NHL Pacific Division Reset: Vancouver Canucks

Canucks bolster forward group with Mikheyev, Kuzmenko, Lazar

Hope to take next step in first full season under Boudreau

by Kevin Woodley / NHL.com Independent Correspondent

2021-22 season: 40-30-12, fifth in Pacific Division; did not qualify for Stanley Cup Playoffs

Key arrivals

Ilya Mikheyev, F: The 27-year-old signed a four-year contract July 13 after setting NHL career highs in goals (21) and points (32) in 53 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs last season. Mikheyev will get a chance to play in the top six and will upgrade the penalty kill … Curtis Lazar, F: The 27-year-old signed a three-year contract July 13 after getting 16 points, including an NHL career-high eight goals, in 70 games for the Boston Bruins last season. … Andrei Kuzmenko, F: The 26-year-old signed a one-year, entry-level contract July 13 after spending eight seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League, including the past four for SKA St. Petersburg. He finished second in the league with 53 points (20 goals, 33 assists) in 45 games and could play in the top six and on the power play. … Dakota Joshua, F: The 26-year-old signed a two-year contract July 13 after he had eight points (three goals, five assists) in 30 games for the St. Louis Blues last season. … Collin Delia, G: The 28-year-old signed a one-year contract July 13 after going 1-4-1 with a 3.85 goals-against average and .899 save percentage in eight games (six starts) for the Chicago Blackhawks last season. He is expected to compete with Spencer Martin for the backup job behind Thatcher Demko

Key departures

Alex Chiasson, F: The unrestricted free agent had 22 points (13 goals, nine assists) in 67 games last season. … Juho Lammikko, F: He is a UFA after not being given a qualifying offer as a restricted free agent. Lammikko had NHL career highs in goals (seven), assists (eight), points (15) and games (75) last season. … Matthew Highmore, F: Signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Blues on July 14 after not receiving a qualifying offer. He set NHL career highs in goals (five), assists (seven) and points (12) in 46 games last season. … Jaroslav Halak, G: Signed a one-year contract with the New York Rangers on July 13 after going 4-7-2 with a 2.94 GAA and .903 save percentage last season. … Brad Hunt, D: Signed a two-year contract with the Colorado Avalanche on July 15 after getting 17 points (three goals, 14 assists) in 50 games last season. 

On the cusp

Jack Rathbone, D: The 23-year-old did not have a point in nine games with the Canucks last season, but he did get 40 points (10 goals, 30 assists) in 39 games with Abbotsford of the American Hockey League despite missing time with injuries. After signing a two-year contract July 1, Rathbone, who was selected with the No. 95 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, could get an opportunity to play in the NHL more regularly this season.

What they still need

The Canucks went into the offseason hoping to upgrade a defense that leaned too heavily on Demko last season but appear set to return with the same group. That makes it even more important for coach Bruce Boudreau to find the right mix among a forward group that is deeper and faster but doesn’t appear to fit together easily top to bottom. That includes finding a spot for defensive forward Jason Dickinson, who struggled last season and could compete with Joshua to be in the opening lineup. 

They said it

“I sure hope so, but I sure hope we have another level. We need to be ready from Day One in training camp and just push it forward, and by adding some players here now, I think we are creating more internal competition.”— general manager Patrik Allvin on whether the Canucks’ 32-15-10 record after hiring Boudreau to replace Travis Green on Dec. 5 is a sign of the team’s potential

Fantasy focus

Brock Boeser is a fantasy bounce-back candidate after averaging 0.65 points per game (46 in 71 games) last season, the worst in a full season of his NHL career. The forward is likely to have an elite linemate in J.T. Miller and/or Elias Pettersson and should be considered a Top 150 player for this season. Another wrinkle on Boeser’s opposite wing could be breakout candidate Vasily Podkolzin (fourth on Vancouver with 0.76 5-on-5 goals per 60 minutes as rookie last season) Mikheyev, or Kuzmenko. — Anna Dua

Projected lineup

Ilya Mikheyev — Elias Pettersson — Brock Boeser

Tanner Pearson — Bo Horvat — Conor Garland

Andrei Kuzmenko — J.T. Miller — Vasily Podkolzin

Nils Hoglander — Curtis Lazar — Dakota Joshua

Oliver Ekman-Larsson — Tyler Myers

Quinn Hughes — Luke Schenn

Travis Dermott — Tucker Poolman

Thatcher Demko

Spencer Martin

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