Preseason is upon us and so are some worries that the Vancouver Canucks are going to begin the season with another slow start.
Saturday night’s 4-0 loss at the hands of the Seattle Kraken may have just been a preseason game, but it saw Thatcher Demko in net, J.T. Miller, Bo Horvat, Tanner Pearson, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Tyler Myers, and many more players who will be in the Canucks’ opening night lineup take the ice — even if you may not have noticed they were there.
Though it’s not time to panic, there is reason to be concerned about the Canucks’ poor performance so far in the preseason. The team has played four preseason games and only mustered up two goals during over 164 minutes of five-on-five. With all the hope and promise that last season’s resurgence brought, this team cannot handle another slow start.
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We are now halfway through the preseason and the early returns have not shown well. Saturday night’s game was painful to watch and there’s been clear discontent from head coach Bruce Boudreau in the team’s last two postgame press conferences.
Then again, it’s all just preseason and maybe it doesn’t matter.
But it should matter a bit, right?
No winning franchise wants to accept losing and if the Canucks want to turn their fortunes around and become a playoff team for the foreseeable future, losing should mean something.
Even if it is just preseason hockey.
With all that being said, we are here for a mailbag article.
Unfortunately, with the changes to this site, I don’t have access to the comments section from last week’s mailbag, so please drop your questions in this article’s comments section and I’ll be sure to get to a few of those questions next week.
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So, let’s dive into the whacky world of Canucks Twitter and see what those wonderful people had to ask this week!
Last season, this was an easy answer. And the answer was Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
This year, with the hopes of transitioning Quinn Hughes to the right side, there could be a bit of a wrench in the equation for this answer.
In our eyes, there’s another easy answer this season and we believe that the defence partner who plays the most minutes with Tyler Myers is going to once again be OEL.
Myers spent 982:45 of his five-on-five minutes alongside OEL while spending 518:34 away from OEL last season. The pairing played a ton of minutes together and honestly, had a pretty good amount of success for what many predicted we would see from them. The duo was able to lean on their veteran savviness to nearly break positive when it came to the goal share. As a pairing, the two were on the ice for 34 goals scored and 35 goals against. When you take into account their role as a matchup pairing, nearly breaking even on last year’s Canucks team is pretty impressive.
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Now if you look at their $13,260,000 hit to the salary cap, it’s not the best bang for your buck. But for what they were asked to do last season, you have to believe that the veteran duo will get a chance to build off their success.
The wrinkle in the equation is moving Hughes to the right side. Though it has been something we have seen all through training camp, as well as the preseason, this may not what we see on opening night.
We expect to see Hughes on the right side at times in a game where the team is trailing or potentially if an injury occurs to a player like Myers. It’s just hard to imagine with Travis Dermott (injury) and Jack Rathbone’s (lack of experience) uncertainty, that the left side is now even strong enough to support moving Hughes to the right side.
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There are going to be weak spots on this defence core no matter how you configure the pairings, and moving Hughes to the right and loading up the top pairing may not be the best thing for the team as a whole. There will be times when OEL and Hughes link up but it shouldn’t be enough to make Myers play with another defence partner more than he will with OEL.
Something like a Tuesday game in April against the Kraken. You can go to Granville Island during the day and grab a donut from Lee’s, some meat and cheese from the deli and then make your way to somewhere like The Pint or Red Card for some pregame drinks.
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Be sure to check out False Creek before the game, and maybe even take a water taxi from Granville Island.
There’s a ton to do around the arena so, basically, just get down and take in the city.
He’s a local kid who can play all three forward positions, kill penalties and moves well.
Michael Regush feels like a nice addition to the depth in Abbotsford and from what I saw at Young Stars in Penticton, I’d have to imagine that he is worth an AHL contract.
We see so much movement in the AHL and having more local kids who can play always helps.
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Yellow Gate was always the standard when I was a teenager.
Then, into my early 20s, we began floating from the Bungee Zone all the way to the Wheatsheaf.
Floating down the river is the best as long as you can get high enough water levels to avoid getting stuck on the rocky parts of the shallow corners.
It is going to be interesting to see what happens with the Carolina Hurricanes’ defence group when the big waiver dump comes around.
Left-shot defenceman Gavin Bayreuther out of Columbus might be a name to keep an eye on. He could be on the outside looking in when later cuts come.
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As for NCAA defence prospects, Jake Livingstone is the big one for the Canucks. As a 6’3″, right-shot defenceman, who happens to be born in BC, he is the top target of many NHL teams.
Quinnipiac captain Zach Metsa is a 5’9”, right-shot defenceman who scored 10 goals last season and should surely draw interest this year in a similar way to Nick Blankenburg, who is trending towards cracking Columbus’ opening night lineup.
We have also heard good things about Minnesota’s Derek Daschke. He’s a 6’2”, left-shot defenceman who we hear has a good baseline level for a defenceman coming out of NCAA and into the pro ranks.
With Brock Boeser expected to miss the beginning of the regular season, we expect to see Andrey Kuzmenko on the first power play unit to start the season.
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There might be a chance for Vasily Podkolzin or Conor Garland to sneak into that role but for now, Kuzmenko has shown that he can fit on that unit and contributed well in their home game against the Kraken last Thursday.
As for when Boeser comes back from his injury, it will be interesting to see what happens. It likely will depend on how good Kuzmenko meshes with the first unit. Kuzmenko played that role for a few years in the KHL and had a ton of success making plays to the bumper position.
The Canucks like to utilize the down-low player position as a set-up man for Bo Horvat to get his bumper shots off. Kuzmenko has the hands, smarts and playmaking ability to have success in that role and as we stated earlier, it will depend on how he meshes with that group.
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If Boeser heads to the second unit, he would become a good trigger man for OEL to pass to and should be able to work well with a net-front, left-shot presence like Podkolzin or Pearson.
We expect to see it come down to how well Kuzmenko looks in that role. If he looks great, it makes both units better.
That wraps up this week’s mailbag. Thanks to all those who sent in questions from Twitter, and apologies to those who commented last week and saw their comments disappear with the changes to the site.
I’ll be sure to get to commenter questions next week.
See you tomorrow for the Blackfish Prospects report. Maybe ask me prospects questions in the comments here!