We are now in August and that means the Vancouver Canucks will hit the ice starting next month.
There are some faces on the roster. However, some players were expected to be traded by many fans who are still here. Of course, those trades could still happen. As of now, things are quiet.
Let’s predict the Canucks opening night lineup assuming no changes are made from now until October 12 when they open their season in Edmonton against the Oilers.
First forward line: Vasily Podkolzin-Elias Pettersson- Brock Boeser
This potential Canucks first line will bring a lot of skill. Pettersson is the playmaker while Boeser is relied upon to put the puck into the net. There will also be some added grit to it with Podkolzin so this line has some good balance to it.
When it comes to the forecheck, head coach Bruce Boudreau likes it to be aggressive, and Podkolzin excelled at that when Boudreau came in.
These three did play together in the late stages of last season and looked good for the most part. This is a line that could really put out some offence.
Second forward line: Ilya Mikheyev- J.T. Miller- Conor Garland
If J.T. Miller is still a Canuck by the start of the next season, he probably should play centre. Yes, he isn’t very good defensively at centre,(or in general) but that is where Ilya Mikheyev comes in.
Mikheyev’s underlying numbers show he was very solid defensively with the Toronto Maple Leafs last season. So there is the defensive forward this line needs.
Conor Garland had an up and down 2021-22 but was the best Canuck at five on five according to NaturalStatTrick. His feisty forechecking game will go well with Mikheyev’s speed and Miller’s offensive output.
This is a line that brings speed and sandpaper and could be tough to play against.
Third forward line: Tanner Pearson- Bo Horvat- Andrei Kuzmenko
It is tempting to put Andrei Kuzmenko in the top six. However, he has got to prove he belongs in the NHL first. Putting him on the third line isn’t the worst idea.
With Pettersson and Miller on lines one and two, Bo Horvat will have to centre the third line. Perhaps playing and learning from the captain can benefit Kuzmenko. Tanner Pearson may not be scoring the way he used to but he is still a useful player in other ways such as passing and the puck battles. Defensively, he isn’t that bad either.
Don’t expect this line to be a checking line. With the forwards the Canucks have, they have a good top nine. Horvat will lead the scoring on the third line
Fourth forward line: Nils Höglander- Curtis Lazar- Dakota Joshua
Yeah, it does feel wrong putting Höglander on the fourth line but given how poor he was last season, it makes sense. In fact, this is the best place for him to start the season. If he does well, then he can move up in the lineup.
The 21-year-old will need to prove to Boudreau that last season won’t be a recurrence. Höglander is great at winning puck battles and he could potentially have chemistry with Curtis Lazar and Dakota Joshua.
Lazar provides defensive responsibility and Joshua is a player that brings physicality and some edge.
Extras: Jason Dickinson and Will Lockwood
It doesn’t look good to have a player making close to three million dollars as a healthy scratch but the Canucks can’t trade him because there has been no interest. Besides, there doesn’t seem to be room for him anyway and he wasn’t a fit at all. Perhaps they could send him to Abbotsford. That way the Canucks can save one million dollars in cap space. It’s ain’t much but it’s something.
Will Lockwood will probably see some NHL time next season. He’s got speed and physicality and would be a good fourth-line option. Unless he has a really good camp and preseason, Lockwood will probably be an extra forward.