What’s next for Canucks prospect Danila Klimovich after being benched in the AHL playoffs?
Photo credit:James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
By Faber10 months ago
He’s one of the Vancouver Canucks’ top prospects and showed flashes of excellence in his rookie season in North America. Unfortunately, those flashes weren’t enough to let Danila Klimovich play under the bright lights of AHL playoff hockey.
As the Canucks’ second-highest ranked prospect, Klimovich clearly has potential. He finished his first AHL season with eight goals and 10 assists in 62 games. There were some great plays made by Klimovich this season but the teenager still has a long way to go before the NHL is a real possibility.
The good news is that Klimovich turned 19 years old in January and has a lot of time left before the pressures of the NHL should even cross his mind. He’s a teenager who adjusted well in a place where he didn’t speak the language and likely had a massive culture shock.
Though the 19-year-old had spurts of excitement all season long, his lack of consistency and defensive awareness were the main reasons he did not play in playoff games for the Abbotsford Canucks. Klimovich would have learned valuable lessons about games of importance if he were to play in those playoff games. It would have also given him a chance to be on the bench with Vasily Podkolzin, a player that Ryan Johnson wanted Klimovich to watch closely in the playoffs.
Instead, Klimovich was benched because the coaching staff was worried that AHL playoff games might be too much for the young kid.
“We were just worried about him, and it’s not out of anger, out of haste or [being] upset,” said Abbotsford head coach Trent Cull. “It was all about trying to protect the guy and trying to do the right thing by him because we didn’t want to put him in a situation maybe that might be too much.”
The AHL is a developmental league and Abbotsford general manager Ryan Johnson did believe that Klimovich showed development throughout the season.
Unfortunately, that development just wasn’t quite good enough for him to get into the lineup during playoffs. Klimovich has a long road before he gets to the NHL but perhaps taking the long road with the prospect is an intelligent decision. It just seems hard to believe that playing in a playoff atmosphere would have been too much for the kid. Klimovich has been in Abbotsford all season long and dealt with the ups and downs of the entire AHL season. He assisted that team in making the playoffs and unfortunately, he couldn’t help the squad once they got there.
Cull made it very clear that he really does like Klimovich as a player and that their relationship has evolved over the season.
“It’s almost like a father figure [with Klimovich],” said Cull. “The league was ramping up near the end as it always does in every league and Danila was struggling a little bit and so we talked to him a lot. We talked to him a lot all year. I mean that’s part of how it goes… I’m a big fan of the young man, and he’s 19. There’s a lot of time and we want to make sure we’re doing the right things. We want to make sure we’re not putting him in positions that would take away from what he as a player will become in the future too.”
There were some interesting quotes from Cull on Wednesday morning when he joined abnormally sweaty Mike Halford and consistently exasperated Jason Brough on Sportsnet 650’s morning show.
In the interview, Cull made some great points about not wanting to rush prospects and how he learned about marinating when he was an assistant coach with Tampa Bay’s AHL affiliate. Cull was bang on with some of his takes during the interview and though the fanbase is down on the AHL coach, he may just need more support, better talent, and patience from the NHL team to be able to develop prospects to the next level.
Throughout the season, the part of Klimovich’s game that impressed me most wasn’t his shot — it was actually his playmaking that got me excited on a more consistent basis.
When Klimovich puts his 6’2″, 205-pound frame to work on the forecheck, he can out-muscle most players in the AHL. The problem is that he doesn’t have the consistent high effort level that others on Abbotsford had and for that reason, Klimovich found himself as a fourth-line winger for most of the season with spot duty on the second power play unit.
I also need to bring up his bad luck as well.
Klimovich took a ton of shots this season. He ended the season fifth on the Canucks for shots on net. Unfortunately, his 7.3% shooting percentage was 21st on the team. He was getting plenty of scoring chances all season long but there were countless times where he slid a puck through the crease, hit the post, or was absolutely robbed by a goaltender.
On the other hand, his shot was pretty good on occasion as well…
Now, we look to the offseason. Klimovich’s agent Dan Milstein told CanucksArmy that Klimovich will be staying in Vancouver through the offseason and getting as much work with development coaches as possible here at Rogers Arena.
This is great news as a local Canucks development coach like Yogi Svejkovsky might be a coach that will be working with Klimovich. Svejkovsky worked with fellow Canucks’ prospect Arshdeep Bains in his youth and has been a behind-the-scenes coach who apparently does great work with the Canucks’ prospects and roster players. Bains told me he loved working with Svejkovsky because it was more than just hockey. He’s also a great role model who has an amazing track record of getting local BC kids scholarships.
Klimovich will need to work on controlling his emotion or learning to let his emotions become a positive part of his game. Next season is going to be very interesting because after having an adjustment year and not getting a lot of bounces, he could have a huge jump in production. The fact that he played with bottom-of-the-lineup players didn’t help his counting stats but as mentioned earlier, he needs to be more consistent to get a sniff in the AHL top-six.
If the offseason goes extremely well for Klimovich, he would show up as a middle-six forward next season and potentially work his way into a top-six role by the 20-game mark of the AHL season. This would show that there is legitimate development taking place and that the Canucks and him were able to take the offseason work very seriously.
If I’m projecting a good 2022-23 season for Klimovich, I am looking at a few targets that he needs to hit. First off, you want to continue to see shot attempts and shots on net from the Belarusian sniper. Something like 140 shots or 3.5 shots a game should be a goal. Speaking of goals, you’d like to see Klimovich score at least a dozen goals next season. He has so many bad bounces or stretches of tough luck that a dozen feels very doable for the kid.
Finally, you need to see more consistency in a couple of departments. Klimovich needs to have a more consistent release on his shot, he often fans on pucks when he is in a quality shooting area and if he can get with a shooting coach and hone in his raw talent, his shot could be NHL-ready by the time the offseason is over. The other area is going to be in the defensive zone. He is too big of a body to be floating in his own zone. Klimovich is going to struggle to crack the Vancouver Canucks’ top-six lineup but there will be a bottom-six landing spot in the NHL if he learns to work hard as the aforementioned Podkolzin does.
All in all, we’re still quite impressed by Klimovich’s rookie season. He was the youngest player in the AHL and nearly cracked 20 points on the season. The debate between the QMJHL and AHL was something that Ryan Johnson talked about in his end-of-season availability — he mentioned that Klimovich needed to work on developing good habits for pro hockey instead of just putting up a ton of points in junior hockey. We all know that Klimovich would have physically dominated players in the QMJHL. He needed to learn what pro hockey in North America is like and to do that as an 18-year-old is a very impressive feat.
He may not have lit the league on fire in his rookie season but he definitely earned some respect from everyone in the AHL for what he was able to accomplish as a player who couldn’t even order a beer after a home game until 22 games into the season.
The work is not in front of Klimovich and we are happy to hear that he is staying here in Vancouver and looking forward to getting to work with the Canucks on his development. Let’s see what he looks like at training camp next year and if the offseason coaching was enough to fix some of his issues and unlock some of his high-end potential.
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