The Vancouver Canucks didn’t make any huge moves in free agency but they signed a bunch of players on the first day.
The two most notable names are Curtis Lazar and Ilya Mikheyev. Lazar was signed to a three-year deal worth one million dollars a season. Mikheyev got a four-year term and he earns 4.75 million dollars a season.
Both players improve the forward depth for the Canucks and provide “sandpaper” which is something Canucks President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford really wanted.
Let’s put these two under the microscope and look at the stats and eye-test and take a look at what we can expect from them when they wear Canucks jerseys in the fall.
Curtis Lazar: Solid bottom six defensive centre/right-winger
You might be wondering why Lazar did not work out with the Ottawa Senators after being drafted 17th overall in 2013.
My guess is that he was rushed into the NHL and probably should have had one more year in junior. He had the skating and defensive game but his skills couldn’t translate into the NHL.
Fortunately, Lazar had embraced his role as a bottom six player and signed for the team he grew up cheering for.
Lazar was asked about what he would bring to the Canucks after he signed with them.
“Physicality is something I bring to the table,” he said.
Well, he’s not wrong. With the Boston Bruins last season, Lazar led them with 186 hits. His hits per 60 rate was at 13.29 which also led the Bruins. So he along with Dakota Joshua can provide some extra muscle to the fourth line.
Other than throwing out hits, Lazar is a defensively responsible centre or right winger. He knows how to knock opponents off the puck and battles hard in the defensive zone.
As you can see below, he is very effective in front of his own net.
According to NaturalStatTrick, Lazar was in the top ten among players with 200 minutes or more at 5 on 5 in goals against per 60 and expected goals per 60.
On the penalty kill, Lazar is very good. He only gave up 11 scoring chances per 60 minutes on the penalty kill which was the third least on the Bruins last season.
Don’t expect him to provide a ton of offence, however. But he had a career-high 16 points last season which included eight goals.
I expect Lazar to have a lot of impact in the bottom six. He’s an upgrade on Juho Lammikko and Jason Dickinson With his defensive play, ability to win faceoffs and physical play, the Canucks bottom six has gotten better.
I’m predicting seven goals and nine assists for Lazar in his first season in Vancouver
Ilya Mikheyev: Versatile, speedy scorer who should be in the top six
Mikheyev is fast. In fact, he’s so fast he once managed to outskate Connor McDavid.
Mikheyev had a career-high 21 goal, 32-point season. A lot of his goals came on the rush and breakaways thanks to his speed.
Below, he just bursts into the offensive zone to receive Mitch Marner’s pass and does a nice finish to beat Spencer Knight.
Mikheyev is also very good defensively and is a solid penalty killer. He likes to pressure the opposing team’s power play carriers at the blue line and likes to break up their attack.
Mikheyev also isn’t afraid to get physical. Like Lazar, he is also good defensively. Mikheyev is good at stopping the opponents’ transitions and starting one of his own.
The analytics show that Mikheyev was one of the best Leafs players last season. Out of all Leafs who played at least 200 minutes last season, Mikheyev was fourth in Corsi for with 56.25%, fifth in expected goals percentage with 59.50 and fifth in high danger Corsi For with 58.92%.
Mikheyev is a guy who can really drive play and his versatility makes him effective at both ends of the ice. Sure, the contract may raise some eyebrows but the Canucks are willing to bet that he builds off last season’s success.
I think Mikheyev should start the season in the top six. Is Andrei Kuzmenko guaranteed top-six minutes? Definitely not. It seems like the Canucks signed Mikheyev for their top six. He could play with the likes of Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser or Bo Horvat and Vasily Podkolzin. They could benefit from is two-way game and speed.
I expect Mikheyev to build off last season. I’m predicting 20 goals and 17 assists for him.
What are your expectations for Lazar and Mikheyev? Let us know in the comments below, in the Facebook comments Facebook or on Twitter.