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Monday Mailbag: The one where we fix the Canucks’ top six

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Photo credit:Matthew Henderson
Lachlan Irvine
1 month ago
After a wild 6-4 win on Saturday against the Devils, the Vancouver Canucks might be the most fascinating team to watch in the entire NHL.
Right as it looked like the PDO gods were about to smite the team to smithereens, the Canucks played their Uno reverse card and won a close game by earning five goals the hard way. They deserved plenty more, but Nico Daws stood on his head in the same fashion that Thatcher Demko and Casey DeSmith have all year, and the Devils nearly pulled off a miracle.
Unlike a lot of the Canucks’ opponents during their PDO bender, Rick Tocchet’s crew actually won despite some bad shooting luck. Whether it was the Toyota Line’s promotion to the top six or the return of the beloved Lotto Line, the Canucks looked more in control than they have in most of their 25 wins. And that seems like a very good sign for the rest of the season.
This is normally the part of your week where Cody gives you good answers to your very good reader questions. But he’s been working way too hard of late, so I (Lachlan) am going to be answering on his behalf and doing my best impression of Cody instead. *clears throat* “League of Legends! Kurosawa films! My adorable golden retriever ate an entire pallet of tennis balls in five minutes!”
Let’s begin.
Who should we trade for to play with Petey?
Sometimes the most interesting solution is also the most simple one.
What we saw in New Jersey might prove the answer to this question is actually no one that isn’t here already. Reuniting the Lotto Line with Petey, J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser led to a combined eight-point night for the trio and maybe the best first period the Canucks have played all season.
The ability to flip between Pettersson and Miller in the faceoff dot makes the top line that much more dangerous and creates room for the Canucks to acquire another top-six centre before the trade deadline instead of a winger. And they could certainly use some more depth down the middle.
Top six forward options that I like and make sense.
Not only will I give you two, I’ll even give you one extra for free.
Jake Guentzel’s name has come up in recent weeks thanks to his obvious Pittsburgh connection, and he’s definitely worth consideration. The 29-year-old is a known playoff performer on an expiring contract who’s currently scoring at above a point per game pace. The price might not be cheap, but based on his track record and the kind of season the Canucks are having, trading that 2024 first-rounder suddenly doesn’t look like such a bad idea.
The only problem with Guentzel is that he doesn’t do anything to solve the Canucks’ needs down the middle. The centre market doesn’t have as many home run options for Jim Rutherford to pick from, but a few names spring forward.
One is Calgary’s Elias Lindholm, who the Flames will be trying to get absolute full value for and might be out of the Canucks’ price range, unless they’re willing to part with some of their better prospects for him. The other is Montreal’s Sean Monahan, who’s having a renaissance season with 23 points in 39 games and comes on an incredibly team-friendly deal below $1.5 million.
Either way, expect the Canucks to have to pay a pretty hefty package to bring any of these players in. They won’t get the same kind of discount they did on Nikita Zadorov again.
Explain the NHL/SHL transfer agremeent that makes Elias Pettersson AHL-eligible?
I’m no prospects genius like some of our staff here, so this took some extra research on my part.
The TL;DR of it is that the NHL doesn’t have an official agreement for prospect transfers with the SHL, meaning any player over 18 can jump over to the AHL as soon as they’ve signed a contract. This applies to most prospects.
Therefore Pettersson, who signed his entry level deal last April, could already be playing in Abbotsford if he and the team so chose. Instead, the Canucks felt it best to loan Pettersson back out to Örebro HK, his SHL team, who in turn loaned him to Västerås IK of the HockeyAllsvenskan.
It’d be a slightly different story if DPetey had been drafted from a Canadian junior team instead, since the CHL’s deal with the NHL requires teams to send their prospects back until their eligibility runs out at age 20 if they’re not going to be in the NHL. But Pettersson turns 20 in February, clearing the way for him to make the Abby Canucks next September.
What to make of Jonathan Lekkerimäki’s World Juniors performance?
Lekkerimäki was near unstoppable for Sweden, going toe to toe with the world’s best prospects and going home with ten points (including seven goals), a silver medal, and Tournament MVP honours.

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The thing that stuck out most was just how much power he can get behind his shot at 19 years old. None of Lekkerimäki’s goals were a cheesy bounce or a well-timed deke. They were all perfectly placed cannonballs that no goalie dared keep out of the net, lest they lose their glove hand.
A lot of scouts and prospect experts will remind you not to overvalue a player’s performance in a relatively short international tournament, and they’re right. But it’s also worth noting that the company Lekkerimäki joins in winning tourney MVP is a pretty elite list: Evgeni Malkin, Patrice Bergeron, John Tavares, and Connor Bedard are just a few of the stars who’ve been awarded the honour in the last two decades. Not bad!
Do you think we see Podkolzin back up in the NHL this season?
If he keeps having performances like he did last night in Coachella Valley, he absolutely will.
The biggest aspect of Podkolzin’s game that he’s been working on over his time in the AHL is recapturing the level of confidence that made him a tenth overall pick in the first place. And with 18 points in 24 games, despite missing time due to injury, it seems like he’s getting a lot closer.
The main thing standing in his path back to the NHL is finding the right place for him within Tocchet’s system. You don’t want him in a shutdown role that limits his chances offensively, so they almost have to wait for an opening in the top six to give him another shot. Or wait and see how things shake out when/if the Toyota Line cools off down the stretch.
Right now there’s no need for the Canucks to rush him back to the big leagues, and as far as the team is concerned, that’s a good problem to have.
Will the Canucks win the cup?
What makes sports magical is the chase. The NHL has never truly been about finding out who’s the best at hockey, otherwise the team with the best record at the end of the season would be the overall champion. The fact that teams that aren’t objectively the best still have a chance to win is what makes the playoffs exciting.
Are the Canucks objectively the best team in the league? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean this couldn’t be the magical year where they put it all together.
Why not these guys? Why not now?

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