Monday Mailbag: The top NCAA and European free agents, a round of “who says no” trade proposals, and will Jack Rathbone play NHL games this season?
Photo credit:Matthew Henderson
By Faber1 year ago
There ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley low enough to go along with the ups and downs of a Vancouver Canucks’ season.
We’ve already seen so much happen this season and that may just be a taste of what’s to come on the heels of a big loss at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks.
Trade rumours are growing similar to weeds in an unkept driveway while questions about what’s next are bouncing around Canucks fans’ minds like a puck on Luca Sbisa’s stick.
We once again have a big mailbag to dig through this week. So, let’s get right into said mailbag and see what the great people of Canucks’ Twitter had to ask this week!
We have recently begun seeing some healthy scratches around the league and a couple of small trades kick off what is expected to be a busy four weeks up to the trade deadline.
Saturday night’s game against the Ducks had a lot of pressure on it and the Canucks didn’t look good at all. Losses like that tend to lean a team’s decision much further in a direction than a regular win does. This team is already on the edge of being a team competing for a playoff spot and as the deadline approaches, more losses should lean them in the direction of selling at the deadline.
The Canucks could push for a playoff spot, it’s still possible. However, the odds are not in their favour and the new regime seems smart enough to know that miracle runs don’t happen every year. That being said, the Canucks going on a miracle run to the playoffs doesn’t satisfy many fans’ hopes.
Fans want a playoff run, not a run to the playoffs.
To achieve the playoff run that this fan base craves, they may need to take a hard look at the roster and make tough decisions. The owner has already done that with his hockey ops department, I now expect the hockey ops department to do the same evaluating on the roster and make tough decisions with future playoff runs in mind.
That being said, Jim Rutherford, Patrik Allvin and their crew could set the market as Rutherford-run teams have done in the past. I doubt there’s a great taste in the Canucks’ hockey ops staffs’ mouths after Saturday night’s outing.
Roster changes could come at anytime.
The uncertainty around Jack Rathbone’s current injury does make this tough.
I do enjoy watching Rathbone play as a number one defenceman in the AHL. We have also heard from Rutherford that his teams have no problem giving a player a full extra year in the AHL.
Before this most recent Rathbone injury, I would have expected to see him in the NHL later this season.
Now, I’m not so sure.
The Abbotsford Canucks currently have 26 games remaining in their season. They are also secured in sixth place, which will have them in the AHL playoffs.
With this last injury, it may have just been the final bump in the road that is going to keep Rathbone from returning to the NHL this season.
If that is the case, it’s not a bad thing. Rathbone is really improving his defensive play and was growing his confidence in those AHL games. I’m not sure if we could be saying that about him if he was spending time in the NHL over the past two months. Having a prospect marinate a bit longer in the AHL is better in the long run and this is a thought that Rutherford believes in.
A playoff run for Rathbone and the red-hot Abby Canucks could be a fun thing for fans to follow in May.
Yes, Nick! You absolutely can. The Scouting with Faber series has been going pretty well so far. We are up to five instalments now.
Please get in the comments of those articles about what you would like to see in upcoming Scouting with Faber articles or hit me up on Twitter as Nick did.
When I asked a few weeks ago, I was told that his recovery was going well but there is no timeline for him to get back to game action until he is able to consistently skate.
I’ll try for a better update in the coming days. Abbotsford is back home and their practices are open to media this week.
Devils say no.
Canucks say no.
Though many fans want to see Nic Petan in the NHL, from their play this year, I’d imagine that those making the call-up decision would lean towards Sheldon Dries, Sheldon Rempal and Will Lockwood before Nic Petan. Dries and Rempal have been playing such good hockey this season and both have been on an absolute tear of late. As for Lockwood, he’s a younger prospect with an NHL future. You’d like to see Lockwood in the NHL for another run at some point this season.
Petan definitely has some offensive pop but there’s been a lot of that pop in Abby this season. Those three players I mentioned might have jumped Petan in the depth chart for a call-up.
