Monday Mailbag: Klimovich’s development, top prospects in the 2023 draft, and why hope has died for Canucks fans

Photo credit:Matthew Henderson
By Faber
1 year ago
We currently sit on the corner of Apathy Avenue and Rebuild Road.
After a pair of losses at the hands of the Leafs and Bruins, the Canucks currently sit 30th in the NHL regarding points percentage and have set themselves up nicely to blow up this roster and fight for the chance to draft the local kid Connor Bedard.
Bedard is selling out every WHL barn he goes to and would be doing that at Rogers Arena if the Canucks were somehow able to draft the North Vancouver kid.
Even with the Canucks’ draft lottery luck, there’s still a ton of top-end talent in this upcoming draft class — some are saying it’s one of the deepest drafts we have ever seen. Leo Carlsson has 12 points in 17 SHL games as a 17-year-old and isn’t even in some prospect sites’ top-five rankings!
The Canucks need to do something drastic to this team because not only has the core gotten sour but the environment throughout the organization has not been peachy in its own right.
It’s time for change and it’s time to stop wasting away the chance to keep franchise cornerstones like Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes.
We should have an exciting mailbag this week. We received a season-high number of questions and for that, I say thank you!
Let’s dive into what you wonderful people had to ask this week.
Simply put, it was a quiet few games for Andrei Kuzmenko before he was healthy scratched on Sunday against the Boston Bruins.
Over his prior three games, Kuzmenko averaged just 12:26 of ice-time and lost his spot on the first power play unit. It still had to come as a surprise to see Sheldon Dries hop into the lineup and play instead of keeping their newcomer in the top-12 forward group.
There’s been a lot of chemistry between Pettersson and Kuzmenko this season and though he had a three-game stretch of not bringing a lot to the lineup, this benching seemed like it was more about J.T. Miller being moved to the wing and the coach feeling like Kuzmenko, Nils Höglander or Vasily Podoklzin not being a great option for the fourth line.
The trio of Jack Studnicka, Dakota Joshua, and Nils Aman has looked completely fine in their current position as the team’s fourth line. It just seems like the Canucks need some offence and not being able to find a way to get Kuzmenko into the lineup felt like a mistake on Sunday.
Before his three-game slump, Kuzmenko had six goals in five games.
Six goals in five games.
This dude set Rogers Arena into a frenzy just 10 days ago.
It’s very surprising to see Dries slide into the lineup instead of the Kuzmenshow, and with Podkolzin leaving Sunday’s game after a fight, there may be an easy decision for head coach Bruce Boudreau to make but if not, we are very curious to see which forward comes out in Kuzmenko’s place.
He should be in the lineup for this Canucks team and let’s hope that a message was received and that Kuzmenko shows well on Tuesday in Buffalo.
Well, I can tell you that I don’t believe Danila Klimovich’s agent was extremely happy seeing his 19-year-old client healthy scratched for the second time in the early parts of the AHL season.
I’m going to doubt that power-agent Dan Milstein is very happy in general, because Kuzmenko is also a client of his.
To hit the strikeout would be seeing Ilya Mikheyev as a healthy scratch for Will Lockwood on Tuesday evening.
As for the Klimovich scratch on Saturday night, it didn’t surprise me in the least. Klimovich didn’t have a shift in the final 15 minutes of Thursday’s Abbotsford Canucks game and there have been a lot of concerns about, frankly, a lot of parts of his game. The exciting moves that he tried last season have seemingly been coached out of him and though he rarely pulled them off in-game, at least last season, he was trying to use his strengths in an AHL game.
Watching Klimovich’s progression is troublesome. He’s now had two different AHL coaches who have clearly gone in two very different directions when it comes to reinforcing this kid. He was given the carrot last year but is now being given the stick. He may not be one of the best 12 forwards on any given night in the AHL and one thing is for sure — he will not be playing in the NHL this season.
Klimovich is in the AHL to develop.
This 19-year-old kid has done his part to adjust to the North American lifestyle and by all accounts, he has done a very impressive job learning the language and making communication a problem of the past.
Unfortunately, there is simply not the right kind of progression in his play on the ice. Klimovich has seemingly had the good coached out of him while the bad continues to stay in his game. I’ll give him a bit of credit and say that he does have more pace when it comes to attempting to get engaged defensively but there are blatant lapses in the defensive zone that open up easy scoring chances for the opposition.
Overall, there’s just not a lot to like about how his game is progressing.
One tactic that has not been used on him this season is just throwing him in the deep end and hoping that he swims.
For a season and a bit now, Klimovich has been a bottom-six forward who occasionally sees time on the power play.
