The Vancouver Canucks have been lacking a legit third line centre for years.
Brandon Sutter was tried at the position but he didn’t really work out and is more suited for the fourth line. Adam Gaudette was expected to be that guy but he failed to develop into a third line centre and was eventually traded to the Chicago Blackhawks for Matthew Highmore.
General manager Jim Benning sought out to look for a third line centre this offseason and he found one a few minutes before the Seattle expansion draft roster freeze.
The Canucks traded their third round pick in 2021 (73rd overall) to the Dallas Stars for Jason Dickinson and in August signed him to a three-year contract worth 2.65 million dollars per season. (He was a pending RFA and filed for arbitration. )
Dickinson along with Thatcher Demko were the Canucks representatives at NHL Media Day.
There we got to see the first look of him in Canucks colours and him wearing the #18. You can also learn a little bit more about him including what his first concert was.
Per Luke Fox of Sportsnet, Dickinson also spoke with Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman on an upcoming episode of the 31 Thoughts: The Podcast, about playing in a market that is crazy about hockey.
"“I’ve been warned to be ready, that when the nights are bad, they’re bad,” said Dickinson. “But when times are good, they’re really good. When the team wins or loses in the playoffs, then the city burns, right? That’s how it goes. You know you’re gonna get good fans, people that understand the game and truly, truly care about it. It’s not just the average fan that’s like, ‘Oh, watching hockey is something you can do on a given night.’ You got people that really care about the organization and where it’s been — and it’s not jumping from team to team. They’ve been with this team since the beginning.”"
What can be expected of him when he steps onto the ice as a Canuck?
Dickinson: Pretty good defensive centre
For starters, Dickinson has earned a reputation of being a solid defensive centre.
As seen in this chart by Micah Blake Mccurdy of HockeyViz, Dickinson is best at shutting down opponents in the slot and around the net as seen with the blue marks in the defensive zone chart. (Click on the Tweet to see it.) This is a good sign and should be welcomed by the Canucks.
Per NaturalStatTrick, he was first in takeaways on the Stars last season with 21. He was also fourth on the Stars in blocked shots with 40. Expect him to do a lot of both with the Canucks.
In Vancouver, Dickinson is expected to be a big part of the penalty kill an area in which he excels at.
The Stars PK was ranked 19th last season but that was largely thanks to poor goaltending from Anton Khudobin and Jake Oettinger not Dickinson and the skaters.
In this clip below, Dickinson is seen moving around constantly on the penalty kill particularly around the slot area. When he moves around, he clogs up the passing lanes and pressures the puck carrier. At the end of the clip, his method works and he manages to break up the play and clear the puck.
The Red Wings move the puck on the man advantage in this next clip but they can’t seem to find a good lane to get a good scoring chance. It is because Dickinson is helping out by again constantly moving around clogging the lanes whether that’s in the slot or near the boards.
Dickinson isn’t afraid to take the puck up the ice and keep it as deep as possible to kill time.
What does he do at even strength? Well, it is more of the same. Below, (beginning at 0:25) he loses a face-off and is quick to retreat back into his own end ahead of the Red Wings’ forwards. After his teammate clears it, the Red Wings come back into the Stars defensive zone. He is the first forward to come back and he does what he does best: Moving around to clog the lanes and prevent scoring chances.
Expect Jason Dickinson to being doing a lot of this on the penalty kill and at even strength.
What about his offense?
Unfortunately, Dickinson isn’t really known for his offensive game. However, he did have good possession numbers with 56.23% Corsi For and 57.44% Expected Goals for.
In 51 games, he managed seven goals and eight assists with the Stars last season.
He isn’t known for his offence, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t try to create any.
Below, Dickinson breaks up the play in the neutral zone and the Stars go aggressive on the forecheck. Dickinson, along with Mattias Janmark and Joel Kiviranta play the puck down low. His passes are short and safe. Just like in the defensive zone, he moves around, this time to find an space to receive a pass, an open teammate to pass to or to find a scoring chance for himself.
Goal scoring isn’t his specialty but he can do it from time to time. Here, he pressures (His now teammate.) Luke Schenn into turning the puck over and scores a silky goal past John Gibson.
Don’t expect too much offence from him thanks to Vasili Podkolzin and Tanner Pearson likely doing the most of it it, but he isn’t afraid to contribute.
Canucks fans should expect Dickinson to be a reliable third line centre that can shutdown opposing teams top scorers, block shots, steal the puck and clog passing lanes. Fans should also expect not a lot of offence but can expect flashes of it from time to time.
*Dickinson film clips courtesy of Matthew DeFranks of The Dallas Morning News.
Let us know your expectations of Dickinson in the comments below!