It’s the first Monday Mailbag in a new J.T. Miller extension world. The Vancouver Canucks locked up their star forward to a team record 56 million dollar contract over the next seven years.
The Miller deal signals movement towards a win-now mentality. Though this team’s core group of players has not seen much success, they are being doubled down on with hopes that Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes continue to improve as they approach their mid-twenties. Locking down Miller definitely makes this team better for the next few seasons and could be the best option if there wasn’t a trade on the table that addressed a future partner for Hughes or took care of vastly improving the prospect pool.
We know what type of player Miller will be over the next few seasons and he has been a tremendously consistent scorer for the Canucks since joining the team in the summer of 2019. Miller is sixth in the NHL in power play points since the 2019-20 season and comes in at 15th in five-on-five points in that timeframe.
He is clearly one of the most important pieces to this team and we expect to see the forward group be the strong point of this team for years to come. The new management had a top-notch trade chip to utilize and they decided that his value is more important when he is a Vancouver Canuck. As the contract ages, we have to see this Canucks team begin to be a consistent playoff team. The Pacific division seems to be pretty straightforward on who the competitors are this season but there are teams like the LA Kings and Anaheim Ducks who have loaded up with prospects and will look to execute the next stages of their rebuilds over the coming years.
When those teams load up with their prospect capital, the Canucks will need to rely on what they have and this presents worry as the team’s prospect group is not gleaming with NHL talent. This management group has a lot of work to do and this Miller extension doesn’t help the organization address their weakness in the defence corps. It’s a bold move to say the least but this team is investing in one of the premier point producers in the NHL who shines on the power play with the talent that surrounds him.
One excellent thing to come out of this extension is that we will no longer have to discuss trade rumours about Miller in this mailbag.
Though we have already seen the Bo Horvat trade questions come in on Twitter…
That being said, we have a ton of questions to get to and a great crop from both the Twitter crowd and the folks in the comments section using the #MM tag to ask their questions.
Let’s not waste any more words because this has been one of the longest preambles to a mailbag in months!
Why don’t we open up this week’s mailbag and see what the wonderful people had to ask this week.
Many Canucks fans have been hoping for a true rebuild with this Canucks team. This Miller extension is surely an indicator that the Canucks are not going that route in the coming years. With Thatcher Demko locked down for four more seasons, it feels like this is the window in which the management group wants to approach as their winning years.
There had to be options for the Canucks to move Miller for prospects and picks but the team ultimately elected to make him an $8,000,000 player who will be relied upon to help push this team into the playoffs.
Extending Miller does take a true rebuild almost completely off the table and the idea of a retool is almost what you could look at this current offseason as. The team signed Ilya Mikheyev with eyes on addressing the penalty kill, which could easily be looked at as their worst area of play last season. With head coach Bruce Boudreau behind the bench, the organization clearly has its target set on getting into the playoffs this season and not taking a step back with the view of slingshotting steps forward down the road.
The team wants to win now and fans who wanted a rebuild will have to wait for this organization to entirely fall apart. The amount of losing over the Benning regime shouldn’t count against Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin but if this young group of players can’t seem to get over the hill with their current group, drastic measures will need to take place. Many were ready for those drastic measures to take place when the new management group took over but we are seeing them invest in their top talent and look to surround their best players with new faces like Mikheyev, Curtis Lazar, and others.
It’s a bold strategy that this new regime is attempting but with a head coach who clearly gets the best out of this current roster, we have to hope that the team can make up for its shortcomings on the backend and lean on good goaltending, a strong power play, and an improved penalty kill to help make them a playoff team.
As for your question, yes, the current management has missed their chance to rebuild by not trading Miller and instead extending him.
Though he doesn’t currently look like he’s on a fast track to the NHL, the most likely right-shot defenceman prospect that I believe has NHL potential is Jonathan Myrenberg.
He has size, skating and a mind for the game that makes him a solid prospect for the Canucks as well as taking a big jump in his draft plus one season. There’s still a long road before Myrenberg makes it to North America, let alone the NHL, but when you look at the rest of the RHD in the prospect pool, it’s pretty empty.
Jett Woo’s previous season was a letdown due to injuries and worries about his puck-handling skills.
Filip Johansson is an interesting addition to the pool but we didn’t see a lot of promise at Canucks’ development camp. He will be in the SHL this coming season and we will be sure to follow along with his development to see if there’s anything there with the 22-year-old.
And then finally, there’s Viktor Persson, who we liked when he was playing junior hockey in Sweden and got to play in the WHL last year but wasn’t all that we hoped he’d be. Persson is now in the Finnish Liiga and we will continue to follow along with his progression as he attempts to make an impact in Finland.
All of these prospects and more will be talked about a ton in our Blackfish Report, which drops every Tuesday here at CanucksArmy.
For the most part, I take a positive viewpoint on questions like this and from the rookie season that we saw as well as hearing about his offseason being the hardest of his life, I’m betting on Vasily Podkolzin to be a 20+ goal scorer this season. He is clearly a player that Boudreau believes in and trusts and should get more opportunities on special teams this year.
