When Justin Dowling signed with the Vancouver Canucks this offseason, not many people paid attention. He was supposed to be a depth piece that would be called up from the American Hockey League (AHL) if needed. However, he is proving to be an essential piece of this lineup six games into the season.
Dowling’s Special Teams Play
The most impressive part of Dowling’s game so far has been his work on special teams, specifically on the penalty kill. Before jumping into his contribution shorthanded, the focus turns to the power play where he has been decent on the second unit. Through eight minutes of ice time this season, he has been on the ice for one goal for, has created one individual scoring chance while going 50% in the faceoff dot. His power playtime is usually dependent on if Alex Chiasson is in the lineup, but he has shown he can be an option if injuries hit this team in the future.
As for his time on the penalty kill, Dowling has been a bright spot on an otherwise problematic unit. Through 6:55 of ice time so far this season, the team has limited opponents to four shots against and zero goals. The unit has also produced two shots for including one from Dowling himself. His best outing came against the Blackhawks, where his shorthanded unit outshot Chicago two to zero in 1:55 of ice time.
Dowling will be relied upon on the penalty kill until players like Tyler Motte and Brandon Sutter return. If the early results are any indication, fans may see him on the penalty kill more and more as the season progresses.
Dowling’s Five on Five Play
Dowling hasn’t been spectacular at five-on-five, but he has not been a liability either. He has posted a 42.2% Corsi for (CF%) through the first six games, but that mostly has to do with his linemates. In his 50:16 of ice time at five-on-five, most of it has been spent on a line with Juho Lammikko and Vasily Podkolzin in a limited role. Neither has found their offensive groove yet, hurting Dowling’s offensive production when placed on a line together.
Dowling has managed seven shots on goal while five on five and has created five high danger scoring chances through the six games. He is also third on the Canucks in individual expected goals (ixG) and is second amongst forwards with four blocked shots. Lastly, he is tied for the team lead with a 50% high danger chances for percentage (HDCF%). He has done everything you want a fourth-liner to do, be available to play up in the lineup if possible, not give up too many chances in the defensive zone and contribute some offense. He may not be the most exciting player in the lineup, but he does his job and has helped this Canuck team so far this season while five on five.
Dowling is a Faceoff Option
One additional strength to Dowling’s game is his ability to win faceoffs. He has a 57.1% win percentage this season in a limited sample size. One major issue this season for the Canucks has been the ability to win faceoffs. They are currently ranked 25th overall in the league with a 47.1% win percentage. He has almost the same number of wins (eight) as his linemate Lammikko (10) despite taking nine fewer draws. This is a great additional asset to have, especially with the team struggling on faceoffs as they have.
The Ultimate Swiss Army Knife
He may not get the praise that players like Connor Garland or Oliver Ekman-Larsson are getting, but quietly, Dowling has become one of the best offseason moves by the Canucks this offseason. He only makes $750,000 and has shown his versatility throughout the first six games. Watch for him to get an expanded role as the season goes on, especially on special teams.
Adam is excited to be joining The Hockey Writers as part of the Seattle Kraken and Vancouver Canucks team. His work can also be found at area51sportsnet.com where he covers the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.