Monday Mailbag: lead management, backyard drafting blunders, a brief review of Podkolzin’s performance, and more

Photo credit:Matthew Henderson
Cody Severtson
23 days ago
The Vancouver Canucks have overcome their first speed bump on this nine-game homestand through March.
After rattling off two straight losses to the Avalanche and the Capitals, the club returned to the win column with three of their best performances of the season: a 3-2 win over the Sabres, a 4-1 win over the Canadiens, and a 4-2 win against the lowly Calgary Flames.
The sun is shining in BC.
Restart the parade plans.
The Canucks will shake the “loser franchise” tag thanks to the dynamic undersized Swede Nils Höglander, leading the team in 5v5 goalscoring.
Let’s get into this much more upbeat installment of the Monday Mailbag!
What can the Canucks do to close out periods without letting the opposing team score in the dying seconds?
In a sense, this is quite a champagne problem!
“Oh no, the best team in the NHL gave up a stinker to turn their three-goal lead into a two-goal lead!”
The “giving up leads late” thing was an issue a couple of times this season, namely the Avalanche game, where they gave up four straight after dominating the first 50 minutes of play en route to an overtime loss. Or the game against the Penguins when they similarly gave up a two-goal lead en route to an overtime loss.
The classic coach’s post-game cliche requisites apply here:
  • be stronger on d-zone puck battles
  • be smarter with high-flippies to clear the zone
  • block shots
  • lean harder on guys to keep them to the perimeter
  • don’t ice the puck; get to centre-ice and dump it
If the “giving up a lead” extended beyond these two recent games, I’d say it’s an area of concern worth practicing, but I just don’t see it as a real issue. Teams that generate early leads have to play even harder to keep them. On the bright side, this team has generally done very well to play with the lead and secure it.
The Canucks have played over 2100 minutes with the lead, more than 300 minutes more with the lead than the second-ranked Boston Bruins. Interestingly, the team that has played with a lead the third-most is the Central Division’s Nashville Predators, who’ve surged into the first wild card spot thanks to a franchise-record-setting 16-game points streak.
Vancouver has outscored their opposition 117 to 91 when leading when leading across all situations. They’ve broken more stalemates than conceded, outscoring the opposition during tied games 83 to 53. The only concern is that when Vancouver is trailing by more than one goal (which doesn’t happen often), they narrowly outscored their opposition 49 to 43.
It’s worth noting that when Vancouver is up by a goal, it’s only given up the lead 38 times. Otherwise, it’s pushed its lead 61 times. Down by a goal, Vancouver has equalized 29 times, while its opposition has increased its lead only 25 times, according to Naturalstattrick.com.
For good measure, the Canucks have outscored their opposition 6 to 3 when up by a single goal over their last ten games, just at 5v5 alone. Across all situations, the Canucks have outscored the opposition 9-3 when up by a single goal to push their lead. So, really, they haven’t given up too many leads.
What would be your roster of players drafted from BC/local guys?
With Logan Stankoven being an in-house top-six playoff addition for Dallas, it’s hard not to shake your head as a Canucks fan over the club’s stubborn refusal to scout or draft out of their backyard.
It’s as if they drafted and spent years trying to convince themselves that Jake Virtanen was the right pick at 6th overall, that they refuse to acknowledge the WHL inside the first two rounds.
Since 2003, Vancouver has drafted 32 times from the first two rounds. Of those 32 picks, they’ve chosen someone from the WHL or BC/Alberta Junior Leagues just seven times:
  • Mayson Raymond
  • Michal Grabner
  • Taylor Ellington
  • Hunter Shinkaruk
  • Jake Virtanen
  • Kole Lind
  • Jett Woo
Since 2003, 20 players have been drafted from the WHL or BC/Alberta Junior Leagues outside the first two rounds. Not a single player of those 20 has played an NHL game.
There are a handful of players who could defy the odds and break the Vancouver Canucks deplorable local draft record: Jett Woo (Moose Jaw Warriors, now Abbotsford Canucks), Ty Young (Prince George Cougars), Sawyer Mynio (Seattle Thunderbirds), or Aiden Celebrini (Brooks Bandits, now Boston University). But it’s not looking hot for the Canucks Western amateur scouting department.
Let’s start with 2010 because of several mega-draft whiffs.
A reminder: these exercises are generally pointless and accomplish nothing. Development plays a huge part in the success of a draft. As we know, the Vancouver Canucks didn’t have a development program until Jim Rutherford and Patrick Allvin took over. Don’t argue with me on this. I’m right.
All you can get out of reviewing draft blunders is the ability to sit back and say, “Gee, could you imagine?!”
The Canucks did not have a draft pick until the fourth round but started with left-shot defenceman Patrick McNally at 115th overall. McNally led the Milton Academy prep school with 35 points in 28 games. At 133rd overall, the Flames grabbed forward Micheal Ferland.
The Canucks then took defenceman Adam Polasek in the fifth round, who was 101st in QMJHL scoring that year with 41 points, 18th among defencemen. Two picks after Polasek was Vancouver Giants legend Brendan Gallagher, who finished 7th in WHL goalscoring with 41 goals.