Sign some interesting bottom-six options for cheap, clear up cap space, add high picks in the 2023 draft, and look to retool whatever you can to make the team’s competitive window begin to open for the 2023-24 season.
Don’t put any pressure on the playoffs next season. Let’s instead see the organization put pressure on a Stanley Cup push in 2023-28.
I’ll start with a couple of European free agents forwards that the Canucks could target as depth pieces on their 2022-23 roster.
The first name is a bit of an obvious one but it’s a good fit with the connection between him and Vasily Podkolzin. Arguably the top European free agent in the 2022 offseason will be Andrei Kuzmenko. Currently, in his eighth KHL season, he is clicking at over a point per game rate and has improved his point total every year in the KHL.
Kuzmenko currently sits second in KHL scoring with 50 points through 20 goals and 33 assists in 45 games.
Kuzmenko played two KHL seasons alongside Podkolzin and did have significant time on a line with the Canucks’ Russian rookie. Kuzmenko is 26 years old now and by means of undrafted KHLers who want to make the jump to North America, he’s right around that age to give it a shot.
Alongside the Podkolzin connection, Kuzmenko has another connection to the Canucks as he is represented by Russian super-agent Dan Milstein. Milstein represents Danila Klimovich, so there is a small connection to the organization that way. I wouldn’t call that a lock though as Milstein represents five San Jose Sharks, on top of four Tampa Bay Lighting, and four Toronto Maple Leafs players.
Many are curious to see what Kuzmenko can do in the NHL. He’s a good skating winger who comes in at 5’11”, 195 lbs. From what I saw, he’s a good passer and has an okay shot. He moved around the ice well and had a good motor on him which stood out in the KHL.
As for another European player, this one isn’t a free agent but I’d like to see if it is at all possible for the Canucks to circle back with Lukas Jasek. He signed a one-year deal to go play in Finland and is third in scoring for the top Finnish pro league.
A league where Petrus Palmu leads in scoring, so good for the little bowling ball!
Jasek showed the ability to play centre in the AHL and with the team in Abbotsford, I was really hoping to see him stay with the organization. The Canucks will have to qualify an offer to the soon-to-be RFA and I sure hope they do and bring him back. He took big steps in his last AHL season and I’ve got to do more digging on what the reasons for him dashing off to Finland were.
As for NCAA free agents, I’ve got a list of defencemen that I like so I’ll just zoom through four names real quick.
Brandon Scanlin is a big left-shot defenceman who is mean around his own net and is actually beginning to blow up offensively with nine points in his last nine games and three of his season’s five goals coming in the last eight games. This dude is 6’4″, 215 lbs and a punisher to anyone who comes around his crease.
Nick Blankenburg is the opposite of Scanlin but I still like his skills at the pro level. Blankenburg is a right-shot defenceman who is only 5’9″ but moves around the ice with NHL-pace. He is the captain of Michigan and an excellent puck-mover. He only lacks size and strength.
Jake Livingstone is the kid we want to see come home. The BC-born right-shot defenceman has been making waves around the NCAA as his offence continues to skyrocket on the top-ranked Minnesota State Mankato team. 6’3″, 205 lbs and right-handed, he’s the perfect body size but needs to work on some part of his skating. I like the possible addition of Livingstone as he could get to work with Mackenzie Braid in Abbotsford and potentially turn into a player who can contribute at the NHL level down the road.
Zach Metsa is another undersized right-shot defenceman who may be the best offensive defenceman in the NCAA. He’s hot right now with five goals and 11 points in his last 10 games with Quinnipiac and will play his way into an AHL lineup this spring. The concern is his 5’9″ frame and where he projects as an NHLer but he will be in the AHL and likely throws up some big numbers there that may be enough to get him a shot in the NHL one day.
Well, that wraps up another Monday Mailbag here at CanucksArmy. It’s always a blast writing these and as always, thank you to everyone who helped contribute on Twitter.
Have a great week and we will see you around!
Recent articles from Faber