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Weekly Thoughts: Replacing the Sedins, Patience for Pettersson, Boqvist Versus Hughes

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NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Arizona Coyotes Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Replacing the Sedins Will Be Difficult Next Season

No team has scored fewer goals per game than the Vancouver Canucks since the start of the 2015-16 season.

Consider that and then ponder the possibility that the Sedins might retire next season. They’re no longer bonafide top-six players and definitely benefit from a high proportion of offensive zone starts, but they’ve still combined for more than 90 points this season for an anemic Canucks’ offence.

Help up front is on the way in the form of prospects such as Adam Gaudette, Elias Pettersson, Jonathan Dahlen, and Kole Lind, but how many of them can produce in the top-nine next season? There’s certainly an argument to be made that most, if not all of those young players could benefit from some time in Utica.

If that’s the case who fills the void if the Sedins retire next season? The Canucks look particularly thin down the middle where they have just Bo Horvat and Brandon Sutter as top-nine centres. What happens if one of those guys goes down with an injury?

The Sedins are perfect stop-gap players until some of the aforementioned prospects are ready to step into NHL spots. I’m not the only one making that assertion either.

What Do the Canucks Do With Elias Pettersson?

2017 5th overall pick Elias Pettersson has smashed all expectations in his draft plus one season.

Pettersson is undoubtedly talented enough to play in a sheltered role on the wing for the Canucks next season, but would that be the best decision for his long-term development?

The 19-year-old playmaker spent very little time playing centre, instead suiting up on the right wing for both Vaxjo in the SHL and Sweden at the World Juniors. This follows after his draft season was spent split between the wing and centre in the Allsvenskan as well.

For the Canucks, it’d be a huge benefit if Pettersson emerged as a true centre rather than a winger. The team already has Brock Boeser, Nikolay Goldobin, and Jake Virtanen on the right wing with Kole Lind on the way. Things are bleaker down the middle where Adam Gaudette is the only noteworthy centre prospect that looks capable of eventually entering the top-nine to support Bo Horvat.

Bringing Pettersson to North America is the ideal circumstance when considering that he still has to adjust to the smaller ice surface. Furthermore, the Canucks can monitor and control Pettersson’s development a lot more closely.

The debate begins when you ask whether he makes the jump to the NHL right away and what position he plays. I haven’t been able to watch much of Pettersson in the SHL, but his play on the smaller ice at the World Juniors gave me the feeling that he may be better suited to starting the season playing centre in Utica.

A lot can change over the summer and into training camp, but don’t be surprised if Elias Pettersson starts the season in the AHL.

Boqvist and Hughes Age Discrepancy

One of the most difficult factors to account for when evaluating draft-eligible prospects is age difference. A discrepancy of 8-10 months between prospects can distort value since each player is at a different level with regards to how close they are to reaching their potential.

Take for example Pierre-Luc Dubois and Clayton Keller, two of the youngest players taken in the top 10 of the 2016 draft. Both were described as project players that would take time to fulfill their respective potentials. Particular concern was expressed for the 3rd overall pick Dubois, who appeared to stagnate at the junior level in his draft plus one season while his peers like Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, and Matthew Tkachuk were already flourishing in the NHL.

Dubois and Keller have taken massive strides in their development this season where their prorated point totals have them scoring 42 and 59 points respectively. Dubois and Keller were up-to ten months younger than their peers and consequentially significantly more raw and underdeveloped at the time of the draft.

That same assertion must be considered when comparing Adam Boqvist and Quinn Hughes— two defensemen that may be of interest to the Canucks in the top 5.

On the surface, Quinn Hughes appears miles ahead of Boqvist. Hughes is outscoring last year’s 4th overall pick Cale Makar by seven points in the NCAA, while Boqvist is struggling to produce in both the SHL and Allsvensken— ultimately spending most of his season in the J20 circuit.

Hughes flashed his elite skating and dynamic puck-moving skills at the World Juniors whereas Boqvist failed to crack Sweden’s roster.

The caveat in all this is that Hughes is nearly ten months older than Boqvist and was less than a month away from being eligible for last year’s draft.

For my money, Hughes is still the better prospect, though it’s important to keep in mind that he’s ahead of the curve development wise.

Poor Start For Motte

Tyler Motte has disappointed since being acquired alongside Jussi Jokinen for Thomas Vanek. The 23-year-old has gone pointless in eight games and is getting buried by a significant margin with regards to shot attempts and goals.

Motte ranks worst among Canucks’ forwards since the trade deadline in controlling shot attempts, producing unblocked shot attempts for, and goals for.

It’s important to acknowledge that he’s had tough defensive assignments and zone starts, but the eye test hasn’t proved to be much better either. Motte has shown little of substance aside from flashes of speed and decent penalty killing ability.

Motte’s skill set is quite similar to the likes of Jayson Megna and Griffen Molino in that skating is his only feature that excels at the NHL level.

With youngsters like Adam Gaudette, Elias Pettersson, Nikolay Goldobin, and Jonathan Dahlen pushing for full-time NHL spots next season, Motte will certainly have to pick up his play down the stretch to stand a chance next season.