For years, Canucks fans wondered, “can Lockwood be the next Tyler Motte?”
Maybe, they should have been asking, “can Lockwood be the next Bo Horvat?”
Okay, that’s a bit much.
Will Lockwood is doing everything he needs to do in the AHL to prove he’s worth a significant NHL look. Skating, tenacity, penalty killing, defensive IQ, and now highlight-reel goalscoring from the Bo Horvat spot in the bumper spot!
I’m, of course, being extreme in my hype for the sake of comedy. But Will Lockwood had another performance on the Farm where he stood out positively in nearly every facet of the game. Lockwood credited his success of late to his skating. “[skating] has been a main focus of mine, to keep my feet moving at all times. Obviously, that slows the game down a bit for me and opens up space. So, hopefully, I can continue to do that,” Lockwood said post game.
After last season, Lockwood’s primary area of focus was production consistency at the AHL level. Through his first 70 AHL games, Lockwood managed just thirteen goals and twenty-three assists. After his two-goal performance against the Firebirds on Friday night, he’s on pace for thirty-six goals and twelve assists this season alone.
Jeremy Colliton has entrusted Lockwood with time on the power play, the penalty kill, and significant minutes at 5v5. With this opportunity, Lockwood has produced four goals at evens, one goal while shorthanded, and a primary assist on the man advantage.
Some may have been surprised to see Lockwood on the team’s second power play unit. However, it is not unfamiliar territory for the 24-year-old winger, who played the bumper role with the University of Michigan before signing in Vancouver. “I’ve picked up my old habits, and I’m really happy to be in that spot; I feel very comfortable there,” Lockwood said when asked about embracing the role.
While he hasn’t scored on the man advantage, his snappy shot has not looked out of place. Fortunately, he’s struck gold twice at 5v5 from the bumper spot. The decent spread of production combined with his work ethic is encouraging that he could make it work with the right opportunity in the show.
At the very least, with performances like the one he had against Coachella Valley, it will only be a matter of time before Lockwood earns his first cup of coffee on NHL spot duty in Vancouver.
Let’s get into the action!
- Vancouver’s late call-up of Sheldon Dries was good news to Danila Klimovich, who missed the team’s last game against the San Diego Gulls as a healthy scratch.
- With Carson Focht sent to the ECHL to play with Kalamazoo and Phil Di Giuseppe out with injury, Matt Alfaro drew into the lineup for the first time of the season. Alfaro showed very well in his brief stint with Abbotsford last season, scoring four goals and three assists in thirteen games.
Tristen Nielsen kicked things off for Abbotsford with a solo drive down the right wing for a shot on Coachella Valley’s Chris Gibson. The Firebirds would answer with some dominant cycle time against the Farm’s fourth line of Chase Wouters, Matt Alfaro, and Yushiroh Hirano. But a well-timed exit play started by Wouters broke up their minute-long cycle and led to a scoring chance for Guillaume Brisebois.
Five minutes into the third, Hirano did what he does best: draw penalties to hand the Canucks power play opportunities.
While the 5v5 offence had yet (spoilers: emphasis on yet) to come for Hirano, he had found ways to be incredibly valuable to the team through drawing penalties. While the AHL does not track the stat, Hirano has been one of the team’s best players at drawing power play opportunities in his limited fourth-line minutes.
PP1: Dowling, Karlsson, Kalynuk, Bains, Pederson
PP2: Hirano, Wolanin, Lockwood, Nielsen, Rau
Though the Canucks’ power play struggled to find adequate shooting lanes, they did cycle the puck well.
On the second power play unit, Hirano benefitted from this quick puck cycling but struggled to sneak his shot through traffic. The Farm generated just one shot on goal through their first two minutes on the man advantage.
Coachella Valley Goal: 1-0 Firebirds
Jimmy Schuldt from John Hayden and Brogan Rafferty
The Firebirds found the back of the net first after a misplay by the Canucks inside the d-zone allowed Jimmy Schuldt to cruise down the left wing, uncontested, for a shot over Collin Delia’s shoulder.
Defenceman Jett Woo had done well to force John Hayden around the perimeter, but Hayden pulled Woo towards a stationary Karlsson, opening up Schuldt for the backhand drop-pass. Truthfully, it was a pretty bad look by all Abbotsford forwards, who were caught inside the d-zone watching the puck, failing to mark anyone.
Fortunately, two minutes later, Hirano broke his 5v5 production drought with his first goal at evens this year.
Abbotsford Canucks Goals: 1-1 Tie
Yushiroh Hirano from Matt Alfaro
After chasing down his dump-in, Hirano found himself alone in front of Chris Gibson’s net for a pass by Matt Alfaro. Hirano’s game-tying goal broke Wouters’ streak of having yet to be on the ice for a goal scored by Abbotsford at 5v5. Through seven games, Wouters carried the worst on-ice goal differential at 5v5, with a negative-6.
However, Wouters nearly returned to a negative-6 goal differential moments later after coughing up the puck in the d-zone. Fortunately, Delia was able to come up with a huge point-blank save.
With five minutes left, Klimovich drew Abbotsford’s second power play opportunity after taking a spear to the gut. Unfortunately, the Canucks’ power play was genuinely terrible. The two power play units combined for zero shots on goal through two minutes.
