The Vancouver Canucks have had a tough start in the 2020-21 season. They have an 8-11-1 record to start and have lost seven of their last nine games. Within those nine games, outside of their top-six forwards, the Canucks have struggled to produce.
Addiotnaly, Canucks head coach Travis Green has tried multiple line combinations in an attempt to generate offence. One of the lines he used included Loui Eriksson, Jay Beagle, and Jake Virtanen. The Canucks have a few options in their minor league team, the Utica Comets, to help provide the club with offensive depth. Justin Bailey, who is out with an upper-body injury, was given an opportunity with the club and provided the team with speed.
There is one problem the Canucks will run into when calling up players from Utica. Players arriving from outside of Canada will have to serve a two-week quarantine. Therefore if the Canucks want to add one of these players to their lineup, they will have to plan in advance for the player to join the team or the taxi squad.
The Canucks drafted Kole Lind in the second round of the 2017 NHL Draft with the 33rd overall pick. Since being drafted, Lind is in his third season with the Comets. He has gradually progressed over his three seasons in the AHL. In his first season, the forward scored five goals and 17 points in 51 games and followed up with 14 goals and 44 points in 61 games the following season. This season, he is off to a hot start with four goals in five games.
In the 2020-21 season, Lind has transitioned from playing on the wing to centre, which is important for the Canucks, as the club may trade Adam Gaudette at some point this season. Lind can potentially jump into the main roster and serve as a bottom-six centre. Additionally, he gives the Canucks a different look on the power play, as he has been effective from the bumper position.
The only part of Lind’s game he needs to work on as a centre is in the faceoff circle. His struggles in the circle should not be too much of a concern since the player he will replace, Gaudette, also struggles, as he has a faceoff win percentage of 44.4. Also, the Canucks have two veteran centremen in Brandon Sutter and Jay Beagle, who can take draws while the young forward improves.
Sven Baertschi was once a top-six option for the Canucks and a consistent offensive producer for the team. Before the 2019-20 season, the club sent Baertschi to the minor league, where he has spent most of his time the last two seasons. He spent six seasons with the Canucks, as he scored 58 goals and posted 110 points in 225 games.
So far, with the Comets, Baertschi has shown he can still produce offensively. The 2019-20 season was the forward’s first without concussion symptoms(from ‘Ben Kuzma: Can Sven Baertschi get it right winging it to fill Canucks’ big roster hole?,’ The Province’ 12/17/2020). Last season, he scored 13 goals and posted 46 points in 43 games and this season, he has three points in five games. There are few reasons why he won’t produce at the same clip in the NHL. Obviously, the higher skill level in the NHL makes a difference. Also, he plays on the first line in Utica, while with the Canucks he would be a bottom-six forward.
The Canucks could use Baertschi in a depth scoring role. The only difficulty would be dealing with his cap hit. He is in the last season of his contract, and the club could get more out of him than some of the forwards currently on the team.
Another one of the Canucks’ 2017 NHL Draft picks, Jonah Gadjovich, has had a great start in Utica. Now in his third season with the Comets, Gadjovich has shown off his goal-scoring ability. Last season, the winger scored 13 goals in 38 games, up from the four goals he scored in his first season through 43 games. He has four goals in five games this season.
Gadjovich may not be the likeliest option for the Canucks, but if he continues to produce at the same rate as he has started the season with Utica, he would be a great option. At 6’2″ and 205 pounds, he provides a net-front presence and has recently improved his speed.
Lind Is the Most Likely Call-Up
Lind is the likeliest of call-ups among the players mentioned. He is versatile as he can play on the wing and at centre, which allows him to move throughout the lineup. Additionally, he can be a weapon on the power play, whether he is on the first or second unit.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.