Before the Vancouver Canucks took on the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday, there was speculation as to why Vasily Podkolzin was not in the team’s lineup. Head coach Bruce Boudreau decided to scratch the 2019 first-round draft pick before the matchup.
Podkolzin has had a rough time producing under the team’s new head coach but isn’t the only young Canucks forward to struggle under Boudreau. Fellow 2019 Draft pick Nils Hoglander has also had a tough time producing and earning playing time.
The Canucks will need to win 25 of their final 37 games to hit 96 points, which should be enough for a playoff spot. If the team is going to make it to the playoffs, they will need Podkozlin and Hoglander to step up and produce throughout the remainder of the season. Both players aren’t getting enough playing time, but only one of them deserves to play more.
Podkolzin & Hoglander’s Season So Far
In his rookie season, Podkolzin has scored seven goals and posted 10 points in 42 games. All seven of the Russian rookie’s goals have come at even strength, while he averages 12:30 time on ice (TOI). His 12.7 shooting percentage (S%) is third on the team.
Meanwhile, Hoglander has eight goals and 15 points in 44 games in his sophomore season. Seven of his eight goals have come at even strength, while he averages 13:49 TOI this season and has a 7.6 S%.
Both forwards don’t have terrible offensive numbers this season, but their production under Boudreau isn’t the same as it was under Travis Green. Podkolzin scored five of his seven goals and posted six of his 10 points under the former head coach while holding a 15.6 S%. Under Boudreau, he’s found the back of the net twice while posting five points. Additionally, he’s scored once in the past 14 games and has an 8.7 S%.
As for Hoglander, he scored five goals and posted 10 points in 25 games under Green. He also scored 13 goals and 27 points in 57 games in his rookie season under the former head coach. Under Boudreau, he’s scored three goals and registered five points in 20 games. Similar to Podkozlin, he’s only scored one goal in his last 15 games. His average TOI has dipped from 14:27 to 12:45 with Boudreau.
Podkolzin Needs More Minutes
The solution to Podkolzin’s struggles is simple, more playing time. Boudreau has given the forward more playing time compared to Green. The rookie has gone from 11:47 TOI to 13:22. Still, the forward has earned more playing time despite his offensive production. Not only has he proven that he can be one of the team’s more productive players at even strength, but he can be trusted defensively. He is plus-5 in 19 games with the new head coach and has an expected goal for % of 54.26.
Podkolzin isn’t a defensive liability and has shown he can score at 5-on-5, but 13:22 TOI isn’t enough for the rookie to produce. Boudreau should give the Russian minutes in the top-six alongside his top players in Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, J.T. Miller, Bo Horvat and Conor Garland, which should help with his offensive production and development. The decision to make the forward a healthy scratch on Monday is one that should pay off for Boudreau moving forward.
Hoglander Needs To Improve On Defensive End
The issue with Hoglander and his TOI is Boudreau doesn’t trust the forward in the defensive end. The head coach sees the forward’s potential, but need’s him to improve on both ends.
Although Hoglander is creating offensive scoring opportunities, the Canucks are giving up just as many scoring chances in the defensive end (from ‘Canucks’ Nils Höglander’s shot as NHL regular real, but better defensive play required.,’ The Province, January 28, 2022). Hoglander creates offensively at 2.75 expected goals per 60 minutes but gives up 2.75 expected goals against per 60. For him to earn more than 12:45 TOI under Boudreau, he’ll have to clean up his play in the defensive zone. For now, he’ll continue to get limited minutes and may even be a healthy scratch for the Canucks at some point. The forward saw a team-low 8:31 TOI against Chicago on Monday night.
Still Young and Talented
Despite the decrease in playing time, Podkolzin and Hoglander are still young and talented players with promising futures. The 2019 Draft picks will likely improve in the future, but the Canucks need to win games now, and the players Boudreau ices need to have his trust. It won’t be a surprise if Podkolzin returns to the lineup and starts producing offensively, but the forward could use some help from his head coach with a few extra minutes in playing time. As for Hoglander, he will need to clean up his play in the defensive zone and hope for a few lucky bounces to boost his S%.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.