Fortunately, the Canucks didn’t need the power play to find the tiebreaker goal!
Abbotsford Canucks Goal: 2-1 Canucks
Will Lockwood from Kyle Rau
With less than twenty seconds in the period, Kyle Rau forced a turnover behind Gibson’s net and found Will Lockwood alone in his home at the bottom of the right circle for a snappy shot under Gibson’s left pad. Lockwood’s first of the night was his fourth goal in seven and extended his goalscoring streak to three consecutive games.
The second period started a bit sleepy until a massive hit from Noah Juulsen woke up both teams and the home crowd.
Former Canuck Kole Lind dropped the gloves with Juulsen, which gave the Canucks their third power play opportunity after Lind was assessed a two-minute minor for instigating.
PP1: Pederson, Kalynuk, Dowling, Karlsson Bains
Abbotsford Canucks goal: 3-1 Canucks
Linus Karlsson from Arshdeep Bains and Justin Dowling
It was ‘third time’s the charm’ for Abbotsford’s power play, as the rookie Arshdeep Bains showed off some high-level patience behind the Firebird’s goal line to draw in the defender before dishing a pass to the unattended Linus Karlsson for his third goal of the year.
The Canucks’ third-straight goal seemed to wake up the Firebirds, with Coachella Valley operating like wrecking balls around the ice, hammering Abbotsford with hits.
Collin Delia stood tall as the Firebirds attempted to swing momentum in their direction with relentless offensive pressure and physicality.
After a commercial break, the Farm seemingly swung momentum back in their favour off a dominant offensive zone shift that saw Lockwood looking like Elias Pettersson along the blue line.
The kid wants an NHL look, and who could deny him at this point? Almost a point per game, high-level skating, penalty killing, and an edge?
It’s “cup of coffee season” again in Vancouver!
Abbotsford Canucks goal: 4-1 Canucks
Wyatt Kalynuk from Lane Pederson and Linus Karlsson
Linus Karlsson threw his name in the hat with his tenth point in seven games, a secondary assist on Wyatt Kalnyuk’s first goal as a Canuck.
The Firebirds would answer the Farm’s fourth-straight goal with some brouhaha-ery in the neutral zone that gave the Canucks’ their fourth-straight power play opportunity.
Sadly, the Canucks were held to zero shots on goal for the second time of the night. Though they did change things up slightly when they conceded two shorthanded shot attempts to Coachella’s Andrew Poturalski.
The final ten minutes of the period weren’t all that impressive for the Farm, as they’d concede eight shots on goal while generating only three.
At one point, Delia stepped up to take a check from Coachella Valley’s Max McCormick, then looked to the refs to try and draw an interference penalty to try and stem the bleeding.
Though Delia did not draw the penalty, he stood tall, nonetheless, making eleven saves in the period.
It was another sleepy start to the period, with neither team generating anything in the way of offence through the first four minutes.
On an early shift, Klimovich tried to make himself stand out with some physicality inside the d-zone. But it was a quiet night for him overall.
Tristen Nielsen breathed some life into the crowd after blocking a shot in the d-zone and forcing a two-on-one breakaway alongside Justin Dowling.
The Abbotsford faithful were treated to two incredible, back-to-back “how did that not go in?” moments from the Farm and the Firebirds. The first being Dowling’s tap-in ricochet off the left goalpost.
Minutes later, it was Andrew Poturalski putting the moves on a sprawling Collin Delia before missing a wide-open opportunity.
Near the midway point of the third, Will Lockwood continued to make a case for an NHL call-up with his second of the game!
Abbotsford Canucks goal: 5-1 Canucks
Will Lockwood from Brady Keeper and Kyle Rau
Lockwood looked like a natural goalscorer on his second of the night, with the quick drop to his knees to redirect Brady Keeper’s point shot over Gibson’s glove side. Just a beautiful snap decision to extend the Canucks’ lead.
Over the final ten minutes of play, the Farm did an admirable job stifling the Firebird’s offence. Though Abbotsford finished the period outshot twelve to four, they managed to hold the Firebirds to the perimeter, getting sticks on pucks to steer them wide of the goal while playing hard on the body to prevent rebound chances.
Down by four, the Firebirds would engage in some more brouhaha-ery that would take Brady Keeper out of the game with offsetting coincidental roughing minors.
The Firebirds made things mildly interesting off a d-zone faceoff when John Hayden scored with less than two minutes remaining in the third.
Coachella Valley goal: 5-2 Canucks
John Hayden from Austin Poganski
Though the Canucks won the draw, Coachella’s Austin Poganski won the footrace against Wyatt Kalynuk and Jett Woo to retrieve the puck behind the goal line for a quick setup to Hayden.
The Canucks thwarted any late-game push from the Firebirds, evening up the season series with their second win in three games, with one more to go on Saturday.
Abbotsford Canucks defeat the Coachella Valley Firebirds 5-2
CanucksArmy’s Three Stars
- Will Lockwood
- Linus Karlsson
- Collin Delia
Honourable Mention: Kyle Rau
Next Up on the Docket
The Abbotsford Canucks close out their season series against the Firebirds tomorrow at 7 PM at the Abbotsford Centre.