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A closer look at the Canucks' depth on the wings heading into 2022-23

August 7, 2022, 2:30 PM ET [222 Comments]
Carol Schram
Vancouver Canucks Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Earlier this week, I commented that I liked the look of the Canucks' top three forward lines, based on how Kevin Woodley laid them out in his season preview for NHL.com.

Over at TSN, their analytics writer Travis Yost has begun grading teams' depth at each position, grouping them into five tiers. He has done left wing and right wing over the past week — and acknowledges that this groupings aren't perfect, as plenty of wingers end up switching sides at one time or another.

But here's the good news. According to Yost's methodology, the Canucks rank in in Tier 2 out of five on both sides, a level he calls "Outperform."

At left wing, he lists three teams as "Elite," in Tier 1: Florida and St. Louis, which make sense. And Seattle! That's based primarily on their sneaky-good pickup of Oliver Bjorkstrand, who needed to be moved out for cap reasons in order for Columbus to make space for Johnny Gaudreau and re-sign Patrik Laine. Seattle's other three listed left wingers are Jared McCann, Jaden Schwartz and Ryan Donato.

The Canucks share Tier 2 with nine other teams. Seven of them made the playoffs last year: Calgary, Carolina, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville and Toronto. The two that didn't both made big upgrades on the left side: Columbus, with Gaudreau, and New Jersey with Ondrej Palat, as well as Miles Wood coming back after missing all but three games last season due to a hip injury.

Yost lays out his depth charts for each team, based on where players were used most frequently last season as well as a little educated guessing.

The Canucks, of course, have some fresh blood on the left side, too — including two players whose usage is very much to-be-determined. He lists the left wingers in this order:

• Elias Pettersson, Tanner Pearson, Ilya Mikheyev, Andrei Kuzmenko

For me, it's odd to see Pettersson listed as a winger. Kevin Woodley, who attends all home games, lists him as a centre, which is where I think of him. And after not being used much in the face-off circle in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, he was fourth on the team in faceoffs last year with 540 attempts. That was behind, in order, Bo Horvat, J.T. Miller and Juho Lammikko.

By the way, if you missed it, Lammikko signed with the ZSC Lions in the Swiss League earlier this week. Switzerland offers a terrific lifestyle and, from what I understand, the pay is generally pretty decent. It's also much closer to home for the Finnish native. I can understand why that might have been the most appealing option if two-way contracts were the only thing on the table from NHL teams.

Woodley's left-side depth chart looks like this:

• Ilya Mikheyev, Tanner Pearson, Andrei Kuzmenko, Nils Hoglander

On the right, Yost also has three teams in his "Elite" tier: Minnesota, Nashville and Toronto.

The Wild's group is the same as how they ended last season: Zuccarello, Foligno, Boldy, Jost. And if you're looking for a contract for an over-30 forward that is aging very well, Zuccarello's is right up there. Turning 35 on September 1, he's heading into Year 4 of that five-year deal that Paul Fenton signed him to during his brief tenure as Minnesota GM. His 79 points last season, in just 70 games, were a career high by a mile. That easily bettered his 61 points with the New York Rangers in 2015-16, and his 24 goals were just two shy of his career-best 26 from that same season.

Nashville added Nino Niederreiter and Zach Sanford to a right side that also features Matt Duchene and Phil Tomasino. And Toronto slots in Calle Jarnkrok and Nic Aube-Kubel behind Marner and Nylander.

Once again, the Canucks are grouped with nine other teams in the second "Outperform" tier. And once again, seven of those teams were playoff squads: Boston, Carolina, Colorado, Edmonton, Florida, L.A. and Tampa Bay.

The two that aren't are Seattle — again! — and Ottawa.

Seattle has added Andre Burakovsky in the two-hole along with incumbents Jordan Eberle, Brandon Tanev and Joonas Donskoi. Having Tanev back from injury will also help the Kraken, who need to score more and defend better if they hope to move up the Pacific Division standings this season.

The Sens, of course, got a big fish in Claude Giroux, who can play any forward position but is listed as a right-winger here. He'll join Drake Batherson, Mathieu Joseph and Austin Watson.

For Vancouver, here's Yost's order:

• Conor Garland, Brock Boeser, Vasily Podkolzin, Nils Hoglander

Yost dishes most of his praise onto Garland, pointing out that the Canucks outscored their opposition at a plus-20 rate when he was on the ice last season, 66 vs. 46. He says Garland's effectiveness allows the coaching staff to manage the deployment of younger players like Podkolzin and Hoglander.

Then, he adds, "If Poldkolzin takes a step forward in year two, this is a really good top-nine, and could help carry some of the weaker parts of Vancouver’s lineup."

Woodley's right-wing depth chart looks like this:

• Boeser, Garland, Podkolzin, Joshua

Basically the same through the top three lines. And yes, there's every indication that Dakota Joshua will be in the mix for a roster spot.

Joshua does also play centre, and was solid on the dot in limited work with St. Louis last year — 40-35 for a 53.3% success rate in 20 games. In Boston last season, Curtis Lazar took 278 draws over 70 games. He was 136-142 for 48.9%.

Another advantage for Lazar is that he's a righty. Horvat, Miller, Pettersson, Joshua — and even Jason Dickinson — are all left-shot centres.

Yost has promised that he'll continue his positional-depth series as August grinds on — and do a midseason update, as well. So that's something to watch further as this quiet hockey month rolls on.

And finally — a quick note to congratulate Canada's U18 players for their dominant gold-medal performance at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup. Yes, Canada traditionally does very well in this tournament. But with all the issues that are surrounding the Hockey Canada program right now, it was impressive to see these kids so focused on the task at hand — and, presumably, getting the behind-the-scenes support that enabled them to succeed.

Canada captured gold by taking down Sweden 4-1 in the gold-medal game, going undefeated and outscoring their opposition 34-3 in aggregate, for a plus-31 goal differential. The silver-medal Swedes had the second-best differential, at plus-seven.

In the bronze-medal game, Finland edged the Czechs by a score of 3-1.

Now, we've got World Juniors pre-tournament games for the next two days, although those aren't televised. And Team USA has not yet announced its final cuts after concluding its pre-tournament schedule. The American lost 5-2 to Finland on Friday, then beat Switzerland 6-1 on Saturday.

The main tournament kicks off Tuesday in Edmonton.
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