Canucks: 5 Assistant Coach Candidates

The Vancouver Canucks are in the market for some new assistant coaches after it was announced Scott Walker would not return to the team next season. After three stints with the Canucks, he has decided to return to his roots and coach the Ontario Hockey League’s Guelph Storm, where he was their head coach from 2010-15. Here are five candidates that could fill the open assistant coach position in Vancouver.

Mike Yeo

According to multiple reporters, including Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, Mike Yeo is someone the Canucks have been interested in when it comes to the vacant assistant coaching position. There is a connection to Vancouver as he was part of the Penguins organization when the current Canucks general manager, Patrik Allvin, joined Pittsburgh in 2016. This past season, he was the assistant coach for the Philadelphia Flyers before taking over for Alain Vigneault in early December.

Mike Yeo Philadelphia Flyers
Mike Yeo, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Yeo has a long track record in the NHL, which could be enticing to the Canucks, as he has been a head coach on three separate occasions and spent the last three seasons as an assistant coach for the Flyers. Hiring him would bring a wealth of experience to the organization.

Sam Hallam

Sam Hallam is a Swedish coach who currently coaches the Växjö Lakers HC of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL). He does have a connection to Vancouver as he was Elias Pettersson’s coach in 2017-18 when the Canucks superstar won SHL Rookie of the Year, SHL Forward of the Year, SHL Playoff MVP and the SHL Most Valuable Player awards. This connection worked in the SHL, so who says it can’t work in the NHL.

Overall, Hallam has been one of the top coaches in Sweden for the last few seasons. He won back-to-back SHL Coach of the Year awards in 2016-17 and 2017-18 while also leading his team to three SHL Championships. As for player development, he has also coached players that have made it to the NHL, such as Calle Rosén, Jonas Røndbjerg, Erik Källgren and, of course, Pettersson. NHL teams need to start expanding their coaching search overseas as sometimes, the best option may be over in Europe.

Mitch Love

The Canucks would be wise to add up-and-coming coach Mitch Love to their staff before someone else does. This season, he led the Stockton Heat of the American Hockey League (AHL) to a 45-16-5-2 record which clinched the Heat’s first-ever division championship. For his efforts, he was named AHL Coach of the Year.

Related: Saskatoon Blades Coach Love Is Pulling All the Right Strings

Love has ties to the West Coast thanks to his many years in the Western Hockey League (WHL). He played for the Everett Silvertips from 2003-2005 before jumping behind their bench from 2011-18 as an assistant coach. In 2018, he was hired as the head coach of the Swift Current Broncos until this past season when he earned the job as the Heat’s head coach. During his time in the WHL, he was also heavily involved with Team Canada, being named assistant coach for the World Juniors in 2020 and 2021. He would be a great addition to the Canucks as they could groom him into potentially the next head coach down the line.

Brad Lauer

Few have been more successful in the WHL the last few seasons than Brad Lauer. Since being named head coach of the Edmonton Oil Kings, he has won the WHL Coach of the Year award back in 2019-20 and has led his team to the top of the Central Division in each of the past four seasons. During that time, he has helped develop some top NHL prospects too, including Dylan Guenther, Jake Neighbours, Sebastian Cossa, and Matthew Robertson.

Anaheim Ducks Bruce Boudreau Brad Lauer
Anaheim Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau and assistant coach Brad Lauer, March 22, 2013 (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

Lauer also has experience coaching in the NHL as he was an assistant coach for three different teams from 2009-18. He also has connections to Vancouver already, as in 2017-18, he coached J.T. Miller after he was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning mid-season and from 2011-15, he was also part of Bruce Boudreau’s coaching staff in Anaheim. Both of these factors may give him a leg up on the competition.

J.D. Forrest

If Jim Rutherford and Allvin are looking to bring in someone they know, J.D. Forrest may be the guy. The current head coach of the AHL’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins has been with the Penguins organization since 2016-17 and was promoted to the head coaching gig in 2020-21 by the Canucks’ current leadership regime. Last season with the AHL Penguins, he led them to a playoff berth after a 35-33-4-4 record.

Related: 3 Players the Penguins Need to Call Up From the AHL Next Season

During his time in the AHL, Forrest has coached current players, including Jake Guentzel, Oskar Sundqvist, Tristan Jarry and Zach Aston-Reese. He also knows how to work with young players, which is vital considering most of the Canucks core is just approaching their prime, and as mentioned, he has a long-standing history with the people in charge of hiring the new assistant coach. Being a young coach with some potential, it could be beneficial for him to learn from a veteran bench boss like Boudreau.

Overview

Overall, there are plenty of options available for the Canucks when it comes to their new assistant coach. Whether they go with an established coach or an up-and-coming one, this coaching staff will be under a lot of pressure to make the playoffs this coming season. Vancouver needs to ensure they find someone who is not only up for the challenge but is ready to push the young core of this team so they can reach their potential in 2022-23.


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