Monday Mailbag: The Höglander-Pettersson-Podkolzin line, defence depth after the top-six, and expectations for successful AHL development

Photo credit:Matthew Henderson
By Faber
1 year ago
It’s almost that time again. The summer is coming to a smoky conclusion and the players are beginning to file into Vancouver to prepare for training camp in Whistler.
We’ve had another fun summer of offseason coverage on the Vancouver Canucks but it’s almost time for the rubber to meet the road and kick off the 2022-23 season of Canucks hockey.
This upcoming weekend is sure to be one of my favourites as the North American prospects will gather in Penticton to take part in the return of the Young Stars Tournament. We still haven’t seen a full roster of who the Canucks are sending but it should be released in the very near future.
We are going to be chatting with Assistant General Manager and Director of Player Development Ryan Johnson on Tuesday afternoon and will have more information on the tournament as well as get his thoughts on some of the new prospects added to the system.
Top-end players like Bo Horvat and J.T. Miller have returned to Vancouver over the weekend and we expect to see a much more NHL-loaded group out on the ice on Monday for the continuation of the offseason skate sessions.
Cheers to everyone who has enjoyed the Monday Mailbag throughout the offseason. I’ve been the lead on the mailbags for quite a while now and week after week, we are sent great questions and this wouldn’t be possible without you all.
So, let’s not waste any more words in the preamble. Let’s dive into the mailbag and see what you wonderful people had to ask this week!
My expectations for Danny DeKeyser aren’t the highest and it’s likely that his agent isn’t looking for a massive price tag to go along with his client.
We imagine that DeKeyser comes in at a league minimum $750,000 deal. If another team wants him at more than that, then he should take it and run.
DeKeyser could be a fine depth piece who likely starts in Abbotsford but I don’t think he’s going to move the needle on the Canucks’ defence corps.
The depth outside of the top-six defencemen that you’re likely relying on falls on the shoulders of left-shot guys like Christian Wolanin, Wyatt Kalynuk, Guillaume Brisebois, and potentially DeKeyser. The right side actually has more quality in the depth with Kyle Burroughs, Brady Keeper, and Noah Juulsen.
The NHL bottom-pairing is going to be some kind of mix of Jack Rathbone, Travis Dermott, Tucker Poolman, and maybe Luke Schenn if Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Quinn Hughes get together on the team’s top pairing.
There’s a decent amount of 7,8,9-type defencemen in the organization. I don’t think Juulsen is a bad player in a pinch. Keeper could maybe get some NHL games in if he shows well in the AHL. Kalynuk and Wolanin are vets but you don’t want to see them combine for more than a dozen NHL games.
With Tyler Myers, OEL, Hughes, Dermott, Schenn, Rathbone, Burroughs and Poolman being the top-eight, you don’t feel too bad about the team’s third pairing and the depth behind it. You more just crave one more top-four defenceman and with the potential of Hughes playing the right side, the story of the defence core is going to be an interesting one to follow at training camp and in the preseason.
This line was definitely one of the most exciting lines to watch last season. They only played about five games together and totalled 65:35 of ice time together as a trio, so yes, the sample size is pretty dang small.
Though the sample was small, the Höglander-Pettersson-Podkolzin trio was exceptional together. They were good in their own zone, they were good in the offensive zone, and they are all so young and played an exciting brand of hockey. The trio had a 65.8% control of the expected goal share and was on the ice for five goals scored and only one against.
It did help that the trio benefitted from having an on-ice save percentage of .963% behind them as well as an on-ice shooting percentage of 12.8%. These numbers definitely made them look much better than they actually were but that 65.8% control of the expected goal share is something that also has to be mentioned to go with their 5-1 goal differential.
Using the combination of Podkolzin’s defensive skill with Höglander’s offensive skill to compliment Pettersson’s all-around game is a trio that worked in their limited time together last season. When the lines need a shake-up this season, heading back to this fun trio would be something I’d imagine a lot of Canucks fans are on-board with.
I am incredibly excited to work on The Stanchies this season. We are going to work as a three-man team to bring you the best post-game series in the market. Wyatt will be doing what he does best with support from Quads as an editor and with me in the room grabbing quotes.
We as media are expected to be back in the room this season so I’ll be a regular at Schenn’s locker getting Wyatt all the quotes he needs from the Canucks’ dad.
We are so excited to have The Stanchies here at CanucksArmy. It’s going to be an excellent year for post-game reports.
Right now, we’d project that Nils Höglander is going to be used on the fourth line alongside Curtis Lazar and Jason Dickinson.
Höglander should get his top-nine chance when there is an injury to the top-nine or poor play from someone in that group.
Though there are some pros to going to the AHL, there are more cons that likely hurt the confidence in Höglander’s game. This is a player who believes he is an NHLer, gets along well with the players on the NHL roster, and has shown in the past to be a very effective contributor of offence at five-on-five.
It’s likely that he starts the season on either special teams unit but could show a lot of value to this team if he can be a driver of even-strength offence on the team’s fourth line.
It’s no secret that Dickinson’s offence was horrendous last season. He had two stretches of 20+ games without a goal and needs to be more consistent to get ice time with this Canucks team that is deep at forward. We know that Höglander can create offence at a high rate and the hope is that he can help Dickinson and Curtis Lazar find the back of the net more than they have over their NHL careers.
Dickinson has not scored 10 goals in a season over his career. He’s been an NHL regular for the past four seasons.
As for Lazar, he had a career-high, eight goals last season with the Boston Bruins. The hope is that he can find even more offence in a Bruce Boudreau-coached team.
Being a fourth-line player isn’t likely the role that Höglander wants to begin the season. The good news is that he is going to face the easiest competition of his NHL career in this role. He will be given a chance to use his speed and skill against other teams’ worst forwards and defence pairings. Beginning the season on the fourth line presents a big challenge for Höglander to work hard every night and get into Boudreau’s good book for the future.
Höglander doesn’t lack a strong work ethic, he just needs to be better in the areas where his coach has requested improvement. If you’re betting on a Canuck to bounce back, I’m putting all my chips on Höglander.
They are going to be younger, lose some of the scoring from the defence, and rely on new talent to lead the offence.
Here are some of my expectations if the AHL team proves to be successful this season.
Linus Karlsson becomes a top-line player by December.
Arturs Silovs will be the team’s starter for the playoffs.
Brady Keeper becomes a top-pairing defenceman and stays healthy.
Danila Klimovich becomes a top-six player by the end of the season.
If these four things happen, I’ll be very happy with the development out in Abbotsford.
I’m expecting to see Arshdeep Bains make a big impact in his rookie season as a pro. Players like Phil Di Giuseppe and Sheldon Dries should be big-time players once again.
The power play should once again be a top-three unit in the AHL. They have a ton of talent for an AHL team. It’s going to be a fun team to watch and I highly recommend getting out to the Abbotsford Centre for a game and a foot-long hot dog from Sully’s.
That’s it for this week’s Monday Mailbag article. We will be out at the Canucks’ summer skates this week as well as travelling to Penticton to cover the Young Stars Tournament that begins with games on Friday.
We will see you all next Monday and be sure to check out tomorrow’s Blackfish Report on the week that was for the Canucks’ prospects.

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