Monday Mailbag: Lekkerimäki and Willander’s ETAs, and when we might see a Vasily Podkolzin call-up
Photo credit:Matthew Henderson
By Faber1 month ago
Welcome to the Monday Mailbag, brought to you by the great folks at Zephyr Epic! Use promo code “HockeySeason” for $5 off your order. Free shipping of trading cards Canada wide on any order over $50 as well! Shop local!
So yeah, the NHL season may have begun just a handful of days ago but the Vancouver Canucks and their fans are riding the wave of positivity as it feels like everything is going right for the organization.
The Canucks are 2-0 on the season with a pair of wins over a Pacific Division rival and expected cup contender, the Edmonton Oilers.
Almost all of the top prospects are scoring goals and adding assists as the CHL, NCAA, and European leagues are now in full swing.
Down on the farm, the Abbotsford Canucks are heading home after a pair of wins on the road to begin the season.
Here at CanucksArmy, we are on pace to have a record month at the site.
So yeah, things are looking really good for the Canucks organization (and CanucksArmy).
Canucks fans are deserving of a year where the team actually lives up to expectations and though it’s only been two games, there’s not much, if any, bad things that you can say right now about the 2023-24 season. Perhaps this is the year where the Canucks can have some breaks go their way.
Or perhaps this is just a flash in the pan at the start of the season.
The good news is that all the results are positive. You can worry about what’s coming but you can’t argue with what has already happened this season.
We’re choosing to look back and smile instead of looking ahead and worrying — it feels better that way.
With the early excitement comes an awesome crop of questions from the wonderful people of #CanucksTwitter.
I also saw some comments wanting to get some Monday Mailbag questions in from the comments section. We have tried this multiple times and it just seems to fizzle out after a week or so. That being said, we will try it again. If you have a question for next Monday’s mailbag, leave a question with #MM in the comments. I’ll get some of those in next week.
Alright, we have a big bag of questions this week, so let’s not waste any more words and instead dive right into this week’s mailbag.
There’s been a lot to like from Vasily Podkolzin in the first two games of the AHL season. He was shooting the puck a ton during the AHL’s opening weekend. Podkolzin had seven shots in two games with Abbotsford and that gives him the team lead with Tristen Nielsen being second on the Canucks with four shots on net. The self-confidence is showing well with Podkolzin and right now, I wouldn’t even begin to think about him getting a call-up.
Success in the AHL isn’t the ultimate goal for Podkolzin the ultimate goal is for him to find success and be able to transfer that to the NHL. Podkolzin is being used on the top line and playing on the first power play unit. He’s going to get a ton of ice time and a lot of in-game touches of the puck.
The most likely scenario for Podkolzin’s call-up would be if he has gained the confidence of his Abbotsford coaching staff and the Vancouver Canucks are looking to bolster their top-nine group at some point in February before they make a final push for the playoffs. We don’t want to see Podkolzin come up to play nine minutes on the fourth line and not see any time on special teams. This season has seen an early commitment to development for the 2019 first-round pick and with so many winger call-up options when injuries to occur to Vancouver, Podkolzin should stay on the development track for the first time in his pro career.
We can see a call-up coming in February or March if there’s been enough shown form the Russian winger. Right now, let him slow-cook in the AHL with all that ice time.
This one feels pretty easy.
Akito Hirose would head down to the AHL on Carson Soucy’s return or potentially even head down when Guillaume Brisebois returns from his injury. Hirose could use some time in the AHL to continue to develop his game, but he will be a guy that Vancouver looks at for spot starts here and there when we see injuries to their left-side of defence.
Noah Juulsen didn’t look good in preseason and he has had some bad giveaways in the Canucks’ first two games of the season. Juulsen has been on the ice for two scoring chances for and 16 against at five-on-five through two games — those are not good numbers.
Depending on Ethan Bear’s health and willingness to sign with the Canucks, he would be an upgrade. If Juulsen continues to struggle, we may even see Jett Woo get the call to the NHL to see if he can fair any better than Juulsen. Woo looked very good in the first game of the AHL season and it looks like his puck skills have improved from last year.
If all the defencemen are healthy and bear is signed, the Canucks’ defence could look something like this in December or January:
You would probably see Guillaume Brisebois or Christian Wolanin as the extra defenceman on the left side and Jett Woo, Cole McWard or Noah Juulsen as the extra on the right side.