Even as a five-on-five scorer, I’d expect to see Podkolzin take a jump for the 2022-23 season. Podkolzin was tied for fourth on the Canucks in five-on-five goals last season with 12.
His confidence grew as the year went on with a fresh start under a coach that really believes in him. Now, he will get a training camp with Boudreau as well as special teams time during the preseason.
If healthy, I expect to see Podkolzin be somewhere around 22-27 goals this year.
The 19-year-old had eight goals and 10 assists in 62 AHL games last season.
As a player who had to make a huge adjustment due to the massive jump in the level of play he faced, it was an impressive rookie year in North America for Danila Klimovich. Yes, there were ups and downs but all in all, as a kid who was 18 at the beginning of the 2021-22 season, he did pretty damn good in the AHL.
Our prediction for Klimovich’s production in the 2022-23 season would be something in the ballpark of 10-18 goals and 10-25 assists. So, somewhere around 20-43 points.
If he is to reach the high end of our production, he will need to be a consistent piece on the first power play unit and though he has an excellent release on his shot, it needs to be more consistent during game-action. We don’t expect to see him start on the first power play unit in Abbotsford but working his way onto the team’s first unit should be a goal for the season.
When it comes to five-on-five, Klimovich will probably be in a third-line role to start the season but if he finds early success, we’d love to see him get an opportunity to play with some of the top-six AHLers like Linus Karlsson, Phil Di Giuseppe, Justin Dowling, and Sheldon Dries.
If he is able to score more than 15 goals and total up 30+ points, it’ll be a big step in development for the teenager.
Now, let’s get to some #MM questions.
I’ve brought up the name a few times here because I had a chance to watch and produce a lot of Vancouver Giants games last season. Connor Horning is a 6’3″, right-shot defenceman who played for the Giants over the last three seasons. He also happened to play in 12 games with the Swift Current Broncos during their 2017-18 playoff run that finished with them being WHL champions.
Horning is a big defenceman who has a bit of offensive touch and though his skating doesn’t scream that he should be a pro player, it’s a bit surprising that he hasn’t found a spot to play for the 2022-23 season. I thought there would be some interest from AHL teams or a chance to go overseas like his former Giants teammate and fellow right-shot defenceman, Alex Cotton, who is off to Finland to play pro.
As for overseas, maybe keep an eye on Lukas Pilö out of Oskarshamn. He’s a 22-year-old, 6’1″, right-shot defenceman who will have a bigger role with his SHL team this season. I’m not sure about his contract status but he’s an interesting name anyways.
Aside from him, there’s a right-shot defenceman out of the SHL named Jakob Stenqvist. He is a 24-year-old, 6’2″, right-shot defenceman who is from Sweden but spent last season in the KHL. He is back in the SHL for the 2022-23 season. Stenqvist was drafted by the Dallas Stars in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft but they no longer have his rights.
Stenqvist is joining Timrå this season, so I’d bet that Allvin is already very aware of the right-shot defenceman. Stenqvist has the same agent as Elias Pettersson’s brother Emil and is golf buddies with former Canuck Johnathan Dahlen. Sources around the SHL have said that Stenqvist should be one of, if not the top defender for Timrå this season. He’s an interesting name to watch but is 24 years old.
That’s the best I can do for you! Some interesting names anyways.
We spent so much time discussing Miller stuff that the lack of a Bo Horvat extension has been the most overlooked story in my eyes as well. If you told me a month ago that Miller would get a contract before Horvat, I’d think you’re bonkers.
There isn’t a big worry about the Horvat deal. He’s the captain of this team, he’s been here for a while and unless the organization wants to sacrifice their top-notch centre depth for a right-shot defenceman à la Ryan Johansen for Seth Jones type of trade, I’d bet that a Horvat extension comes along sooner rather than later.
Now that Miller is locked up, we are sure to see what Horvat’s situation is looking like. Lucky for us, Allvin is meeting with the media on Tuesday morning and though there will be plenty of questions about Miller and his new deal, I can guarantee that Allvin will be asked about the future of his captain and if conversations have been had between the organization and Horvat’s camp.
Even though I thought they’d have a deal done by now, there’s not much worry about the two sides being able to find common ground and get a deal done. Miller’s $8,000,000 of cap space throws a bit of a wrench in the equation but there’s still money left for the captain.
We will know more about this on Tuesday morning when we chat with Allvin.
That wraps up this week’s mailbag. Thanks to everyone who sent in questions and be sure to use the #MM hashtag for me to spot your questions for next week.
We have a busy Blackfish Prospects Report coming for you on Tuesday morning as well as a media availability with Miller and Allvin to get to. It’s going to be a busy week as the season is fast-approaching and the Young Stars tournament is now just a week and a half away!
Stay tuned to CanucksArmy for all the latest news!