be looked to. Obviously, as the president, Rutherford isn’t making the trade but he is the type of president who talks shop with his general manager and has the experience to know what to do and how to do it.
Trader Jim could be coming out of hibernation if the Canucks continue to have a poor start.
As for your question, out of the players you have presented, my guess is the same as yours and I do believe that trading Bo Horvat is the most likely of the bunch.
Conor Garland holds more value on your roster than he does in the trade market, and Horvat’s contract expires after this season. General Manager Patrik Allvin and Rutherford both know that you can’t let star players walk for nothing and a shake-up as well as adding to the current roster while simultaneously adding prospect depth or draft picks may be the road this team wants to go down.
Horvat’s contract situation on top of him holding the most value of the trio makes him our choice.
That wraps up another Monday Mailbag here at CanucksArmy! Be sure to keep an eye out for the call for questions every Sunday afternoon on Twitter or come back to this article whenever you want to drop your question in the comments. Be sure to use the #MM so that I can spot your question in the comments section!
See you all next week and let’s hope for a win this week!

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