Monday Mailbag: Prospect stock watch, Canucks’ trade deadline strategy, player target tiers, and more

Photo credit:Matthew Henderson
Cody Severtson
5 months ago
The Vancouver Canucks are the best team in the NHL heading into the 2023-24 All-Star Break.
Oops, sorry, I’m still Stanchies-pilled from this past Saturday’s thrilling comeback victory against the Blue Jackets.
Another similar Mailbag to last week’s; trade hypotheticals, positions to target at the deadline, opportunity, and prospect updates.
Before we get into deadline and playoff prep, let’s kickstart today’s Mailbag with just a teeny tiny dose of negativity.
I promise it will be quick!
Which of our Canucks prospects have lost stock this year?
To start this with a positive spin: I think more prospects have gained stock in the Canucks system than have lost, so that’s nice!
But for the Jonathan Lekkerimäki’s, Arshdeep Bains’s, Max Sasson’s, and Tristen Nielsen’s of the Canucks’ depth chart, several players can’t help but have fallen out of favour.
One name that is constantly brought up is Danila Klimovich. But I think his season is more in “try again next year” territory rather than “write-off” territory. The 21-year-old Belarussian is in his third AHL season and has struggled to find momentum due to an unfortunate run of injuries. Ahead of Abbotsford’s third game of the season, Klimovich suffered an upper-body injury that sidelined him for three weeks. When he returned, he looked off. His shot was not there, his timing was off, and he looked like he was trying to push through whatever was ailing him. He’d miss three of the next six games, then in a December 1st game against the Laval Rocket, Klimovich was injured during the third period and would miss 13 of Abbotsford’s next 14 games with injury—just a single game of action over 42 days. Since returning, Klim has featured exclusively on the fourth line with Alex Kannok Leipert (defenceman) as his center. Despite the lack of production (4 points in 14 games), he’s controlled play reasonably well, having outscored competition 5-1 while on the ice at 5-on-5.
The most obvious “lost stock” candidate has to be 24-year-old Aidan McDonough, whose nine points through 32 games played ranks 447th among AHL skaters this season. His points-per-game ranks 59th among all AHL skaters. Under the hood, McDonough has been a net positive at 5-on-5, with Abbotsford outscoring competition 16-11 with him on the ice—it’s just that the skillset that saw him score 45 goals over 72 games in the NCAA hasn’t translated to the AHL whatsoever. He’s averaging 1.28 shots per game, tied with John Stevens for the 18th-best shot rate on the team. At 5-on-5, his .81 shots per game also rank 18th on the team. At his age, it would take a monumental resurgence in form to restore any hopes of NHL potential.
The second most obvious “lost stock” candidate has to be soon-to-be 25-year-old Akito Hirose, who is tracking to miss the majority of the season with a lower-body injury after going pointless through the first 13 games of the AHL season with 14 shots on net. Like McDonough, Hirose’s falling stock boils down to his lacklustre scoring profile relative to his age. Production isn’t everything—Vancouver called him up in November following an 11-game run without a single point—but it helps indicate whether a player can provide more. McDonough and Hirose picked up points in garbage time late last season while under Rick Tocchet, but neither wowed during training camp. Tocchet praised Hirose’s IQ but said his fitness levels weren’t where they needed to be.
Through his 13 AHL games, the Abbotsford Canucks outscored their opposition 6-4 with Hirose on the ice at 5-on-5. Not great, not terrible.
How NHL-ready is Vasily Podkolzin; could we see him called up toward the end of the season for NHL playoffs?
Before last weekend, I’d have said this: Podkolzin is probably not the guy the Canucks need at this time during their playoff push. Though the young Russian has a quality scoring profile as a high-volume shooter for Abbotsford, his inconsistent play, lack of production lately, lack of penalty killing, and overall tentativeness post-concussion injury makes me think he is not the next man up for Abbotsford—that they would prefer to do the “Nils Höglander” and let him be the guy for Abbotsford for the entire season. I feel bad for the kid because you can tell he is trying not to overthink his play, just bulldozing his way past the defence toward the net to shoot or create rebound chances. I imagine that horrific concussion injury earlier this season weighs heavily on him when he goes into the boards for 50/50 battles. At times since his return, you could see a bit of reluctance to go in with his head down, and fair enough, considering what he went through. This is the last year of his ELC, and an impressive back half of the AHL season, including a Calder Cup Playoff run, could set Podkolzin up for a Höglander-like extension this summer. If he can produce more consistently, I’d say give him the shot, but 4 points in his last ten games will not cut it.
After this weekend, with Podkolzin having scored five points in two games, including a Gordie Howe Hat Trick in the club’s overtime victory over the Bakersfield Condors, I’d alter my tune just to add that the Vancouver Canucks would not hurt their position at the top of the NHL leaderboards by rewarding Podkolzin for his gutsy performance. The Abbotsford Canucks have struggled massively in 2024, and the club lost Filip Johansson to an incredibly dirty headshot late in their Friday night overtime loss, with zero pushback from the players on the ice after it happened. For someone like Podkolzin to step up the way he did against a much larger opponent in the early goings of a tied game to back up his teammate, and then score three points to secure the win? That’s some alpha-dog s***t right there.
I still think it’s for the best that Podkolzin sticks in Abbotsford, earns some PK reps at some point this season, and continues doing more alpha-dog s**t. Consistency in proving that you are the guy on the AHL team is how you prove NHL readiness. Linus Karlsson was a point-producing fiend at 5-on-5, and the power play then added second-shift reps on the team’s penalty kill before turning into Vancouver’s 13th forward. Jeremy Colliton could depend on Karlsson to score in almost any situation to give Abbotsford a fighting chance for the win.
