Canucks’ 3 Up, 3 Down: Boeser Return, Stillman Trade & More

Welcome to the latest edition of the Vancouver Canucks’ 3 Up, 3 Down for the 2022-23 season. This will be a weekly column released on Mondays chronicling the highs and lows of the previous seven days.

After a disappointing start to the preseason that saw the Vancouver Canucks go 0-2-2, this past week was a little better as they finished their exhibition schedule with a final record of 2-3-2. On the backs of a 5-4 victory over the Edmonton Oilers and a 4-0 dismantling of the Arizona Coyotes, they will enter the regular season on a two-game winning streak.

Vancouver Canucks 3 up, 3 down

Elias Pettersson was the star of the week, scoring three goals in the final two games including the game-winner against the Oilers that gave the Canucks their first win of the preseason. Andrei Kuzmenko also continued his hot streak by scoring a goal on a breakaway after a brilliant pass by Tanner Pearson found him exiting the penalty box. Fans and goaltenders should start getting used to that quick release because I think they will be seeing it a lot this season. It was so fast that Karel Vejmelka looked like he was in slow motion as he attempted to close his five-hole.

With that, here’s a look at some of the good and bad from the week that was for the Canucks and their fans.

Plus One: Stillman Strengthens Defence Corps

Allvin has made three trades in his tenure as GM and two have involved acquiring a young defenceman who has yet to hit his potential. The first was Travis Dermott from the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the second – and most recent – was adding Riley Stillman from the Chicago Blackhawks for Jason Dickinson and a 2024 second-round pick.

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Mid-way through the first period of the final preseason game against the Coyotes, the deal was announced and shortly after, Allvin spoke to reporters stating that Stillman was not just a move for depth in the American Hockey League, but for the NHL roster.

With the injuries to Tyler Myers and the aforementioned Dermott, the Canucks might need him to be more than just a third-pairing defenceman. He will likely take on a major role in the penalty kill and be a physical presence alongside possibly Kyle Burroughs or even Oliver Ekman-Larsson on the second pairing – depending on how Tucker Poolman plays.

Regardless, Stillman being added to the defence strengthens its depth and makes the Canucks harder to play against. If he would have been on the team last season, he would have tied Burroughs in total hits (122). He also isn’t afraid to drop the gloves and stand up for his teammates as he totaled four fights in 2021-22 for the Blackhawks.

Related: 3 Burning Questions After Canucks Trade Dickinson For Stillman

Discussing the acquisition with Blackhawks writer Brooke LoFurno, she was disappointed to see him leave saying that he still has a lot of upside to his game and that he was easy to root for due to his strong work ethic and physical game. On top of all that, Stillman seems happy to join the team.

“As a Canadian kid, you grow up you watch Hockey Night in Canada every Saturday night…you want to play on Saturday nights. To have the opportunity to do that here and for an organization we have here, that’s so special.”

Minus One: Another Second-Round Draft Pick Out the Door

Unfortunately, to get rid of Dickinson’s contract and cap hit, the Canucks had to give up yet another second-round pick in the process. Combined with the ones included in the Oliver Ekman-Larsson/Conor Garland and Tyler Toffoli deals, that makes three in the last four seasons. The silver lining, I guess is that it wasn’t a 2023 selection as that draft promises to be at least two rounds deep with first-round talent.

Jason Dickinson, Vancouver Canucks
Unfortunately, jettisoning Jason Dickinson’s contract required losing another second-round pick (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

For a pipeline not flush with elite prospects beyond Jonathan Lekkerimaki, the Canucks can’t afford to continue doing this. I know it’s the cost of doing business sometimes, but if the organization doesn’t start accumulating draft capital soon, they will be in trouble when the current core starts aging and they don’t have anyone to replace them.