Not too bad…
Brock Boeser’s four-goal night sure puts him at the top of the list.
Conor Garland seems to be fitting in fine with Elias Pettersson and Andrei Kuzmenko on the top line. I’d say that Garland is in the conversation for exceeding expectations.
Sam Lafferty and Nils Höglander have been able to bring a lot and chip in some offence in their roles — they are two who are exceeding expectations.
Casey DeSmith was excellent in his debut.
If you’re asking who has exceeded expectations the most, I’d say Boeser is number one followed by DeSmith.
Studnicka can remain as an emergency recall until the Cnaucks have 18 healthy skaters.
Our own Stephan Roget did a great job explaining how emergency recalls work in an article late last week.
We will have to wait and see when the Canucks get healthy. It looks like Carson Soucy is getting close and we believe Ilya Mikheyev is also approaching his debut for the 2023-24 season. Teddy Blueger is the other name to watch as he looks to recover from a bad bruise after a shot block in the preseason.
It’s still super early into their seasons but your question asks with the thought of both of Tom Willander and Jonathan Lekkerimäki having stellar seasons.
If both Willander and Lekkerimäki rip up their respective leagues this season, they could both be with Vancouver next year.
As time goes on, more and more we are seeing first-round picks do one year of NCAA hockey and then move on to professional hockey.
Willander feels like he is going to be a two-year NCAA guy but he looked excellent this past weekend and if he is able to produce offence and look strong defensively throughout his freshman season, we might see him make the jump at the conclusion of Boston University’s 2023-24 season.
As for Lekkerimäki, he’s off to an incredible start in the SHL — picking up five goals and two assists in his first 10 games with Örebro. It’s not just the points that we like from Lekkerimäki, he’s also looking like a much stronger player in the corners and defensively through the neutral zone. We can see Lekkerimäki coming over to North America next season if he continues to have an upward trend throughout the SHL season.
It will be nice to get a look at both Willander and Lekkerimäki at this year’s World Junior Championships. This will be a chance for each of these players to showcase that they are elite in their age group and ready for the next step.
Ultimately, our best guess is that both Lekkerimäki and Willander will not be with the Canucks to begin the 2024-25 season but as the question asked, if they both continue to dominate in their leagues this season, we could see Willander at some point in April and Lekkerimäki getting a look next year at training camp.
The vibes are high right now, so we don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves but it’s certainly possible to see these two sooner rather than later.
Big wins against Pacific Division teams will be huge, especially as we expect to see a few of those teams in the mix for a wild card spot but top-tier goaltending would almost guarantee a playoff spot so I’ll say the playoff hopes hinge on goaltending more than intradivisional wins.
Elias Pettersson will be in the top-three of voting this season. J.T. Miller won’t.
The Greta meetup was an absolute blast. We had 125+ people there at the event and my voice is alright after emceeing the very fun night. I’ll be drinking tea on today’s episode of Canucks Conversation though, that’s for sure.
I don’t think Conor Garland will be traded in the next two weeks unless they can get an NHL defenceman back and I don’t think they will be able to with Garland’s cap hit. He’s producing now, which bodes well but the more I work in this industry, the more I find that there are a lot of rumours out there.
I couldn’t count how many arcade games there were in there — it had to be in the 30-60 range. As for televisions, there was basically one every 10 feet on their walls including a massive projection screen that made for an awesome Canucks viewing experience.
As someone who covers the Abbotsford Canucks, I’d say all the way up to the presentation of the Calder Cup.
He signed with the Abbotsford Canucks on a one-year deal late Sunday afternoon. He should get some games with Abbotsford but may also be loaned down to the ECHL with the Kalamazoo Wings.
This Ty Young kid is showing well with the Prince George Cougars this season and by the fall of 2025, we will probably see Arturs Silovs graduate to the NHL but I’d bet that Nikita Tolopilo is the starter in Abbotsford for the 2025-26 season.
How about a boost on the defence with Derek Forbort, Justin Schultz or Shayne Gostisbehere.
But let’s not too ahead of ourselves… right?
Well, that wraps up another Monday Mailbag here at CanucksArmy. As I mentioned during the intro, if you have a question for next week’s mailbag, include it in the comments with a #MM so that I can easily spot your question. Feel free to come back to this article next weekend and add your question so it’s fresh and ready for next Monday.
Keep riding the wave, Canucks fans. This could be a very fun season.
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