After finishing the season with a record of 40-25-3-4, the Abbotsford Canucks are set for a three-game series against the Bakersfield Condors. This is the second straight season that they have qualified for the American Hockey League (AHL) postseason, but the first time they will host a playoff game as the entire series will take place in Abbotsford. Here is a look at three Canucks to watch throughout the postseason.
This season’s winner of the Eddie Shore Award given to the AHL’s top defenceman, Christian Wolanin, will be looked upon to lead the Canucks’ blue line at both ends of the ice. Despite being called up by Vancouver in mid-February and only playing 49 games, he posted a career-high 55 points to lead Abbotsford in scoring. For his efforts, he was also named to the AHL First All-Star team and participated in the AHL All-Star Tournament, where he recorded a goal and an assist in four games.
The biggest question surrounding Wolanin is health, as he hasn’t played since March 23, 2023, due to a lower-body injury. He has been skating, so that is a good sign, as the Canucks will be looking for him to play big minutes throughout the postseason. If he can continue the strong play he exhibited with both Vancouver and Abbotsford throughout the 2022-23 regular season, it should be enough to help the Canucks win a playoff series for the first time in franchise history.
Arshdeep Bains has been one of Abbotsford’s top players and will be looked upon to lead the charge throughout the postseason. The former Western Hockey League (WHL) star, who led the league in scoring, winning the Bobby Clarke Trophy just a year ago with 112 points in 68 games, has transitioned well to the AHL in his rookie season, putting up 38 points in 66 games. He also had some success against Bakersfield recently, scoring a goal the last time he faced the Condors.
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It is safe to say Bains has impressed the coaching staff down in Abbotsford, as he has been used in all situations this season. From time on special teams to being a player that head coach Jeremy Colliton sends out late in games when the opposition has pulled the goaltender, he is a player the Canucks trust despite being a rookie. He has developed into a key piece for Abbotsford this year and should play a factor in each game whether or not he ends up on the scoresheet.
Despite an impressive training camp with the Vancouver Canucks, Linus Karlsson spent the entire season in the AHL and showed why there is plenty of optimism around his game. The 23-year-old finished fifth in rookie scoring with 49 points in 72 games and was the only Canuck to surpass 20 goals as he finished the season with 24. He also led the team with 170 shots on goal, finishing the year with a 14.1% shooting percentage. His two-way play has also seen improvement this year as he rounds out his game in hopes of making the jump to the NHL next season.
For the Canucks to be successful, they need Karlsson to continue to shoot and produce in the offensive zone. He does have a point in every game versus the Condors this season and will need to keep up that trend if Abbotsford wants to advance. A player who has had success in the postseason while he was playing in Sweden, he will be looked upon to provide consistent offence throughout the playoffs.
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Based on the rosters heading into the Calder Cup Playoffs, this is a series Abbotsford needs to win. They are the deeper team, whether it be in goal, on defence or up front and also have the benefit of all games being at home. There will also be a want for revenge as the two played last season, with the Condors sweeping the Canucks in the first round. Abbotsford Centre is going to be rocking as fans get set to see a playoff game in Abbotsford for the first time since the Abbotsford Heat lost Game 2 of their first-round series in 2014.