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Where does Phil Di Giuseppe fit in among the Canucks’ glut of wingers?

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Noah Strang
7 months ago
If there’s one position group where the Canucks have some quality depth, it’s on the wings. The organization has managed to accumulate several solid options that can move up and down the lineup, giving the coaching staff plenty of flexibility. One of those options who emerged last season is Phil Di Giuseppe.
Di Giuseppe really impressed over the second half of last season. Not only was he a solid contributor at 5-on-5, but he also managed to make an impact as a penalty killer and even got a little bit of time on the power play. His hard-nosed style made him an instant favourite of head coach Rick Tocchet with the latter routinely praising the former after games.
“I like having the puck down low, holding on to it, cutting back and taking it to the net,” Di Giuseppe said after a game last season.
That’s a style that Tocchet is very fond of and has earned Di Giuseppe many brownie points. However, with so many wingers on the roster, is there space for Di Giuseppe to get an everyday regular NHL role?

Di Giuseppe’s progression under Tocchet

Di Giuseppe struggled to get into the NHL lineup under former head coach Bruce Boudreau, instead playing a leadership role in the AHL with the Abbotsford Canucks. That all changed — as did many things inside the Canucks organization — when Rick Tocchet took over behind the bench in late January of last year. It was only a few days later that Di Giuseppe made his NHL season debut and the game after he scored for the first time.
Over the next few months, Di Giuseppe was a very solid middle-six winger. He finished the year with six goals and six assists for 12 points in 3o games, scoring at a 32.8-point pace over 82 games.
He was rewarded for his strong performance this offseason with a two-year extension. The contract carries a cap hit of $775k when he’s in the NHL and is a two-way deal that can be buried in the minors at no cost. Despite the fact that there was very little risk in the deal for the Canucks, signing the winger to a multi-year extension shows that he is a part of their plans in some form.

Canucks projected wingers depth chart

As of right now, the Canucks’ winger depth chart for next season looks something like the following. You can debate the specifics all you want and there are plenty of permutations that Tocchet could explore, but the following is a solid rough outline.
Kuzmenko – Beauvillier
Mikheyev – Boeser
Garland – Podkolzin
Höglander/Di Giuseppe – Joshua
While there are at least six wingers on the roster that are clearly better than Di Giuseppe, the chemistry he showed with one of the team’s best players last season may mean that he earns a spot high up in the lineup. The duo of J.T. Miller and Di Giuseppe did great together at 5-on-5 across a sample size of more than 260 minutes as both players elevated their games.
You can see in the numbers below how they performed better together. While it’s not the largest sample size, the uptick in Corsi and shot share are both good signs. Any solution that could help Miller be a positive 5-on-5 player should be explored, especially considering how dominant he is on special teams.
5-on-5 stats of Di Giuseppe and Miller together vs. alone. (NaturalStatTrick)
Because of this, Di Giuseppe might move into the top-six and bump a winger down. We could see something like this to start the season.
Kuzmenko – Pettersson – Beauvillier
Di Giuseppe – Miller – Boeser
Mikheyev – Suter – Garland
Joshua – Blueger – Podkolzin
This would give Di Giuseppe a great opportunity to start the season. He would get to play in the top-six alongside one of the top point producers across the league over the last few seasons.
The Kid Question
One thing to consider when determining Di Giuseppe’s place on the depth chart is his future upside. While he may be a better fit beside J.T. Miller than either Nils Höglander or Vasily Podkolzin at the moment, would the organization be better served if they gave one of those young players the opportunity?
Players like Di Giuseppe are not that hard to acquire in today’s NHL. If Höglander or Podkolzin can fulfill some of their potential, they would become much better assets to the organization. Should the Canucks give those two players first priority at riding shotgun in the top-six? While that likely won’t be the case to start the season as the team fights to be competitive, another slow start could see Di Giuseppe slide down the lineup as the team looks to challenge younger players.
To start the season, the Canucks want to ice the most competitive team possible. If the numbers from last season tell us anything, that lineup may have Di Giuseppe — just one year ago today thought to be an NHL afterthought — in the top-six over bigger names like Brock Boeser or Conor Garland. Doing so will ideally not only add a complementary player to get the best out of Miller but also spread out the Canucks’ attack over the top-nine.

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