Monday Mailbag: Interesting late-round Canucks draft targets, who’s returning to Abbotsford, and the hardest trait to evaluate when scouting

Photo credit:Matthew Henderson
By Faber
2 years ago
The Canucks continue to provide a breadcrumb trail to keep us interested in their offseason but we are about to have a busy few weeks beginning in July. We’ve got just a few more weeks to power through and thanks to the wonderful people asking questions on Twitter, we are able to dive into some fun topics.
I’ve seen some requests for an ability to get your questions in if you don’t have Twitter. We tried that a few weeks ago and didn’t have much of a response but I’ll cruise the comments section on this article again and see if we can find a way for an add-on to the site where you can submit your questions to the Monday Mailbag article.
If you want to get a question in for next week’s mailbag, start your comment with “#MM” and I’ll pick a few for next week.
For now, we are rolling with Twitter questions but I’d like to include some questions from the Twitterless if you’ve got a great question! So, hit it up in the comments section and use the #MM at the start of the comment.
Without wasting any more words, let’s see what the wonderful people of Canucks Twitter had to ask this week!
There are 14 AHL players who are restricted or unrestricted free agents this summer.
I’ll knock a few off who are almost certainly going to sign a contract this offseason.
Jack Rathbone, Will Lockwood, and Mikey DiPietro will each get a contract this summer. They are RFA’s and all have some NHL potential.
I’d imagine that Noah Juulsen will be back with Abbotsford next season. He wants to get his hockey career back on track after some tough injuries sidetracked his young career. Juulsen is 25 years old, grew up in Abbotsford, and suited up for eight NHL games last season. There’s a chance for him to be a call-up player and get some NHL time next season. Juulsen was loved in Abbotsford for his local connection as well as his physical play at the Abbotsford Centre.
The two Sheldons should definitely be looked at for contracts. Sheldon Rempal is 26 years old and is coming off a career year, his power play partner Sheldon Dries is 28 years old and also coming off a career year. I wish we saw more of Rempal in the NHL this past season because he really plays at a high pace in the AHL and likely deserved more than nine minutes of NHL time last season.
Dries is a centre that can boost both special teams’ units at the AHL level and fill in on an NHL second power play unit in a pinch.
I expect to see both of the Sheldons back next season. Management has told us that they are committed to making Abbotsford competitive and building off of last season — a bit step in the right direction would be bringing back their dynamic Sheldon duo.
John Stevens has really found a home with the Canucks organization over the past two and a half seasons. He is coming off a career year where he scored more than double the number of points than his second-best AHL season. Stevens is a great leader for the group, he roomed with Jack Rathbone last season, kills penalties, takes faceoffs, and is at the top of my list if the Abbotsford Canucks are to name a captain next season.
I’m not as confident when it comes to Justin Bailey, Phil Di Giuseppe, Madison Bowey, Ashton Sautner, Nic Petan, and Devante Stephens.
Stephens has the local connection, he is from White Rock and represented by a local agent — he could very easily be back next season. I thought Stephens was one of the most underrated players for the Abbotsford Canucks last season.
Bowey and Sautner are in a similar position and could easily move around the AHL. I am not confident that both will be back next year.
When it comes to Bailey, Di Giuseppe, and Petan, all three will have a lot of suitors around the league and if any team is giving them a real chance to crack an NHL roster, they should go to that team. All three have skills that could fit in the NHL but haven’t been able to put together the full toolkit to stick in the NHL. I’d love to see all three back in Abbotsford because they are top-level AHL players.
Chase Wouters and Tristen Nielsen showed well as they made the jump from the WHL to professional hockey and I hope they are both back next season. Nielsen gave an interview during a Vancouver Giants game and said that the goal was to continue playing pro hockey in North America. We will see where both of these players land but I’d love to see both back in Abbotsford.
It should be a no-brainer to bring back Wouters. He was instantly one of the better penalty killers, stuck up for his teammates and improved in the faceoff circle as the season went on.
Nielsen had a hat trick and can skate like the wind, I’d hope that Abbotsford has him on their roster next season. He should have gotten a chance in those playoff games.
I’d love to see Yushiroh Hirano back on the roster but I’m not sure if the Canucks will be willing to give him a contract. He was a great story and played well enough to prove that he can play in the AHL. I’d love to see him back.
I’d doubt it, there’s a story to be told about Lukas Jasek and I’m going to do my digging to find out exactly what happened there. It felt like there was positive progression in his game and that an NHL stint wasn’t far away for him. He was converted into a centre and looked like he was beginning to be trusted on both special teams’ units near the end of his time with the Utica Comets.