My thought is to just throw him on the top line for a couple of games — let him play with guys like Justin Dowling, Will Lockwood or Linus Karlsson. Put the kid in a position where his strengths can actually show up instead of trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.
At the same time, an opportunity is earned and that is something that Abbotsford head coach Jeremy Colliton has told me multiple times in the few conversations I’ve had with him at Young Stars, Abbotsford training camp, and during post-game interviews.
Development is not linear and the curve for how he improves is relatively unknown with Klimovich’s rare situation of not coming up through the CHL or European high-level development programs.
It’s just a bit worrisome that through 70 games in a developmental league, Klimovich has never once lined up in Abbotsford’s top-six even as just a small attempt to see what he looks like in that role.
So yes, he’s still young but at the same time, the current way that he is being developed isn’t working and that hurts both the player and the organization.
Again, he’s still young.
This player’s story has not been written in stone just yet.
It felt like hearing “Levels” by Avicii in the club back in 2012.
Never too early for draft talk, GeeNVee!
Here’s my top-six from the 2023 draft as of November 14th, 2022.
  1. Connor Bedard
  2. Adam Fantilli
  3. Leo Carlsson
  4. Matvei Michkov
  5. Brayden Yager
  6. Zach Benson
I think Zach Benson is a ton of fun to watch, he can make all the passes that an NHLer needs to have in their arsenal, and his release is beautiful to watch. He will likely be even better when he grows a bit more and is one of the later birthdays in the draft.
Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli, and Leo Carlsson will immediately be NHLers. Making an immediate impact and making for one of the most exciting draft classes for years to come.
Matvei Michkov is uber-talented but his situation with SKA in the KHL is worrisome. Somebody is going to get a really good player once he comes over from the KHL for the 2026-27 season. That’s just a long time to wait.
Brayden Yager is a skating demon who is going to be an impact scorer in the NHL very soon. He might surprise a lot of people this year, as this kid has ridiculous potential.
You bet it is.
You’ve got to do it on the app.
I’d really consider just Pettersson and Hughes the untouchables for this team.
Ever since he’s come into the NHL, Pettersson has looked like captain material to me and with all he has gone through in his few years with the Canucks, he feels like the captain of the new core.
Hughes is simply the type of defenceman that you can build your backend around. He is such a good puck-mover and has never ever had that perfect partner to truly unlock his potential. Getting Hughes a big right-shot partner who can move the puck decently should be the number one thing the Canucks are trying to acquire with their trade capital after they hopefully move on from current players on this roster.
We’re going to end on this one.
Right now, no, there is no hope.
When you assemble a team in the NHL, you do it by building a core. You pick a handful of forwards, a few defencemen, hopefully, a goalie — and then you build around them. As a general manager or a president, you look to put together pieces of a puzzle to make something that you are proud of and then see what they can do when you release them on to play against other NHL teams.
Jim Benning attempted this.
His team included Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Vasily Podkolzin, J.T. Miller, Bo Horvat, Quinn Hughes, Tyler Myers, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and Thatcher Demko as the core of this team moving forward.
Benning added Conor Garland to the mix, found something decent with Nils Höglander, liked a lot of what Luke Schenn did to the group, and even added (and extended) Tanner Pearson for a veteran presence to help support his core.
Jim Benning was fired almost a year ago because his core was not good enough.
The fans grew tired of empty promises and knew that this team needed to do better and to do better, needed to have a new direction.
That new direction that Canucks fans hoped for did not come from the signings of Ilya Mikheyev and Andrei Kuzmenko. It didn’t come from adding fourth-line pieces like Dakota Joshua, Nils Aman, and Curtis Lazar. It didn’t come from doubling down on Miller. And winning has not come as easy as it did for Bruce Boudreau as it did last season.
This Canucks team is broken. They don’t have “it”.
“It” is what Kevin Bieksa talked about when he spoke about how bad it felt in the two seasons with the Canucks when he missed the playoffs.
“It” is how the Sedins worked in practice day in and day out and were leaders by example.
“It” is Gino Odjick, Alex Burrows, Ryan Kesler, Stan Smyl, Trevor Linden, and Tiger Williams knowing that you had to give — to get rewarded.
This team, they aren’t “it”.
It’s time to stop doubling down. This team needs to be reconstructed. It doesn’t need more building, it requires reconstruction.
There are some good pieces here but there are going to need to be some hard times before those good pieces can amount to anything.
This team needs to be pulled back before it’s sent forward.
You can keep kicking the can down the road expecting that the can will evolve into a Stanley Cup.
Everyone is tired of this.
Canucks fans have lost hope.
It’s 16 games into the season.
All that is being asked for is hope.
Thanks to everyone who sent in questions this week. We will see you next Monday.

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