With the second round of the NHL playoffs beginning, the Vancouver Canucks continue to work through their offseason checklist.
Confirming the return of head coach Bruce Boudreau was a tremendous start. His confidence in the organization even with no contract after the next season shows that there is trust between Boudreau and management. The Canucks are locked in with their head coach and are in the process of evaluating the assistant coaches as well as other parts of the front office.
Four Canucks players are participating in the World Championships and aside from Viktor Persson and his Kamloops Blazers, all of the prospects’ 2021-22 seasons are officially wrapped up with Lucas Forsell’s SHL team winning the playoff championship last week.
We are fully into offseason mode and it’s time to see this team build, retool and make changes to get them close to being a competitive team for years to come.
While we wait, we’ve always got the Monday Mailbag here at CanucksArmy. Our great readers and followers send in the questions and we do some research and share our opinions on what we believe the best answer is.
So, without wasting any more words, let’s rip open this week’s big bag and see what the wonderful people of Twitter had to ask this week.
After a strong performance in the AHL that saw him perform above a point per game from the backend, Jack Rathbone will look to graduate his way onto the Vancouver Canucks’ lineup next season. The top prospect turns 23 this week and after originally making the NHL team out of training camp this past season, he was sent down to the AHL to develop the weaker parts of his game. While that was the goal of his time in the AHL, Rathbone still wanted to improve his strengths so that he would be a better NHLer this coming season.
“You hear a lot about taking strides in my defensive side of the game but I think being able to go down and work on what makes me me, is something that I definitely focused on too,” said Rathbone during his end-of-season media availability. “That was a big part of [my development] once I was able to get into a bit of a rhythm. [My strengths] were able to take even more strides and that was something I was looking forward to doing.”
Rathbone’s improvement in not only his weaknesses but in his strengths gives him a better chance of being a power play specialist on the Canucks’ man-advantage unit. He’s not likely to take over as quarterback on the first power play unit but is the best option if the team is looking to go with two defencemen on the second unit. Rathbone’s slap shot shined in the AHL this past season and you can see a much different pop in practice compared to the shots of his AHL teammates.
Rathbone isn’t likely to get into the top-four of the defence unless there is some appetite for the Canucks to move Oliver Ekman-Larsson to the right side. Travis Dermott is able to play both sides of the defence and we could end up seeing a third pairing of Rathbone and Dermott. This pairing doesn’t have a long track record of being defensively responsible in the NHL, but they do bring a lot of offensive upside for a third pairing.
The long road of development may be taken as well. As much as we believe that Rathbone is an NHL-calibre defenceman, there may need to be even more patience as the team utilized the proximity of the AHL team to get Rathbone playing 20+ minutes a night before being the first defenceman called up in the early parts of the season. Jim Rutherford has mentioned Rathbone when it comes to players taking a jump next season and I’d still expect to see him with Vancouver to start the season depending on what happens to the personnel on the backend in the offseason.
If he is in the lineup on a nightly basis, expect to see Rathbone getting power play time. He is a good passer, with a strong slap shot that he is confident in and does a great jump firing one-timers from the point. He also shows high-end skill when it comes to walking the line and creating space with the man-advantage. His power play prowess might be his best skill in this present day. We surely expect to see him on the second unit if the team goes with two defencemen there and he may even push OEL for the quarterback spot if they go with one defenceman.
Summer is coming quickly and you know that watermelon with mustard is coming back strong than ever.
As for the grapefruit and ketchup, I’m not sure if that will work. The key is the saltiness of the mustard. Ketchup is only good on fries, hash browns, Kraft Dinner, and just a few drops on eggs is acceptable.
That should be close to the return. I believe it is realistic otherwise we would have seen a deal done at the deadline.
Any team that is in contention for the playoffs will want to have J.T. Miller on their roster. This includes the Vancouver Canucks. Talks should crank up in mid-July and it will be interesting to see if the Canucks and Miller can find a number that works for both sides.
I’m not convinced that they can find a number that makes sense. It’s still my belief that Miller will be dealt this July.
