It's time for another Nucks Misconduct Round Table. We gather up the NM scribes, ask a few burning questions, you know the deal. As always, we must remind you that the views of Jimmi and Westy are not necessarily those of NM, nor any other sane human being. This week, we look at the Canucks' performance in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, and discuss the free agency additions they've made since Canada Day.
1- First up, let's talk about the draft. While dispensing with the notion that anyone can say with certainty how any of these draft picks will do, let's hear how you feel about the picks, starting with the one they chose at #11: Tom Willander.
Westy - Reinbacher was the best defenseman available but he had a large strike against him for Vancouver, he was not Swedish. So when Willander's name and threw a "23" jersey on him, I had two main thoughts. First, Vancouver getting a Swedish player just feels right. Secondly, the fact they put Edler's "23" on him is just bad ju-ju. Sticks will be breaking all over the place. Unfortunately, after years of Canucks fandom Stockholm syndrome, this pick was logical to me. Which means it probably won't work out.
jimmi - Coulda been worse... there were pre-draft rumours the Nucks would trade down to 15th - swap with Smashville, send a bad contract south... and still have picked Willander. Ok, fine. Not that much worse. I'm not worried about Westy's Fedling curse. Nucks have so many - could be years and years before the stick breaks out of the queue.
Kent- While I agree that it could have been worse there, this was a frustrating pick in my view. Sure, Willander could turn out to be a solid Dman down the road, the Canucks surely would have been better served by taking the best player available at this stage of their post-Benning recovery, and that was Zach Benson. The irony of Buffalo snagging him could be glaring as time goes on. That being said, building a stockpile of prospects, especially on the back end is something this team needs, so let's hope the stubbornness shown by the Canucks scouting staff pays off here.
Markus - I'm not gonna pretend to know anything about these guys. I don't know anything about them beyond what I've learned over the past few days. But on a macro strategy level, I appreciate them finally picking up some defenders. It was so frustrating watching them go skater heavy the past few years, so that was a nice change of pace.
Beggsy - I like Tom Willander as a prospect from the tape I've watched. If he hits on his potential, he'll be exactly what the Canucks need - a defensively responsible, smooth skating, top-four defenceman who can take on tough matchups. I do think Zach Benson was the best player available so I'm in the same boat as Kent. He'll be a guy worth watching (for masochistic purposes) as time goes on.
I also liked the Hunter Brussel Sprouts pick, but I didn't feel great about their final four selections.
2- The Canucks did some rather tidy work of shoring up some depth, and addressing organizational needs through the newly-opened free agency market. Thanks to the cap space cleared up from the Oliver Ekman-Larsson buyout, they had money to spend and they did. First on the list was C Teddy Blueger.
Westy - Who? Seriously. I had to Google him to see he is probably going to be glued to the 4th line. I'm not sure if he is supposed to be on the PK as well. A consistent 20 point guy is not really exciting.
jimmi - You know what could be exciting? Not setting another Nucking record. The record for the worst of the worst of all time NHL PKs. Also... he's gotta Cup ring. So does Ben Hutton. Anyways... if Blueger can bring some of that hard-checking, puck-hounding Strip Glitz to our PK, it would be great.
Kent- The key to a successful team is not just having star players, but guys who excel in the support roles, and I think Blueger could be that guy. First, while he's known as Teddy, his given name is Teodors (he's Latvian by birth) and I am all about those Latvian names. With Arturs Silovs ready to make the move to the backup role behind Thatcher Demko after his solid AHL season and coming out party at the 2023 IIHF Worlds, leading Latvia to a bronze medal, having a fellow countryman in the lineup will be huge. He's a solid faceoff man, and a penalty kill specialist, both things that the Canucks need to be better at this season. A one year deal to prove himself at a team-friendly rate for a guy with a Cup ring? Not sure there's a bad side here.
Markus - Seems like a solid enough bottom-six centerman. I'm not totally sold on him as a 3C -- which I think remains maybe the most glaring hole on the roster -- but he'll probably serviceable there, and ideally, he's a top notch 4C. Good pick up.
Beggsy - The Canucks aren't going to turn into a Stanley Cup contender next season, so with that in mind, I really liked the one-year bet on Blueger. He always stood out to me in Pittsburgh as a penalty killer. Hopefully putting a player like Garland or Hoglander on his line will help boost his offence. But as my NM family has done, you need to temper expectations because in reality he's a 4LC.
