Photo credit:© Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
Two intriguing defence options for the Vancouver Canucks just hit the waiver wire
By Noah Strang1 year ago
It’s no secret that the Canucks need to improve their defence corps. The position group stands out as a jarring weakness on an otherwise very solid roster. If you looked just at the Canucks’ forwards and goalies, you might think that the team was destined for a deep playoff run. However, a glance at the defencemen suggests they might be playing more golf and less hockey in May and June.
Because of the team’s ugly salary cap situation, the Canucks are being forced to get creative with how they revamp their defence. Since Travis Dermott and Tyler Myers are already out with injuries, the Canucks need defence help badly and they need it fast.
With roster cuts going on around the league, there are plenty of talented players that teams are trying to sneak through waivers. Making claims on one or more of these players is a great idea for the Canucks due to the low cost involved. They could grab a contributor — or at least some organizational depth — for nothing.
Two players in particular just hit the waiver wire and the Canucks should be very interested. Jonathan Kovacevic and Dimitri Samorukov are both defencemen in their twenties that have yet to prove a ton at the NHL level but could help bolster the Canucks defence.
Jonathan Kovacevic: RHD, 6’4″, 208 lbs
The first player that the Canucks should take a look at is Jonathan Kovacevic, a 25 year-old defenceman that was just waived by the Winnipeg Jets. As a right-handed defenceman, Kovacevic would be a valued commodity on the Canucks and have a direct pathway to NHL playing time.
Kovacevic is a large human being, standing 6’4″ and weighing north of 200 pounds. He uses that size to clear opponents out from around the net and play an intimidating role on defence. That being said, Kovacevic is far from a one-dimensional player as he has managed to put up strong offensive numbers at all levels, including 11 goals in the AHL this past season.
As a larger defenceman, Kovacevic would bring that physical presence that the Canucks have been missing in recent years. The team has emphasized that they want to be harder to play against and adding 6’4″ behemoths to your blueline helps accomplish that goal, although having great size isn’t worth much if you can’t keep up with the opposition.
“For sure the game is trending toward a lot more small, smooth-skating defencemen, but I still have to use my strength as my strength. I am big and that can work against you if you’re lethargic and slow, but as long as you’re working to stay fast and keeping up with the game, you can use it to your advantage,” said Kovacevic in an old interview with the Winnipeg Sun. “If you’re in the corners, using your reach, you can be successful. I definitely don’t think it’s a dying position or anything. There’s definitely still a lot of room for bigger guys as long as they know how to use their body.”
Kovacevic has played the majority of the last three seasons with the Manitoba Moose, an AHL team that Canucks fans should be familiar with. During the past two seasons, Kovacevic has managed to win the award as the team’s best defenceman.
He signed a three-year contract with the Winnipeg Jets this past offseason with an AAV of $766,770. One fun fact is that Kovacevic played his first NHL game against the Vancouver Canucks in January of this year. Could the team that he made his NHL debut against be the one that saves him from heading back to the AHL?
Dimitri Samorukov: LHD, 6’3″, 188 lbs
While Samorukov isn’t right-handed, he could also be a valuable addition to the Canucks dressing room. The 23-year-old was just waived by the Edmonton Oilers after scoring 18 points in 51 AHL games last season with the Bakersfield Condors.
Samorukov also got to appear in his first NHL game, a December matchup against the St. Louis Blues where the young Russian’s wife was flown out to watch the game. He made several costly mistakes, including one that led to a goal, and was benched for the entirety of the game after just 2:28 of ice time. He was sent back down to the AHL after that game. It’s clear that the Oilers likely have little trust left in Samorukov.
However, the Oilers may be making a big mistake as Samorukov has shown that he has the potential to be a very solid and well-rounded everyday NHLer. Far from small at 6’3″, he still moves well for his size and uses the combination of his lanky frame, his smarts, and his above-average skating ability to shut down opponents.
It’s more common to see Samorukov split up an oncoming rush with a deft stick lift or a heads-up interception rather than a thundering body check. He experienced plenty of success at the lower levels including a bronze medal at the 2019 World Junior Championship (hosted in Vancouver for those who remember) and an OHL championship.
Samorukov could easily give the Canucks an intriguing depth defenceman that still has the potential to grow. As far as waiver claims go, Samorukov is as good a bet as any to develop into a full-time NHLer and could provide an impact in an area the Canucks desperately need.
We’ll find out tomorrow if the Canucks elect to go to the waiver wire for help on their backend.
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