In the sixth round, the club drafted 5’9″ forward Alex Friesen and goalie Jonathan Iilahti. Four spots after Iilahti, the Ottawa Senators grabbed Mark Stone.
I mean, could you imagine if the Canucks were loading up for the 2014-15 season with Ferland, Gallagher, and Stone angling for NHL spots alongside the Sedins in their twilight years?
Lately, the backyard draft misses genuinely hurt.
In 2020, there was Justin Sourdif and everybody’s favourite goon, Matt Rempe. But, otherwise they weren’t accomplishing much with their draft capital and what was available to them from the Western leagues.
2021 will be the most egregious, with Kamloops Blazer Logan Stankoven falling to 47th overall, with the club electing to take Danila Klimovich from the 2nd-tier Belarussian leagues instead. Klimovich’s ELC slid twice due to his age when he signed it, and there is still time for him to overcome. Still, sitting 11 of the last 12 AHL games as a healthy scratch is a tough look, especially when the guy taken after you was the AHL’s second-leading producer in his rookie season before turning into a point-per-game forward for the Dallas Stars since his call-up.
Most scouts haven’t been too impressed by Tom Willander’s D+1 campaign at Boston University. However, there’s still plenty of time before we’re calling Zach Benson, Brayden Yager, or Sam Honzek massive misfires from the Canucks’ scouting staff.
Again though, could you imagine where this team would be with Logan Stankoven and Zach Benson on the roster this season?!
There is an alternate reality where the Canucks overhaul their amateur scouting department in the 2000s, and the club reloads after 2011 with a young core of Gallagher, Stone, Ferland, and Horvat for playoff contention during the mid-2010s.
I think I’d still prefer Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson, but not watching one of the worst eras of Canucks history for a decade straight could easily change my mind.
Thoughts on how Podkolzin has played?
He’s been fine.
The slashing/hooking penalty Jonathan Huberdeau drew against him on Saturday night was totally bogus. It was stick-on-stick and nowhere near Huberdeau’s hands. It is laughable to suggest that it was worthy of a penalty shot.
Unlike his play in the AHL, Podkolzin seems way more engaged in the play. He moves his feet, throws hits every shift, and runs his shifts a little longer if it means helping his unit break the puck out of the defensive zone. Otherwise, he knows his role and how to earn regular minutes. Through his nine games, the Canucks concede the fewest scoring chances per 60 minutes of 5v5 ice time with Podkolzin on the ice.
It’s a small sample, no doubt. Still, encouraging early returns from a player who has historically struggled to know and play his role.
Again, the sample size is small, but his individual rate stats at 5-on-5 are very encouraging. He has a low rate of giveaways and penalties taken alongside a high rate of rebound creation, takeaways, and hits. The only thing not in his favour right now is his shooting percentage. While fourth on the team in shot rate (7.73 shots on net per 60 minutes of 5v5 ice time), his shooting percentage is a rock-bottom zero. With Podkolzin on the ice, the club is rocking the fifth-lowest shooting percentage at 5-on-5.
For the “Elias Lindholm was a waste of assets” crowd, only he has played more minutes at 5-on-5 than Podkolzin with a smaller on-ice shooting percentage!
PDO regression has helped plenty of Canucks skaters this season. Should Podkolzin maintain all of the little details of his game, the puck will eventually start finding the back of the net. Podkolzin’s individual work rate has been too high to yield such little production. Hopefully, his confidence does not wane as the regular season winds down.
What would you consider a good North American stint for Jonathan Lekkerimäki and Elias Pettersson to end the season?
For Jonathan Lekkerimäki, I’d say even making it to North America this season just to practice should be considered a success. Considering how bad his D+1 went, that Lekkerimäki rebounded with an MVP-calibre season, leading his team and all U23 skaters in the SHL by points, earning practice spots with a playoff contending Vancouver after his SHL season is a massive win for the Swedish winger.
If Lekkerimäki dresses for a game in Abbotsford and scores 3 points over nine games, I’d call that a good start.
Elias Pettersson is in the same boat as me.
It’s not often that U21 Swedish defencemen make the jump to the AHL from the HockeyAllsvenskan. Let alone in-season, with the team pushing to secure a Calder Cup Playoff spot.
The Abbotsford Canucks finally got Christian Wolanin back into the lineup after he’d missed the previous 26 games with an undisclosed injury. The pecking order leaves little room for a first-time rookie to North American hockey to crack the roster. The left side of Abbotsford is loaded with experienced AHL/NHL veterans: Nick Cicek, Matt Irwin, Guillaume Brisebois, and Wolanin. Plus, players like Akito Hirose are trying to earn Jeremy Colliton’s trust for a full-time roster spot. If Pettersson simply gets one or two games, I’d chalk that up as a win. Any points scored during those games would be a bonus.
My expectations are very low for both, as the Abbotsford Canucks have alternated between being one of the worst in the AHL with being one of the best. Which version of Abbotsford shows up to a game is anyone’s guess.
That is only if we’re talking about the second game of a back-to-back series, as this club does not show up for the first game of a back-to-back at all.
If you have questions for next week’s Mailbag, make sure to drop them in the comments!

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