3- Next up was the first of a couple new faces on the back end: Ian Cole.
Westy - Old Man Cole logged close to 20 minutes a night for the Lightning. I don't think he will be asked to do that in Vancouver, but what do I know. An injury here or there and he could ask to center the 1st line. Not an offensive threat, Cole will be ask to be that big body on the 2nd or third pairing. The 1 year contract is kind of nice, as each side gets to see how things go before making a drastic choice.
jimmi - Cole harbour connection to JR and the Pens? Not surprising. One year. We can take that.
Kent- Last year, the Canucks were embarrassingly bad on defence. As a result, much of their work in free agency has been devoted to bringing in some new faces on the back end. First up is journeyman Ian Cole. Another player that Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin are very familiar with, Cole won back to back Cups with the Penguins, and while he's bounced around a lot, he's the kind of stay at home D needed for the Canucks middle six. Another one year deal, and a very affordable one at that. He literally can't do worse than what we got from Oliver Ekman-Larsson last season, so this is another nice deal for the Canucks.
Markus - Seems like a sturdy addition to the top four. I don't expect him to be groundbreaking, but he seems like a low-maintenance, reliable second pair guy that I won't have to think about too much. And after years of Myers and OEL's nonsense, and people claiming that Luke Schenn is so good that he should have his number retired, I'm looking forward to it.
Beggsy - As long as father time doesn't hit Cole like a Tyler Myers-sized truck next season, he'll boost the Canucks defence. If he can play in a top-four shutdown and top penalty-killing role for the Lightning, then surely he'll help the Canucks.
4- Then we got to the biggest (and least surprising) signing of the day: former Seattle Kraken D Carson Soucy.
Westy - Soucy should be forced to play with Myers for the first shift of the year so we can all see the height. And then separate them as quick as possible so Myers doesn't infect him. Soucy should bring a more physical presence to the back end and hopefully can move the puck out of the defensive zone quicker. I am happy with the contract (except maybe the NTC) and happy that he can be the tall guy next year when Myers is gone.
jimmi - Soucy was saucy versus the Avs in the Western something somethings. Possibly the best Defensive D on the Kracks. If that was because of the Team-D concept executed very well by a newbie team and not some innate D-manding skill, could we tell? No, we could not. Doesn't matter. He looks meaner and tougher than OEL, so he might even be able to keep Myers from
a lot some a little freelancing at the wrong time.
Kent- One of the biggest issues with the Canucks from a defensive standpoint over the past few years is that they were absolutely not hard to play against. Apart from Tyler Myers and the now-departed Kyle Burroughs, there just wasn't a lot on the back end that made guys fear going to the net. Soucy, all 6'5" and 210 pounds of him was solid paired with Justin Schultz last season for the Seattle Kraken. He definitely replaces the sandpaper that Burroughs brought, and doesn't appear to have a lot of glaring defensive deficiencies. The contract seems a little pricey, but if he can build on a couple solid years with the Kraken and bring some stability in front of Demko, it'l be money well spent.
Markus - Don't know much about this guy, but by all accounts, another rock solid, reliable add to the D core. No issues with the profile. I guess he's not a slam dunk, no-doubt-about-it top four guy, but I like the odds based on everything I've read. Looking forward to seeing what the ceiling is.
Beggsy - I think I'm more skeptical on what Soucy can be than most pundits in this market. The fact that he saw his role diminished with the Kraken last season was cause for concern. Even though he played well in the playoffs, he only played 15 minutes per night.
That being said, there are things to like about his game. I think pairing him with Quinn Hughes is the way to go (after pairing him with Myers for a game to appease Westy).
5- They followed that up with a couple two way deals: One for veteran Dman and Brentwood Bay, BC native Matt Irwin, and G Zach Sawchenko.
Westy - In a perfect world, neither one of these two would touch the ice next year...or ever. But the Fairies love taking defensemen down so Irwin can log some 3rd pairing minutes this year if guys like Juulsen or Hirose or Rathbone can't play. Sawchenko will have to fight for time on the farm team with Martin.
jimmi - In a perfect world, the Nucks woulda won the Cup in '82, '94, 2011 and 2020. And we'd all be living the high bragging life from our rocking chairs in the South of Frannie's blueberry patch.
As Westy notes, the world isn't perfect and the Faeries will see Irwin logging tough minutes from February until the Nucks are eliminated from playoffs.... again.