I’ll start with the second part of this question before diving into the prospect I like in the mid-twenties. If the Canucks are willing to move down in the draft between 8-12 spots, they should be looking to acquire at least a second-round pick that is hopefully in the top 50. Moving the 15th overall pick is a big deal and you can see that from recent examples of teams that traded down.
There’s a perfect example from the most recent draft as the 15th overall pick was traded. The Dallas Stars traded the 15th overall pick to the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for the 23rd overall pick, a second-round pick (48th overall), and a fifth-round pick.
This would be an ideal trade for the Canucks as they can reacquire a second-round pick while adding value in a later pick.
Another example that could be looked at as a comparison was when the Arizona Coyotes traded up from 15 to 11 to draft Victor Söderström. As the Coyotes acquired the 11th overall pick, they had to give up their 15th overall selection as well as a second-round pick that was the 45th pick in the draft.
At the 2018 draft, the New York Rangers traded up from 26 to 22 to draft K’Andre Miller, they had to add the 48th pick in the draft to move up those four spots.
One team I’d keep an eye on to be a potential trade partner is the Montreal Canadiens. They won’t be moving that first overall pick but they do possess the Calgary Flames’ first-round pick as well as six extra picks in the first four rounds of this coming draft. The Canadiens might want to make an even bigger splash at their home draft and move up from the Flames’ pick to draft two players in the top 15 of the draft.
Now, I hope that helped inform you on what value the Canucks might be able to expect in a trade-down situation.
Owen Pickering, LD, 6’5″, WHL
Coming out of the WHL, Owen Pickering has a lot of raw potential in his game. He takes a few pushes to get his big body moving but once he hits his stride, he glides around on the ice and loves to shoot the puck. I’ve seen him ranked as high as #13 and as low as #50. He had a great season on a poor team and looks like a longer-term project who could project to being a very effective top-four defenceman down the road.
We will be speaking with Owen Pickering on Tuesday’s episode of The Canucks Conversation Podcast. Be sure to listen in!
Sam Rinzel, RD, 6’4″, USHL
6’4″, right-shot defencemen are tough to find. Sam Rinzel has the perfect player type that you want and has had a season full of highlights to have him climb the prospect rankings as the draft approaches. Rinzel deserves praise for what he does with the puck on his stick more than he does for his defending. When you look at a potential partner for Quinn Hughes, you need someone who can move the puck well and also be responsible in their own end.
Right now, Rinzel needs to improve on being a more reliable defender and his defence against weaker competition in high school before joining the USHL at the halfway point of the season wasn’t enough to make a true evaluation of his play in his own end.
Rinzel is set to join the University of Minnesota for the 2023-24 season, with that, he is expected to return to the USHL next season and refine his two-way style of play. He should be one of the best defencemen in the USHL next season and will be able to spend a lot of time improving his defensive play. He’s not a bad defender, it’s just that he hasn’t had to have a ton of strong competition just yet and he needs to be tested defensively.
Lian Bichsel, LD, 6’5″, SHL
Yes, that’s three big defencemen in a row for the Canucks to target if they trade down. Lian Bichsel is the biggest of them all. The hulking Swiss defenceman moves extremely well and uses every ounce of his body when it comes to defending. He is physical in his own end and dominates in the corners when he plays in international U20 play. Bichsel got into 29 SHL games last season and will likely play the entire season next year with Leksands in the SHL.
Noah Östlund, C, 5’11”, Allsvenskan
If the Canucks are looking for a third-line centre with good hands and an extremely high work rate, Noah Östlund is a strong option to trade down and draft.
Though he isn’t the biggest body, Östlund plays extremely hard and is looked at as one of the most defensively responsible players coming out of Sweden. some boards have him as late as #51 while others have him as high as #13.
So, there are a few trade-down options that I like for the Canucks. If they were to reach a bit, I also like Noah Warren (RD), Gleb Trikozov (RW), and Maveric Lamoureux (RD).
Well, that wraps up another Monday mailbag here at CanucksArmy, enjoy the beginning of the second round and we will be back next Monday with a new crop of questions.
Thanks to everyone who sent in questions this week, they are appreciated as always!