Canucks’ Potential 2022-23 Opening Night Lineup

The Vancouver Canucks will open the 2022-23 season on the road against the Edmonton Oilers. After a rough start last season, the organization made a few changes as they named Bruce Boudreau as head coach, Patrik Allvin as the general manager and Jim Rutherford as president of hockey operations. Those changes continued into the offseason, as the Canucks reshaped their coaching staff and added to their front office.

Bruce Boudreau Vancouver Canucks head coach
Bruce Boudreau, Vancouver Canucks head coach (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Canucks also added a few players to their roster. They signed Andrei Kuzmenko after months of speculation of where the Russian forward would end up, while the team signed Ilya Mikheyev, Curtis Lazar and Dakota Joshua. However, they didn’t make many notable changes on defence, a big weakness for the team last season, but there could be a few tweaks to improve from within. Additionally, Jaroslav Halak signed with the New York Rangers, therefore, the club will have a new backup goalie. Here is what the Canucks’ lineup might look like on opening night. 

Forward Breakdown

The Canucks have an exciting set of forwards heading into next season, which includes some new faces. Miller is coming off of a career year, where he scored 32 goals and posted 99 points, while captain Bo Horvat scored a career-high 31 goals in 70 games. Meanwhile, Pettersson bounced back from a disappointing season to tie Miller for the lead in goals with 32. Brock Boeser had a tough season while dealing with some personal issues but should bounce back next season. 

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Meanwhile, newcomer Conor Garland played well but was inconsistent at times, while rookie Vasily Podkolzin showed glimpses of his potential. Lastly, Nils Hoglander had a disappointing sophomore season as the forward was unable to gain Boudreau’s trust. The organization also added a few free agents to add skill and sandpaper throughout their lineup.

Forward Lines

Miller will likely centre the first line while being flanked by Boeser and Kuzmenko. Miller is a combination of a talented goal scorer and playmaker, while Kuzmenko has impressive playmaking ability, which should complement Boeser’s scoring touch. The trio could be an effective top line for the Canucks next season and lead the club offensively. 

The second line will include Pettersson, playing alongside two 2019 Draft picks in Hoglander and Podkolzin. In the 66 minutes the trio played together last season, they were the club’s best line. They led the team in expected goals for (xGF%) and goals for per 60 minutes (GF/60), second in Corsi For %(CF%), and the fifth best in goals against per 60 minutes (GA/60). This line could be permanent, especially if Hoglander has improved on the defensive end of the ice and earns Boudreau’s trust back. Nonetheless, Pettersson and Podkolzin should start the season together. If Hoglander doesn’t show any sign of improvement, Boudreau has the option to slot Mikheyev beside the two. 

Elias Pettersson Vancouver Canucks
Elias Pettersson, Vancouver Canucks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

With Horvat centring the third line, the Canucks will have scoring on all three lines. Mikheyev brings additional speed alongside the captain and the energetic Garland. Boudreau found success last season when he had three offensive lines, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the head coach decided to start the season similarly. Mikheyev is solid on both ends of the ice, while Garland is shifty and skilled. All three players should provide the Canucks with a third level of scoring. 

Related: 3 Canucks Bounce-Back Candidates for 2022-23

Newcomer Lazar will likely centre the fourth line unless the club decides to give Jason Dickinson another crack at centre. However, Lazar provides the team with a reliable defensive centre, who adds much-needed sandpaper. Joshua on the wing is a big and tough player to play against. Allvin believes he can be a full-time NHL player, therefore, a spot on the fourth line on opening night wouldn’t be a surprise. Alongside Lazar and Joshua will be Tanner Pearson, who has been playing in the top 9 since joining the team. Since the Canucks have added to their top-9, he will likely drop down to the fourth line. The only player who could swap spots with Pearson is Hoglander, as he didn’t impress Boudreau last season. Pearson also has chemistry with Horvat, so he could start the season on the third line. 

Dickinson and Lockwood would both serve as extra forwards. Dickinson could jump in if Boudreau decides to play Pettersson on the wing. Lockwood has been waiting for an NHL opportunity and should also see some playing time early in the season. 

