Monday Mailbag: NCAA free agents to watch, the best right-shot defenceman in the 2023 draft, and a $3 million third-line centre

Photo credit:Matthew Henderson
By Faber
1 year ago
It’s too bad that Vancouver Canucks wins are as valuable as Dogecoin right now because the hockey team is playing well and piling up the points.
Since we gathered here last Monday to answer some Twitter questions about the Canucks, they rattled off three wins, putting them on a four-game win streak and averaging only two goals against over their last five games.
There are certainly some positives to take away from the Canucks’ recent stretch of play but we’ve been fooled by a coach’s bump before.
There’s no way we will be fooled again…
This four-game winning streak has seen the Canucks post a .928% save percentage and that is a high number that is certainly achievable for four-game stretches from a goaltender of the quality of Thatcher Demko. The high level of goaltending is certainly noteworthy but the team has looked better in its own end of late. They are protecting the high-danger areas much more effectively and without using inkhorn statistics, you can see that the team is making fewer mistakes in their own end of the ice.
Team tank might have to kick the bucket here soon as the Canucks continue to slide further and further away from having a hopeful shot of winning the draft lottery. It’s most likely that the Canucks end up having a 5-8.5% chance of winning the lottery. And honestly, that’s fine. Nobody truly believed that this was a bottom-three team in the league and with Demko back and playing well, sliding into that bottom-three is just too difficult. Yes, losing is difficult for this Canucks team — almost as hard as winning. I hope that was confusing to read, because it was confusing to write but I stand by it.
Now that all of our brains are twisted in a pretzel, let’s dive into this week’s crop of questions.
No more wasted words, let’s dive into the mailbag and see what the wonderful people of #CanucksTwitter had to ask this week!
Let’s quickly describe the player for those who may not be aware of the name.
Valtteri Pulli is a 22-year-old (it’s his birthday today), left-shot defenceman who plays in the Finnish top league. Jeff Marek’s mention of him receiving interest from NHL teams back in February on the 32 Thoughts Podcast certainly peaked the attention of many Canucks fans.
The Canucks will certainly be active on the NCAA, CHL, and European free agent market. Pulli is interesting because he’s a pretty good skater and stands at 6’6″.
He’s not necessarily at a level where a European free agent should get you excited for his arrival like Andrei Kuzmenko but because he is so young and has some raw skating talent and size — teams will surely be calling.
Here’s what we know.
Pulli’s Liiga season could come to an end on Tuesday.
His team TPS Turku finished ninth in the Liiga regular season standings and he will now have a best-of-three play-in series against Assat (and yes, their abbreviation is ASS).
Pulli could end up signing an entry-level contract with any NHL organization and that ELC would likely slide to the 2023-24 season with him receiving an amateur tryout with an AHL team so that he can practice and play with an AHL team throughout the remainder of the AHL season and into the AHL playoffs.
We don’t believe there is a team out there that is willing to give Pulli NHL time this season but if there happens to be one out there, perhaps that is the team that Pulli wants to sign with.
As for the Canucks, Pulli certainly has to be intriguing, but they may be looking at an even younger Finnish defenceman with size.
Joni Jurmo’s Liiga season is officially over as his team finished 11th in the regular season standings and Jurmo is eligible to sign with the Canucks, pick up an ATO with the Abbotsford Canucks and play for them down the stretch and into the playoffs. Jurmo was the top draft pick of the Canucks in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
Abbotsford could use the depth and Jurmo wants to come to North America. The only questions are if the Canucks want to use a contract spot on Jurmo and if he is good enough to play in the AHL as a 20-year-old or needs another season in Liiga to develop.
We should hear news on this sooner rather than later.
It wouldn’t shock anyone, right?
There are some very intriguing prospects in that range, but this team is clearly in a stage where they want to get to winning as soon as possible. They want to capitalize on their core being in their prime and perhaps the Canucks make a move similar to the Montreal Canadians last season when they traded the 13th and 66th overall picks for Kirby Dach.
We’d really really really like to see a prospect be added to the pipeline with their first-round pick but are surely not going to be shocked if the Canucks end up moving that pick.
I want to start by saying that I’d go the route of spending that money on a defenceman, but since you asked about centres who will be coming at around $3,000,000…
I’d think that Vladislav Namestnikov is a name to watch. He’s solid in his own end and happens to be a Dan Milstein client. Namestnikov probably comes in under $3,000,000 on a multi-year deal. He has played on seven NHL teams over the past four seasons, and I’d imagine he would like to find a steady home for a couple of years. We’ve seen Namestnikov move away from being a centre over the years, but the Canucks would have to clarify that he is coming in as a 3C if they were to target him. This team can’t have any more wingers.
Ivan Barbashev is another Milstein client but he’s not as reliable defensively as Namestnikov.
Maybe the team wants to take a risk on Sean Monahan on a one-year deal.
I just don’t think that this year’s free agency class is a spot where you want to spend $3,000,000 on a centre. I don’t know if they will live up to that cap hit.
Very much doubt that Arvid Costmar or Matthew Thiessen gets a contract.
Connor Lockhart has a chance, as he has been great in the OHL this past season and impressed at training camp.
If I had to make an educated guess, I’d say that all three are not signed. Maybe Lockhart gets an AHL deal with Abbotsford.
Well, he will get to Vancouver with about 14 games remaining in the season.
I expect to see him on the second power play unit and likely pick up a few goals before the season’s end.
Getting a chance to have some NHL experience under his belt is the key here. McDonough is likely to be in the AHL next season and my expectations for him finding immediate success in the NHL are not high. He has a shot that should be able to beat goaltenders, but the jump from NCAA to the NHL is no joke. The speed and physicality should be difficult for him to deal with, and my expectations are that he learns from this experience and comes into next season as a high-end AHL scorer in a similar way to Linus Karlsson this season.
Max Sasson, LW.
Sam Malinski, RD.
Jake Livingstone, RD.
Ryan McAllister, LW.
Akito Hirose, LD.
Max Andreev, C.
Well, Axel Sandin-Pellikka is Swedish but David Reinbach is 6’2″. Both should be selected in the first round and are likely the two best right-shot defencemen in the 2023 draft.
Reinbacher is the better choice. He has the potential to one day be Quinn Hughes’ partner if he hits his ceiling and our expectation is that Reinbacher is the first right-shot defenceman selected in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. If the Canucks have the option to pick between the two players, we think they will go with Reinbacher over ASP.
He should be skating in the next few weeks.
Filip Hronek is still battling an upper-body injury.
That wraps up another Monday Mailbag here at CanucksArmy. Expect to see some NCAA news flood in over the next few weeks and we will have you covered with all the latest news around the team.
As always, thank you to everyone who sent in a question this week. Without you, this article would suck!
See you all next Monday.

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