If Podkolzin can repeat last weekend’s success on a game-to-game basis, then I’d count on him getting a look before the end of the season, especially once those PK reps start to come.
Which do you think is the better approach at the trade deadline: a winger for Pettersson or a 2nd-line center to help load up the lotto line?
Considering we’re still on “Pettersson extension watch,” I’d say the smartest bet is to go out and get the youngest, high-upside, high-skill centerman available on the market as both a boost to the club’s Stanley Cup Playoff run and insurance in the event that Pettersson pulls a Matthew Tkachuk at the end of the season.
The Panthers had a host of assets to deal to Calgary for a player of Tkachuk’s calibre: a 1st-round pick, a U20 center prospect, a 100-point winger, and a legit 2nd-pair calibre right-shot defenceman, and that still didn’t work out.
How would you, as a Canucks fan, feel about trading one of Lekkerimäki or Willander alongside a 2024 or 2025 1st-round pick (plus more) for a Casey Mittelstadt, Josh Norris, Dylan Cozens, Marco Rossi, Jack Drury, or Anton Lundell-type of player, knowing that Pettersson could request a trade to a team that doesn’t have the quality of assets that the Panthers had, or that the Flames thought they were getting when they trading a player of Tkachuk’s calibre?
Food for thought! If you can get the best player available that has term remaining on their deal and also provides Goodbye Pettersson insurance, then the team should do it. A rising tide lifts all boats; all of those players would be a massive boost to the club’s playoff push this season.
What deal do you think the Canucks could make to get Mittelstadt?
Well, Raymond, Ballard, and a 2nd is probably not going to cut it.
The Sabres have a loaded pipeline but lack the insulating pieces needed to enter their contention window. The Sabres traded two picks for Jordan Greenway last season and opted to re-sign Kyle Okposo and Zemgus Girgensons to insulate their young crop of forwards. On defence, too, they have Henri Jokiharu, Connor Clifton, Erik Johnson, and Jacob Bryson as their seasoned veterans, but almost all of the 5-on-5 ice time is going to the youths.
Additionally, they’re nine points out of a wild card spot with a sub.500 points percentage and have appeared to have finally learned from the Eichel era that attempting to accelerate a rebuild is a bad idea. There may even be a fear/reluctance to parlay their overflow of forward capital for pieces to help accelerate their push for contention. They might even give Mittelstadt a three or five-year extension to line up with their youths’ prime and take the patient approach while their top prospects Kulich, Rosen, Savoie, Levi, and Ostlund develop.
Short of getting ahead of the Pettersson trade request and flipping him to Buffalo for Mittelstadt+++, I don’t know if the Canucks have anything that appeals to the Sabres’ present needs. Ilya Mikheyev? Dakota Joshua? Nikita Zadorov? If the Canucks can sell high on any of those three for a young stud forward of Buffalos, they should do it. Mikheyev hasn’t looked right this season despite pretty cushy deployment alongside Pettersson, Joshua is going to cost a fortune in the offseason (cap space the Canucks don’t have, but the Sabres do), and Zadorov has been a low-cost net-positive for the most part. Still, I’m not sure the Canucks can afford to give him the contract he’s hoping for while attempting to negotiate new deals with Pettersson and Hronek.
Too long; didn’t read: the Canucks might not have the droids the Sabres are looking for.
[Trade hypothetical] Of these trade targest, who would you go after based on need and potential acquisition cost?
Tier 1: Guys who can PK, or at the very least have term remaining on their deals that aren’t over the hill and can add to the top end of the lineup in the near term and beyond.
Frank Vatrano, Yanni Gourde, Travis Konecny, Pavel Buchnevich, Trevor Zegras
Tier 2: Rentals who can add to the top end of the lineup now and down the road (if extended), who will probably cost a fortune and potentially sewer the future, but the ride will be totally worth it.
Jake Guentzel, Elias Lindholm, Casey Mittelstadt, Tyler Toffoli
Tier 3: Pricey rentals, who might be at the apex of their on-ice value this season and not worth bringing back.
Adam Henrique, Chris Tanev, Jordan Eberle
Tier 4: Quality rentals, who won’t cost a fortune but likely won’t lend to a “rising tide lifts all boats” situation.
Jordan Greenway, Sean Monahan
Tier 5: sure, why not.
Ilya Lyubushkin, Willl Borgen
Tier 5: no.
Brandon Tanev
We Guillaume Brisebois-heads haven’t forgotten.
Do you think [Chris Tanev] is worth the cost of acquisition? Or is a forward a bigger need than a d-man at this TDL?
See above. As much as having two or three credible defencemen in the reserves matters comes playoffs, I really think adding strength to the top end of the forward group matters more.
I would try to acquire Tanev for as low of a cost as possible, especially since Quinn Hughes apparently told management already to do so. I just don’t know how the club fits him into the lineup without cheesing off a guy like Nikita Zadorov, who asked out of Calgary earlier this season for a lack of ice time. More champagne problems are a good thing, though.
As I wrote in last week’s mailbag, I still think that sitting tight and being happy with how well the low-cost acquisitions of last offseason have played for Vancouver this season. I don’t know if selling the farm for rentals is the answer for a playoff push or for extending the Canucks’ contention window. But if the opportunity strikes for the right piece that fits that window, the club should be all over it.

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