Kuzmenko-Miller-Boeser

Hoglander-Pettersson-Podkolzin

Mikheyev-Horvat-Garland

Pearson-Lazar-Joshua

Extra: Jason Dickinson, Will Lockwood

Defence Breakdown

Despite being thin on the right side of the blue line, the Canucks didn’t add much to their d-core. Unless the club makes changes between now and opening night, the defence will likely look the same as last season with a few tweaks. 

Quinn Hughes is coming off of a record-breaking season as a Canuck. He set the record for the most assists (60) and points (68) by a Canucks defenceman in a single season. Oliver Ekman-Larsson will be in his second season with the organization and will likely be in a matchup role, once again. Tyler Myers is also returning for his fourth season with the organization and could see a change in how he is deployed. Meanwhile, Luke Schenn is returning after having an impressive season with the club, while Travis Dermott will get an opportunity to play in a full season with the team.

The most intriguing player on the Canucks’ blue line is Jack Rathbone, who will finally get an opportunity to play on the main roster. He started last season on the main roster but was sent down to the minors to play in Abbotsford. His play in 39 games in the American Hockey League (AHL) shows he is ready to play in the NHL. He scored 10 goals and posted 40 points during the 2021-22 season in the AHL. 

Defence Pairing 

Hughes and Schenn played well together last season and should be paired up to start the 2022-23 season. The two compliment each other well as Hughes is the skilled offensive blueliner, while Schenn is a big-body defensive defender. 

Quinn Hughes Vancouver Canucks
Quinn Hughes, Vancouver Canucks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Due to a lack of right-handed defencemen, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Boudreau moves Ekman-Larsson to the right side. Rathbone could be a quality partner for Ekman-Larsson, providing the pairing with the offensive edge, while the Swedish vet carries defensive responsibility. 

With Ekman-Larsson’s shift to the right side, Myers will shift down to the third pairing, which could help his game a lot. Instead of playing north of 20 minutes, the Canucks could get the most out of the 6-foot-8 defenceman by playing him in a lesser role as Myers is prone to making big mistakes when he is playing a lot of minutes. Boudreau could pair him with Dermott, who is a decent skate and can move the puck. If the Ekman-Larsson playing on the right side project doesn’t work out, the Canucks could play Dermott on the right side, as well. 

Related: 4 Canucks Hot Takes for 2022-23 Season

The extra defenceman will likely be Kyle Burroughs, who was a surprise for the Canucks last season. Burroughs is a right-shot defenceman and will be useful for the club in case of an injury. 

Hughes-Schenn

Rathbone-Ekman-Larsson

Dermott-Myers

Extra: Kyle Burroughs

Goalies

Thatcher Demko will clearly start for the Canucks next season, which will be his second full season as the club’s starting goaltender. He started 61 games last season, posting a 33-22-7 record, with a 2.72 goals against average and a .915 save percentage. Demko was the Canucks MVP for most of the season as he was one of the few to play well to start the season and was a large part in the team’s success mid-way through the campaign. He will look to continue as one of the NHL’s best goalies in the 2022-23 season.

Thatcher Demko Vancouver Canucks
Thatcher Demko, Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Demko’s backup will be Spencer Martin, who played well in his six starts last season and signed a two-year deal in April. The 27-year-old will take over Halak’s slot behind Demko next season and will likely see more games than the veteran goalie. Halak started in 14 games last season, but Martin will likely start over 20, which should keep Demko fresh all season long. 

Canucks Headed Into An Exciting Season

With Boudreau behind the bench to start the season, the Canucks are headed into what should be an exciting 2022-23 season. With the additions up front in Kuzmenko and Mikheyev, the Canucks will likely play a fast brand of hockey. Although it may be fun at times, it doesn’t guarantee they will be a winning team. However, if the switch with Ekman-Larsson to the right side works out for the club and Demko plays at the elite level he showed last season, the Canucks could be a playoff team next season. 

The Canucks roster could look completely different come October with the possibility of a Miller trade. Since the Calgary Flames signed Nazem Kadri, more teams should be calling the Canucks for the forward. If the club can pull off a trade that includes a right-handed defenceman in return, the roster could improve all around.


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