One more week into the season and it feels like this Vancouver Canucks team has given enough of a sample size to show their warts but also their high-end ability.
The team is wildly inconsistent and their hope of being able to skate with every team and outscore their opponents is just not going to work on a night-to-night basis with what feels like more than half of the league.
Week by week, we chase for questions to talk about in this Monday Mailbag and even the folks on Twitter are getting lost with anacoluthons as they attempt to get a question in…
Apathy continues to set into the market as Sunday’s noon start saw a quiet afternoon on social media. Sports fans wanted to watch something that they cared about and they were locked into the final week of the NFL season instead of tuning in to watch Kyle Connor throw up a hat trick against the Canucks en route to a 7-4 beatdown where the goaltending of the Canucks indeed showed its colours.
It’s only early January and we are already at that point where you can throw away the season and begin to start to prepare for the future. There are no more excuses to make and it’s time for the management group to get down to working smart and working hard on moves that will help this organization down the road.
There’s one very good news story in this organization, and it’s what’s going on with the AHL team. The Abbotsford Canucksd are 9-2-0 over their last 11 games and there’s development happening while the winning is going on. It’s a good mix down there and whether it be Danila Klimovich, Nils Höglander, Linus Karlsson, or others — the young players are showing up in the AHL environment under the watchful eye of head coach Jeremy Colliton.
All that being said, we are here to take questions that actually make sense and provide a point of discussion.
Without wasting any more words, let’s dive into this week’s mailbag and see what the wonderful people of #CanucksTwitter has to ask this week.
Elliotte Friedman namedropped the Seattle Kraken on Saturday night when chatting about trade destinations for Canucks captain Bo Horvat.
The Kraken are coming off a 2022 draft where they made seven selections in the first three rounds of the draft. There are some interesting prospects in their system but also have two extra second-round picks in the 2023 draft that could be in play.
Here are some pieces we would target if the Kraken were to get involved with the Canucks.
First off, you want to go at their 2023 first-round pick or potentially try and get a 2024 pick that is either unprotected or top-three exempt.
You could look at a pair of Finnish defencemen from their system in right-shot Ville Ottavainen or left-shot Peetro Sappälä.
Ottavainen was a fourth-round pick in 2021 and is a monster at 6’5″. The 20-year-old is playing about 15 minutes a night in Liiga and looks like he should be trending toward the AHL for next season. Good puck skills for a big man and he can shoot the puck as well.
As for Sappälä, he is a 6’2″ defenceman who is already playing in the AHL at 22 years old. He’s been ok in the AHL but we saw some of his worst games in Abbotsford as well. Not a ton to like here but he may be a throw-in piece.
There are a couple of CHL forwards to look at as well.
Jagger Firkus slid out of the first round of the 2022 draft but we are looking at a very talented shooter who is slight but works very hard. He’s a high-end second-round pick and helps push the needle if the Kraken are ok moving on from him so quickly after drafting him.
Tucker Robertson was a fourth-round pick in the most recent draft. He is playing alongside Canucks prospect Connor Lockhart in Peterborough on the top line. He’s a strong two-way centre who doesn’t have the best wheels just yet, but his stride looks like it could use a new skating coach to unlock some hidden agility.
They also have a Finnish goalie named Niklas Kokko, who looks like the prototype of a goalie that Ian Clark would like to get his hands on.
All in all, it’s likely to take a first-round pick, one of their second-round picks from 2023, and maybe one of the lesser prospects to get a deal done.
A starting point to tweak from is likely seeing a high-level prospect, videlicet Jagger Firkus, Seattle’s 2024 first-round pick, and Toronto’s 2023 second-round pick (Seattle has rights to pick from Mark Giordano trade)
Perhaps you can do something for Ryker Evans, who is a left-shot defenceman that was selected 35th overall in the 2021 NHL draft. Something like a first-round pick, a second-round pick, a fourth-round pick and Evans might be a different direction to go if the Kraken won’t move off of Firkus.
Currently, it’s either Vasily Podkolzin or Jack Rathbone.
Lane Pederson had the most-menacing shot before he was called up.
No current Canucks defence prospect has a legitimate shot of being on the NHL blue line next season.
Filip Johansson and Jack Rathbone may get into NHL games next season but there is no defence prospect coming to save the defence any time soon.
The good news is that Elias Pettersson (D-Petey) showed well in his World Junior Championship play over the last few weeks. He continues to trend toward being someone you could potentially see in the NHL one day.
Let’s go with sixth in the draft.
The dream scenario with the sixth overall pick in the 2023 draft is that the five teams selecting in front of you didn’t want to risk such a high pick on Matvei Michkov. The Russian winger is electric and is going to be NHL-ready at the end of his KHL contract.
Unfortunately, his KHL contract rolls through the 2025-26 season.
If he’s there at six, you have to select Michkov.
We’re not likely to see Michkov drop to six, so let’s throw Brayden Yager as our pick at six.
It’s been a long time since the Canucks have had a top prospect out of the WHL and this kid does a great job of taking over games at the WHL level. He’s one of those high-energy players who have the skill to back up their strong work ethic. He’s a right-handed centre and feels like the type of player whose ceiling could be as a top-end third-line scoring centre down the road.
If you can get this kid to become a penalty killer and be strong in the faceoff dot — you’d have to say that his position as a right-shot centre is definitely valuable.
Will Smith out of the USNTDP is another interesting right-shot centre to take a look at and his stock should rise as the draft begins to approach.
As much as we all love Andrei Kuzmenko, the intelligent move to make with Kuzmenko is to trade him at the deadline.
It’s going to be a first round and another big piece to help bolster the prospect pool. It’s an easy, massive win-win for the Canucks organization and there’s still a chance that he could sign with the Canucks in the offseason to come back and play with Elias Pettersson for years to come. If Kuzmenko were to go at the deadline for a massive return and re-sign with Vancouver it would be one of those rare win-win-win scenarios that NHL teams dream of.
Christian Wolanin continues to put up points at a ridiculous rate in the AHL. Some nights he’s a bit quieter than usual and then you go down and check the stat sheet and he’s got two or three points.
Wolanin is also killing penalties and running the first power play unit on the farm. There’s a bit of a rotten log jam in the NHL to get into the defence corps, but Wolanin will provide a nice change-up at some point this season. Whether it be injury or bad play, we believe we will see him in the NHL at some point this season. Wolanin is currently very focused on winning in Abbotsford and doesn’t really like to talk about being called up to the NHL. His attitude towards the organization is incredibly positive — he’s been very happy with the role that he is in with Abbotsford and has told us that if the NHL presents itself this season, he will be happy to do the job but that he is loving his job in the AHL right now and is focused on getting wins and working with the young kids.
His last three weeks have been noticeably good. Jett Woo has been written off by many because of the lack of improvement from his rookie AHL season in 2020-21.
Woo battled injuries last season and struggled a bit early on this year as well. It feels like he’s found some confidence lately and is looking more engaged in the offensive zone over the past dozen games or so. He’s still not at the level where you’d like to see him in the NHL but if he can compound the improved play of late with some concrete development of his game, maybe he can bring back some light to the dark tunnel that is the Canucks’ defence prospect pool.
As for the hope of Woo being an NHL third-pairing defenceman in one or two years, hope is like the sun. If you only believe in it when you can see it, you’ll never make it through the night.
We will see how Woo finishes the season this year before judging his development with a pen instead of a pencil.
That wraps up another Monday Mailbag here at CanucksArmy.
As always, thank you to the great folks of #CanucksTwitter for their questions and we will see you all next week!