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Monday Mailbag: Who’s had a big summer, Brzustewicz or Kudryavtsev, and 3 prospects to watch at Young Stars

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Photo credit:Matthew Henderson
Faber
By Faber
7 months ago
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Welcome back to another Monday Mailbag here at CanucksArmy.
It was a slower week for news but we did see a few Vancouver Canucks prospects get into some preseason action and have some early success.
Seeing Jonathan Lekkerimäki score in his debut with Örebro was a good omen for what we hope to see more of this season. Elias Pettersson (D-Petey) also had a nice primary assist in Örebro’s first preseason game.
Aside from the Örebro duo, there was some small news and notes like Quinn Hughes receiving fourth-best odds to win the Norris Trophy next season, a handful of NHL and AHLers getting busy at Scotiabarn for some summer skates, and Jack Studnicka switching from number 18 to Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s number 23 — that should be funny.
It’s safe to say that things are quiet.
The good news is that we are just 25 days away from the Canucks beginning their Young Stars tournament in Penticton, and only 31 days until we kick off day one of Canucks training camp in Victoria.
There’s not really much else to dive into this week for our intro, so, let’s crack open the mailbag and see what the wonderful people of #CanucksTwitter had to ask this week.
No more wasted words. Let’s get into it!
The first name that comes to mind is Andrei Kuzmenko.
We’ve seen his training showcased on Instagram, as he spent two months in Bali — working out hard and sharing some fun stuff along the way as well. A player can learn a lot about themselves after their first full season in the NHL and Kuzmenko has committed to coming into camp with something to prove to his head coach, Rick Tocchet.
There are many who are doubting that Kuzmenko can replicate his scoring rate from last season, and in all honesty, they are probably not wrong to believe that Kuzmenko’s shooting percentage will repeat its 27.3% that we saw last season. Kuzmenko had far and away the highest shooting percentage in the NHL, with Brayden Point coming in second with 21.7%, and only six players finishing with over 20% last year in the NHL. (minimum 20 goals scored)
He’s an obvious pick here but the other guy to mention is Ilya Mikheyev. After ACL surgery during last season, Mikheyev is looking to bounce back and this offseason has given him time to rehab his injury and prepare himself for next season. The Canucks will need Mikheyev to be a solid top-nine forward who can contribute on the penalty kill and make his linemates better at five-on-five.
Mikeheyev could end up being a huge piece to this Canucks team, especially if he is on a line with the aforementioned Kuzmenko, and Elias Pettersson.
Time is critical for Mikheyev and we hope that he’s had enough to be as close to 100% as possible for next season.
Yeah, it’s super unlikely that we see a player not accept being drafted by a team and decide not to sign with said team. If possible, it would probably be a trade on draft day type of situation. I have to imagine that the team with the first overall pick surely knows if a player won’t sign with them.
The soonest you could see a player like Macklin Celebrini sign would be after a trade. It’s just not very likely to happen. I mean, local kid Connor Bedard just signed with the Chicago Blackhawks — gross.
A player could play out their restricted free agency time and that would kind of line up for a player to be eligible for them to sign as a free agent when they have accrues seven seasons or they are 27 or older as of June 30th.
So, let’s just keep an eye on Bedard in the summer of 2030.
Both of these prospects have certainly gained our attention for the 2023-24 season but I’d go with Hunter Brzustewicz having a higher upside. It helps that he is a right-shot defenceman and there are some projections that have him making this winter’s world junior team for the USA.
Each of Kirill Kudryavtsev and Brzustewicz has a chance at being the OHL’s leading defenceman scorer next season and each of them move extremely well with the puck on their stick. We liked seeing Brzustewicz on the penalty kill for the USA at the World Junior Summer Showcase and believe that he has a higher upside to become a bottom-four defenceman in the NHL one day.
Kudryavtsev impressed in his draft plus-one-season with eight goals and 42 assists in 67 games with the Soo Greyhounds but Brzustewicz is a year younger and we see very similar qualities in each player. Next season will be a fun one to follow in the OHL.
My personal belief is that Vilmer Alriksson is making a great decision for his development by coming over to the OHL after being drafted by the Guelph Storm in the CHL import draft.
Alriksson will be able to get top-six minutes and should be looked at as one of the better players on the team in a strong league instead of staying in Sweden and fighting for SHL time while grinding it out in the J20 Swedish league, which is a lower quality of hockey than the OHL.
Going to Guelph also helps Alriksson get accustomed to Canada and playing on the smaller ice.
Guelph recently developed another 6’6″ drafted European winger with Alexei Toropchenko, who was selected around the same time as Alriksson at the time of his NHL Entry Draft.
This also allows Alriksson to play for the Canucks at Penticton’s Young Stars tournament as well as participate in the Canucks’ main camp in Victoria.
These are all good things for Alriksson’s development.

Speed Round

We don’t have a full roster just yet but Danila Klimovich should be there and he should be one of the better scorers there. Akito Hirose has been used in some ads for the tournament, he’s one to watch and should eat up a ton of minutes at this tournament. Hunter Brzustewicz and Kirill Kudryavtsev are two defencemen to watch. There are four, on the longest speed round answer of all time.
Only if there’s not a special burger sauce available. If it’s just ketchup, mayo, and relish — you should add mustard to the mix. Trader Joe’s dill pickle mustard if you got it.
I would hammer the over on this if it’s a bet you can find. Tom Willander may be partnered with Lane Hutson, who had 48 points in 39 games last season. Boston University had three defencemen over 20 points last season. I’d expect Willander to easily be over 20 points next season.
If he finds success in the top-six and is one the second power play unit, yes. If he’s not getting power play time, and fighting for a spot in the lineup all season long, no.
I’ll guess that he doesn’t get to 20 next year.
Let’s exclude Christian Wolanin and Noah Juulsen because of their age. I’ll go with Linus Karlsson being the youngster who gets into the most NHL games next season. He can kill penalties and maybe fill in as a top-six guy in a similar way to Lane Pederson last year. Other names to watch are Jett Woo, Arturs Silovs, and Aatu Räty.
I had Christian McCaffrey last year and he dominated on a lot of weeks but I’d rock with Justin Jefferson this season. It’s just so hard to bank on a running back all year long — even with CMC getting a full offseason with San Francisco.
Silovs will not be the backup all season. Tyler Myers won’t get traded until the trade deadline. Quinn Hughes should be the captain on night one.
Those are my opinions.
No, I’d predict that he spends two seasons with BU and joins the Canucks at the end of the 2024-25 season.
Maybe Shawn Matthias during the 2014-15 season? I’d expect Pius Suter to be a better defender, though. Matthias did score 18 goals that year.
Not really any that I want or expect to be signed. Jake Wise and Jonny Tychonik have signed AHL deals and probably aren’t worth an NHL contract right now.
Jay O’Brien, the former second-round pick may be a right-shot centre to look at. I believe he is going pro but could still be eligible to return to BU and then go to the free agency market in March/April.
That wraps up another Monday Mailbag here at CanucksArmy. As always, thanks to the great folks who sent in a question to make this mailbag possible. We will be back next Monday with a new crop of questions to dive into.
Until then, be good to each other!

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