The Vancouver Canucks mid-term NHL report cards for forwards who spend most of their time in the ‘bottom-6’. Guys with a focus on defensive responsibilities and/or in bringing some grind, energy and grit.
However, in this day and age scoring throughout the line-up is more of an emphasis. Teams that win consistently produce it.
For reference, here’s the link to the first quarter ‘bottom-6’ grades. Those Vancouver Canucks report cards came out in late November when the team found itself in last place in the NHL’s Pacific Division with a record of 7-14-and-2 for 16 points.
The descriptions are more important than the grades. This group is the most difficult to put grades on because one must weigh in the ‘expectations’ factor. Or lack thereof.
Vasily Podkolzin – First quarter grade, B – midterm grade, C-plus – Is it unfair to expect more from the 20-year-old Russian playing in his first full season in North America? Maybe. Up until this season, other than playing in a handful of international junior tournaments, including three times at the World Juniors, he spent every minute in Russia. Different ice, obviously a different language, and a slightly different hockey culture.
Of course he’s not the first guy to go through that transition, but then again he’s not Alexander Ovechkin.
The 2019 10th-overall pick of the Vancouver Canucks can indeed snipe. Of his ten points, seven of them are goals. He picked up six of those points and five of those lamp-lighters under head coach Travis Green in 23 games played. In twenty games under Bruce Boudreau he has two goals and four points. His ice time remains unchanged in terms of range, basically between seven and fourteen minutes a night.
He’s actually a plus player with decent elementary analytics. It might be best to summarize it this way: more often he simply needs to be in the right place at the right time. He works hard, growing more sturdy, and he’s not afraid of physicality. Let’s see how development goes. This is a player who’s supposed to be in the top-6 and he has gotten tastes.
Alex Chiasson – First quarter grade, C – midterm grade, C-plus – This is one proud Quebecois. He has excellent appreciation for his skills and accomplishments, centered around the fact that he’s made three consecutive NHL teams, including the Canucks, on Professional Try-Outs (PTO) at training camp. The first time he pulled it off it led to a Stanley Cup in 2018 with the Washington Capitals. After that he won a gig with the Edmonton Oilers that lasted three seasons.
Chiasson is somewhat enigmatic. One will be watching a game and suddenly go, “Oh wow, there’s Chiasson, nice forecheck.” And then you’ll go back to not noticing him again until he’s suddenly standing in the crease trying to jam a puck between the goaltender’s legs.
He’s like a phantom in slow motion, yet he does have positive team puck possession numbers and he does draw penalties.
Four of his five goals and six of his nine points have been tallied on the power play. The ratio makes sense as he was brought aboard to be a ‘net-front presence’ power-play specialist. But nine points in 37 games? Meh.
Jason Dickinson – First quarter grade, C-minus – midterm grade, C – The penalty kill dragged him down in the first quarter. The team took awhile to find its footing in that department and although improving lately it’s still a work in progress.
He’s chipped in three goals and three assists in forty-three games. His lack of finish is consistent. He had three points at the quarter mark and he has six now. He’s converted on 6% of his shots. I’ve joked about it a little bit, sometimes laughter is the best medicine.
“Although his primary role is not to be a scorer, it wouldn’t hurt to contribute a reasonable amount more.” I put quotes around that because it’s from the first quarter report and it still applies.
He’s second on the team among forwards with 79 hits. Dickinson has only won 45% of his faceoffs which contributes to below average possession numbers. Then again, like Motte down below, the opponents they’re usually playing against will definitely be possessing pucks.
Justin Dowling – First quarter grade, B-minus – midterm grade, B-minus – I mean, for the amount of ice time and what’s expected, he’s actually performed pretty well. He brings energy, he’s fearless and he’s won a majority of the face-offs he’s had to take. How much feel can you develop with eleven shifts a night? You notice his work ethic when he’s out there.
Tyler Motte – First quarter grade B – midterm grade, B-plus – Again, a repeat quote from the quarter mark: “Anticipates well, good stick. He’s fearless, particularly for a guy who’s coming off off-season neck surgery. Work ethic, passion, thumbs up.”
Nine points in 31 games played. He and Elias Pettersson account for the team’s two shorthanded goals this season. He’s stolen way more pucks than he’s given away, but he’s lost a great majority of his draws. Any offence will simply come from being opportunistic.
Matthew Highmore – First quarter grade, incomplete – midterm grade, C-Plus – An unfair grade given the skill level and expectations. He played a season high 20:20 on January 21st at Florida. Last game at the Nashville Predators he skated just 9:59. That pretty much sums him up. He fills whatever roll necessary as long as it doesn’t really involve scoring. He can skate and was a key energy guy when the team was drudging through the recent east coast road trip while missing Covid protocol bodies.
He was non-existent in the line-up between October 28th and December 30th. He’s a plug and play plugger.
Juho Lammikko – First quarter grade, D-plus – midterm grade, C-Plus – Most improved player in the month of January. Again, the skill factor isn’t there but he has helped create havoc and made it difficult on the opposition. Diligent forechecker.
Had a season high three shots-on-goal on three separate occasions in the month of January. Ice time increased with Covid absences. Seven points in 39 games. Wins draws and has 23 blocked shots. Awful possession numbers but not really expecting much there.
Canucks Top-6 forwards on deck.