Nobody has told me the exact truth behind what happened to Jasek and the Canucks organization but the Canucks own his rights and could bring him back in the next three years. I liked what I saw from him in Utica and he just finished a season in Finland’s Liiga where he was third in scoring with 51 points in 54 games.
Jasek is 24 years old and will be back with the Pelicans in Liiga next season.
Joonas Lohisalo is a 19-year-old Finnish scorer who has a high-level shot. He moves decently well and can handle a one-timer very well. I don’t think he’s even ranked in Central Scouting’s International Rankings but I really liked the kid’s shot and motor.
He’s 6’2″ and 187 lbs but is an overaged player.
A defenceman I like is Elmeri Laakso. He is ranked 66th on Central Scouting’s Internation Rankings and I think he could be a value add to the Canucks’ defence pipeline if they can get him in the fifth round or so.
Jack Sparkes is a fun player to take a swing on. He measured in over 6’7″ and skates decently well for his size. He’s a right-shot defenceman out of the OJHL and is ranked 127th on Central Scouting’s North American Rankings.
I really like Miko Matikka out of Finland. He’s been gaining attention and is now ranked 32nd out of international skaters. He’s a big winger with a strong shot, physical play and a high motor. An NHL team is going to get a good player in the fourth round if he slides that far
Left-shot Swedish defenceman Elias Pettersson is ranked 37th out of international skaters and showed strong two-way play in the Swedish junior league with some offensive upside. His name is Elias Pettersson, so, that’s cool too.
I personally lean towards EliteProspects being very accurate. They have a great team of trustworthy talent evaluators.
Craig Button may not have the most accurate lists but I do like to listen to him when he is passionate about a player.
EliteProspects have YouTube videos of their discussions behind the rankings and I love watching those three-hour discussions on how they come to their rankings. You can learn a lot about prospects from those videos and I highly recommend them if you’re looking to learn about a prospect.
Central Scouting is a good spot to find a large list as well.
Chris Peters also has some good reports on prospects. He just released his list for the 2022 draft. He’s got Logan Cooley over Shane Wright, though. That’s a bit of a shocker.
Love this question!
One of the hardest things to evaluate is a player’s hockey smarts. This is very hard when you are making player evaluations in multiple leagues at the same time. Certain teams require their forwards to play deeper than others while some teams are fine with a player leaving the zone a half-second earlier than others.
Hockey sense can show when a player has an abundance of near-scoring chances. For example, when a player makes a great read but the play is just one pass away from becoming a scoring chance. This was very noticeable in Nils Höglander’s SHL time.
Höglander was consistently creating offensive situations but they didn’t necessarily amount to as many scoring chances as you’d hope. He was a great example of a player who was going to be even better once he was able to play with more skilled players. There was a huge jump in talent for his linemates when he went from a third-line role in the SHL to riding shotgun with Tanner Pearson and Bo Horvat in the NHL.
You like to see a draft prospect be able to include their teammates and use them in a way that makes the team better but there are times when you have to realize that a prospect may be just that much better than his teammates. This happens a lot in the CHL and European junior leagues. It’s a big reason why players who are in the SHL, Liiga, or KHL during their draft year are looked at differently. Prospects that are able to graduate out of their junior programs are asked to play a much smarter style and you can see a player’s hockey IQ much easier in those pro leagues. We like Joakim Kemell, Jonathan Lekkerimäki, Lian Bichsel and Marco Kasper for these same reason.
When it comes to the easiest trait to assess when scouting, it’s likely the player’s effort level. You can tell within about 60 minutes of ice time if a player has a high drive or not. When evaluating a prospect, you need to watch what happens when goals are scored against as much as you need to watch when the player is scoring. Evaluating where the goals against come from and if the player has dead feet are two quick ways to evaluate effort level.
Simple things like watching a player’s feet in the neutral zone or watching them backcheck are huge. Even little things like when they change can help evaluate a player’s effort level. You can see a high level of effort in how a player attacks the point when defending and how much effort they give on a forecheck.
A strong effort level is something that every player can do if they are willing to put in the work. It’s easy to evaluate because a lack of effort sticks out even in the most skilled player’s games.
I would be very surprised to see Kuzmenko put up 50 points. I think it’s possible if he becomes the trigger man at five-on-five for Connor McDavid in Edmonton but I don’t think that I am confident enough to put a bet on the over for Kuzmenko.
I’d expect him to be in the realms of 24-40 points in his rookie NHL season. Kuzmenko may be a 50-point player in the future but I doubt he has that kind of instant success in the SHL.
Well, that wraps up another Monday Mailbag here at CanucksArmy. Thanks as always for the great questions this week and as I mentioned during the intro, begin your comment with “#MM” if you’d like to ask a question for the mailbag.
A few more weeks to go until the NHL draft is upon us, stay out of the silly season, folks.

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