Kent- Matt Irwin isn't gonna give you a ton of minutes, and it's likely he's playing a bigger role in Abbotsford than in Vancouver, but another hard working rearguard with experience is a bonus. The former BCHL Nanaimo Clipper will be looked at for a leadership role in either location. With Collin Delia heading out to Winnipeg, earning a one year deal as Connor Hellebuyck's backup following a solid season in the AHL and some decent work with a handful of games for the Canucks, that opened a spot that Sawchenko hopes to fill. It's been an long road to the NHL for Zach, who played seven games for the San Jose Sharks in 2021-22. He spent a ton of time in the ECHL for the Sharks, and he is being looked at as a project, one that the Canucks goaltending gurus can develop into another solid piece of the puzzle. I would think a lot would have to go wrong to see Sawchenko see NHL time this season, but the organization's depth in the crease is encouraging.
Markus - Irwin is a textbook bottom-pair guy. I think something like an Irwin-Myers pair, when sheltered, could be pretty decent. He could even maybe be a 7/8 if a Wolanin or Hirose shines in camp. Good add. Don't know much about the goalie, but I just hope he's competent.
Beggsy - The Canucks signed Victoria-native Matt Irwin so that Markus had an Island boy to cheer for on the Canucks. Congrats Markus!
In terms of Sawchenko, in a perfect world, he's in the ECHL next year because all of Nikita Tolopio, Spencer Martin and Arturs Silovs look stellar from the get-go.
6- One of the things the Canucks need to improve on is developing talent in their system, and one of the bright spots from last season was rewarded with a two year deal as the Canucks signed Tristen Nielsen to a two year ELC.
Westy - Nielsen put up good numbers in his second year on the farm. It would great to get a another center that can move up in a couple years...if the Nucks can trade Miller
jimmi - Be a wonderful story if a northern BC boy makes good in the big leagues. Even better if it happens while playing for the Nucks.
Kent- A huge factor in the Canucks' lack of success in the Jim Benning era was their inability to develop talent at the AHL level. In order for this team to become competitive again, draft picks have to turn into guys that go on to play a role with the team, and the Canucks see something in Tristen Nielsen that suggests this could be the start of this process. Nielsen was a solid two-way performer in Abbotsford, and he's been rewarded with an ELC that's going to give him a shot at challenging Nils Aman for that 4th line C position. He's a BC kid, and no stranger to the area, having played for the WHL Vancouver Giants. This is another sign the team is recovering from the Benningpocalypse, and one we should hope to see repeated with some of the other farmhands.
Markus - Nielsen seems cool. in the bigger picture, I'm glad the farm system seems to be doing its job and producing respectable tweener (and better) talent. After the weirdo situation in Utica, it's nice to see the AHL actually be useful.
Beggsy - Alex Burrows 2.0 LETS GOOOOOOO.
7- And on Sunday, the Canucks locked in another piece on defence, re-signing Akito Hirose to a 2 year deal.
Westy - I hope this guy can make quick strides to play on the 3rd pairing. He looked good in the small amount of games he played. I wonder the philosophy of this coaching staff when it comes to playing youngsters at the start of the year.
jimmi - Hirose has already been described as fleet-footed, which could result in quick strides. I'm just happy to see the Nucks focusing on the D-corps. So we don't have to.
Kent- Hirose played 7 games for the Canucks at the end of the season after signing as a free agent following the end of his NCAA career with Minnesota State, and it was striking how mature and NHL-ready he appeared out of the gate. It reminds me of the way Chris Tanev stepped in and became a huge part of the Canucks D back in the day, and while they may not play the same style, if the Canucks have another Tanev-type win through the NCAA free agency pipeline, that would be a huge win for them. It's a good deal for both player and team, two way this season and one way the next, but if we see more of what we got a glimpse of in April from Hirose, expect to see him in Vancouver more than Abbotsford this season.
Markus - I really liked what I saw out of this guy last year. I like the skating and puck moving ability, and if they didn't sign so many defenders, I'd like his odds of being on the opening night roster. I think he has serious upside, so I'm looking forward to him either winning a spot, or being a foundational piece in Abbotsford.
Beggsy - Hirose vs. Wolanin vs. Rathbone vs. Brisebois vs. Irwin.
Lots of dudes fighting for the left side spot on the third pairing. An interesting battle for the hardcore fans of this team. I think Wolanin has the leg up but I could see Hirose making the team out of camp.