Is there still a role for Ilya Mikheyev with the Vancouver Canucks?: Year in review

Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
1 month ago
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The story to start Ilya Mikheyev’s second season with the Vancouver Canucks was all about his surgically-repaired knee. The story by the end of the season was about the Russian winger’s hands which produced just one goal in the final 61 games he played.
The craziest part of Mikheyev’s season was that on December 18th, he sat fourth on the hockey club with 10 goals – just two behind Elias Pettersson. But after that, it was hard to watch and surely painful to go through for a player that scored 21 times in just 53 games with Toronto two years ago.
Overall, Mikheyev registered 11 goals and 31 points in 78 games after missing the first four games of the season as he continued to recover from off-season knee surgery. However, his season really was a tale of two halves with Mikheyev scoring just once and adding eight assists over the final 41 nights of the season. It reached a low on February 22nd in Seattle when Mikheyev played a season-low 7:07, however he avoided the indignity of being a healthy scratch at any point. His lone second half goal came weeks later in a 4-3 overtime loss to Colorado on March 13th.
A big part of Mikheyev’s story this season was shot selection and shot quality. He matched his career-best total of 147 shots on goal, but the release on his wrist shot didn’t scare NHL goalies and his habit of firing shots directly into netminders’ mid-sections repeatedly became a source of frustration for Canucks fans.
The surgically-repaired knee didn’t seem to be an issue for Mikheyev who played the final 78 games of the season and didn’t require maintenance days between games. And despite playing with Elias Pettersson for much of the season, there just wasn’t any kind of bottom line to Mikheyev’s game after mid-December.
The hope was that he’d put the regular season behind him and turn a page come playoff time. However, the post-season was more of the same with Mikheyev failing to register a point, not looking terribly dangerous, producing 11 shots in 11 games and averaging 12:06 of ice time. That ineffectiveness combined with a minor injury pulled him out of the line-up for Games 5 and 6 against Edmonton.
Over the course of the regular season, Mikheyev’s underlying numbers were solid. In nearly 1,000 minutes at 5-on-5, the Canucks held an edge in shot attempts, shots, scoring chances, expected goals and goals. He certainly didn’t hurt the hockey club. But he didn’t really help it either. And for $4.75M for two more seasons, there simply needs to be more of an impact than there was over the second half of the season. There can be no more treading water when Mikheyev is on the ice. The bar has to be raised.
This is a player that doesn’t hit (18th on team with 49 hits) and doesn’t block shots (21st with 20). His calling card is his speed and his defensive awareness. Hopefully a full off-season of training – something he didn’t have a year ago – can allow Mikheyev to regain some of his high-end burst and with it perhaps some offensive confidence. The Canucks don’t need him to be a big goal-scorer, but they do need him to finish on more of the chances he had along the way.
It’s clear he can no longer realistically be a top six option on a team that needs more offensive pop higher in the line-up. However, his price point makes him a costly bottom six guy who didn’t kill a lot of penalties, although perhaps that is a role he can regain moving forward. Mikheyev received a vote of confidence from General Manager Patrik Allvin at the team’s season-ending media availability saying he believed in the player if slotted properly lower in the line-up.
The challenge then for the Canucks is to find the right spot for Mikheyev to prove his value. And most of that is no on the player to return for training camp ready to show he can still contribute because more of the same simply isn’t an option.
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