6 Canucks That Impressed in First Preseason Games

Vancouver Canucks hockey is officially back as the team played two split-squad games Sunday night against the Calgary Flames. Although they dropped both contests, there were positives to draw from each game. Here are six players, three from each game, that stood out.

Vasily Podkolzin

Playing on a line with Bo Horvat and Conor Garland, Vasily Podkolzin shined. Not only did he score a highlight reel goal, but he also led the team in shots with four and individual high danger chances created with five. Lastly, he showed off his physical game with five hits that also led the team. He left a great first impression and showed he is ready to jump up and take more responsibility in the lineup.

Vasily Podkolzin Vancouver Canucks
Vasily Podkolzin, Vancouver Canucks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Not only were his offensive numbers strong, but he played well defensively too. If he is going to be on Horvat’s wing this season, he will be facing an increase in defensive zone starts and responsibility. While it was only one game against a Calgary team that sent mostly American Hockey League (AHL) and junior players to Vancouver, he showed he can be a difference maker on the defensive side by playing strong in front of head coach Bruce Boudreau.

Vincent Arseneau

Vincent Arseneau is an AHL player that is very easy to root for. He doesn’t put up big numbers but is consistently one of the hardest-working guys on the ice, regardless of the situation. Despite spending more minutes in the penalty box than on the ice, he stood out during every shift.

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A player who isn’t afraid to stand up for his teammates or play a physical game, he finished with two hits and took on Adam Klapka, who is six inches taller, 12 pounds heavier and eight years younger than him. Arseneau should once again serve as a strong leader in Abbotsford and will hopefully help some of the young players who came over from Europe to adjust to the North American game.

Jack Rathbone

This is a massive season for Jack Rathbone. The left-shot defenceman is at the stage of his career where he should be making the transition to full-time NHLer after a strong season in Abbotsford. He has looked good in training camp and showed he is ready for the challenge through his strong play against the Flames.

No one played more minutes in either game for the Canucks than Rathbone. In total, he was on the ice for 25:45, which included eight minutes on the power play. He also saw five minutes on the penalty kill playing alongside Luke Schenn, not just shorthanded, but at even strength too. At the end of the night, he had three shots on goal, blocked three shots and finished with an even-strength Corsi of 40.63%. While his defensive game still needs work, it was a good first impression for a player expected to make the opening night roster in October.

Tristen Nielsen

Tristen Nielsen was not only one of the best players at the Young Stars Classic; he has constantly stood out for all the right reasons in training camp. A player who is signed to an AHL deal, he was arguably the Canucks’ best skater in Calgary Sunday night. He was able to return to his old stomping grounds as he played over 100 games with the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League (WHL) and leave a strong impression in the process.

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Although the Canucks did not score a goal in Calgary, Nielsen was a catalyst all night long. He led the team with four shots on goal, created two individual high-danger chances, drew a penalty and threw two hits. He will be a player to keep an eye on for Abbotsford this season as he will likely be given more responsibility during the 2022-23 campaign.

Curtis Lazar

The Canucks brought in Curtis Lazar to not only solve their fourth-line center position issue but provide variety when it comes to faceoffs. As the only right-handed center projected to make Vancouver’s opening night roster, he will play a key defensive role at five on five and on the penalty kill. He started off his Canucks career strong after an impressive showing in Calgary.

Yes, it is the preseason, but Lazar put on a show. He finished the night with three shots on goal and went eight for 10 in the faceoff dot. As for his advanced statistics, he recorded a 77.78% Corsi and held the Flames to just one shot on goal at five on five. He already looks like a good signing and should help the Canucks establish a strong fourth line this season.

Brady Keeper

One year ago, Brady Keeper was carried off on a stretcher from Canucks practice. After a full year of rehabilitation, he was ready to jump back and show Vancouver that he is ready to push for a roster spot. The right-shot defenceman was partnered with Christian Wolanin for most of the night and stepped up whenever the opportunity presented itself. Whether he is sent down to the AHL or wins the seventh defencemen slot, the good news is he looked strong and confident on the ice.

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While he didn’t show up much on the box score, it was clear he was one of the better Canucks on the ice. He looked engaged in the play and recorded a 57.14% Corsi in just under 15 minutes of even-strength ice time. It was great to see him back on the ice, and hopefully, he can keep up his strong play throughout the preseason.

Plenty Of Positives Despite Losing Both Games

Despite Vancouver dropping both contests, there were plenty of positives to draw from the games. These six players stepped up, and the hope is others expected to make the team can quickly follow suit. The Canucks have a tough schedule to start the season, so they will need to use the preseason to their advantage and put forward a strong team effort the rest of the way.

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