Plus Two: Pettersson & Kuzmenko Could Be a Lethal Duo

As mentioned off the top, Pettersson and Kuzmenko continued their scoring ways this past week and look poised to become a lethal duo during the regular season. Boudreau has already taken a liking to the 5-foot-11 Russian sniper on the power play, as he played him a team-high 8:55 in that particular situation on Friday. His postgame comments about him have also been extremely positive, especially when it comes to the release of his shot.

He can score. Give him a shot, give him a chance and he can score…there’s no doubt about his release and his shot is as good as anybody.

Playing on a one-year, $950,000 contract, Kuzmenko could end up being the most budget-friendly deal on the market by the end of the season. Unfortunately, that will mean more money on a potential long-term deal if he scores the projected 20-25 goals that his shot and time on the power play alone will probably get him. But this is a plus section, so we will table that discussion for now.

Elias Pettersson Vancouver Canucks
Elias Pettersson, Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

As for Pettersson, he looks like a man on a mission, as his wrist shot and one-timer look as dangerous as ever. He also appears to be stronger on his skates and larger in stature thanks to an offseason of training and preparation for the 2022-23 season. All in all, I think the NHL and Canucks Nation alike will be seeing a lot of goals coming from Pettersson and Kuzmenko as they appear to have instant chemistry with each other. Could we be seeing the next dynamic duo ala Bertuzzi-Naslund and the Sedin twins? It sure looks like it early on.

Minus Two: Garland Injured, Bad News About Myers & Dermott

Now onto the injury segment of the show as the Canucks got another blow on that front with Garland leaving the Coyotes game after getting sandwiched between two players. He took a “maintenance day” yesterday, so that could be good news when it comes to his availability for opening night.

Related: NHL Rumors: Red Wings, Canucks, Oilers, Bruins

While Garland might play against the Oilers on Wednesday, Myers and Dermott will not. It was announced early last week that Myers would be out for at least two weeks and that Dermott was diagnosed with a concussion – which as we know is hit or miss when it comes to timelines. Stillman will of course help stop the bleeding, but he is no Cale Makar. For the Canucks to survive the early part of the season – especially the initial five-game road trip – unlikely names will have to step up, or they risk starting off on the wrong foot for the second-straight campaign.

Plus Three: Boeser Skating, Could Play on Opening Night

Finally, some positive news when it comes to injuries! After being initially ruled out for the first couple weeks of the season, it appears Brock Boeser is nearing a return to the lineup, maybe even as soon as opening night against the Oilers. He was seen skating at practice as a full participant and zipping wrist shots like his hand wasn’t any worse for wear. Which is great news considering the fact that the recovery time was set for 3-4 weeks on Sept. 26.

Boudreau for one is hoping Boeser will be available as it would make his life easier when constructing his top-nine lineup for the first test against Connor McDavid and company. He will likely slot in on the “top line” alongside J.T. Miller and Tanner Pearson and the second power play unit with a combination of Garland, Pearson, Vasily Podkolzin, Nils Hoglander and Ilya Mikheyev once everyone is healthy.

Minus Three: Is Quinn Hughes Hurt Too?

From the good to the bad…again. Hopefully, this will turn into a plus once Wednesday comes around, but as of right now Quinn Hughes missing the game against the Coyotes and getting two “maintenance days” in a row is a concern. It could mean a minor injury that just needs rest, but any ailment to the Canucks’ most crucial weapon is something to monitor. He will once again be the primary minute-muncher on defence and the power play, so any time he misses will likely lead to losses in the standings. That is something they cannot afford to have, especially early in the season when any missteps could cost them the playoffs in April.

Related: Canucks Impressed By Hughes’ Versatility & Work Ethic [Video]

That does it for another edition of the Canucks’ 3 Up, 3 Down. Hopefully next week we’re talking about wins over the Oilers (Oct. 12) and Philadelphia Flyers (Oct. 15), and of course lots of goals from Pettersson and Kuzmenko. Until then, get pumped Canucks Nation, the regular season is only days away!

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