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Could Nils Hoglander help fetch a young right-shot defenceman like Kaedan Korczak?

Korczak was drafted one spot after Nils Hoglander in 2019.

New Jersey Devils v Vancouver Canucks
Nils Hoglander hasn’t found the same success ever since Travis Green was dismissed as Canucks head coach.
Getty Images

Is it time for Trader Jim 2.0 to begin reshuffling the roster?

Six games of this young season are already in the books, and the Canucks haven’t had anywhere near the start that many of us would have hoped for.

The Canucks are dead last in the league and essentially every player on the team has been guilty of underperforming so far.

Nils Hoglander actually looked okay through the first couple of games while playing alongside Elias Pettersson and Andrei Kuzmenko, but he didn’t shine enough to keep a roster spot. He hasn’t played the last two games and was recently sent to the AHL in what the team called a paper transaction. He’s since been recalled and was skating on a line with Pettersson and Vasily Podkolzin on practice Sunday.

Regardless of Hoglander’s current deployment, Bruce Boudreau has consistently shown that he is not high on Hoglander, and has kept him either stapled to the bottom 6 or stuck in the press box.

It’s beginning to seem more and more likely that Hoglander doesn’t exactly have much of a future with the Canucks, and at one point or another, it definitely feels like some move involving the 21-year-old is inevitable.

As such, in order to salvage Hoglander’s value and get something for him that the organization views as more important than the Swedish winger, it is imperative for the Canucks to explore a trade him as soon as possible and perhaps address a more pressing need in the process.

What positive attributes does Hoglander bring to the table?

If we’re talking about the primary caveat with Hoglander that an acquiring team should be aware of, it is the fact that he isn’t exactly the most responsible player defensively. Ever since he took over, Bruce Boudreau has often been critical of the youngster’s defensive play, and many people in this market view that as being the main reason why Hoglander often finds himself either at the very bottom of the Canucks lineup or on the outside looking in.

However, with that said, Hoglander is still a very young player, and what he lacks in defensive attributes, he certainly makes up for that with his offensive talent.

There is no denying the fact that Hoglander’s transition from Travis Green’s system to that of Bruce Boudreau hasn’t been smooth-sailing ever since the Canucks made their coaching change last December. However, before that, Hoglander was consistently being given opportunities in the team’s top 9, primarily on the second line next to Bo Horvat, and for a 20-year-old, he definitely produced at a respectable rate.

In his rookie season, Hoglander put up 13 goals and 14 assists for a total of 27 points in 56 games, which was good for fifth-best on the team in scoring. He also had 10 points in 25 games last year prior to Travis Green being fired, which put the winger on pace for 32 points in a full 82-game campaign.

Hoglander has terrific hands and has a distinct tendency to create offensive opportunities in high-octane scoring areas by using his playmaking ability and hard-nosed style of game to his advantage.

All in all, Hoglander has all the attributes that you would expect from a player just waiting to break out. As we have seen in certain trades in the past involving young players who had a relatively high pedigree, such as the Sam Bennett or Robby Fabbri deals, sometimes a change of scenery is exactly what a player needs to harness their true potential.

In Hoglander’s case, given that he is only 21 and has already proven that he can produce at a fair rate in the NHL, there is absolutely no denying the fact that the same circumstance could very well apply to him also, which should definitely make him quite an intriguing target for teams around the league.

What should the Canucks attempt to get back if they trade Hoglander?

It is common knowledge for Canucks fans that the primary issue which has been hampering this team’s ability to become a consistently good franchise has been the lack of talent on their defense core.

Over the last seven years, the team has consistently preached quantity over quality when it comes down to building their defense and as the results suggest, this thought process is a recipe for disaster in the National Hockey League.

When you look at contending teams all over the NHL, the one common theme that you would find between each of them is that almost every single one of these franchises has an incredibly strong blueline. That attribute was exactly what made the Canucks such a successful team during the Mike Gillis era as well.

Unfortunately, as far as the Canucks are concerned, their defense core is at the very bottom of the league. This team’s blueline, particularly their right side, is the Achilles heel that has kept them from becoming a consistent playoff contender — never mind Cup contender — for almost a decade now.

In addition to that, the sad reality of the matter is that given how high in value cup contending teams hold the importance of having a solid defense core, most general managers tend to stay far away from trading young established right-shot defensemen, as they are such a rare and valuable commodity in the NHL.

However, with the lack of high draft picks the Canucks have in the foreseeable future, being able to draft good young defensemen without breaking away from the “draft the best player available regardless of position” notion is essentially next to impossible, Although, there is one method the Canucks can use for attempting to build a solid defense core down the line, which is to target good young defensive prospects playing on teams that have deep defense cores.

When you take all these factors into consideration, and given that the Canucks have Hoglander in their hands as a fairly decent trade chip, it is imperative for the team to try and acquire a young right-shot defensive prospect with top 4 potential in any such transaction. Fortunately for Vancouver, there is one team out there who could not only use a young forward like Hoglander currently playing on an ELC, but they also have the defensive depth that allows them to part with one of their right-shot D prospects.

Enter into the equation, Vegas Golden Knights' right-shot defensive prospect, 21-year-old Saskatchewan native, Kaedan Korczak.

What would Kaedan Korczak bring to the Canucks organization?

Ironically drafted just one pick after Hoglander at 41st overall in 2019 by the Vegas Golden Knights, Korczak is exactly the type of almost NHL-ready prospect the Canucks could really use in their system right now.

Korczak is a right-handed defenseman so that alone makes him a desirable asset for this Vancouver team. However, perhaps the biggest benefit from the Canucks’ perspective is that Korczak is not only a right-handed defenseman, but he fits the exact prototype for the player the Canucks can use on the right side of their blueline, perhaps even beside Quinn Hughes at some point down the line.

Standing at 6”3 and over 190 pounds, Korczak has a constant knack for physically engaging with his opponents and he is certainly not shy of the rough stuff or of putting his body on the line by blocking shots.

In addition to that, Korczak is quite a strong skater for his size. While his style of game is primarily that of a stay-at-home defensively strong blueliner, he does possess the attributes needed to smoothly transition the puck up the ice.

In the midst of a decent sophomore AHL campaign last year while playing for the Henderson Silver Knights, Korczak’s posted 14 points in 47 games and earned a call-up, playing his first NHL game last February.

While an extremely small sample size for sure, Korczak didn’t really look out of place in his limited NHL action.

In his one game in the big league last season for the Vegas Golden Knights, Korczak logged over 16 minutes of ice-time and finished the night with 1 shot block and a +1 rating.

This year, the 21-year-old is off to a decent start in the AHL, having already put up 2 points in 5 games, although his -2 rating is something he’d like to improve upon, considering that his combined plus-minus rating in the minors was a +8 coming into this campaign.

Overall, for a team that was forced to rely on Noah Juulsen on the third pair in an embarrassing 5-1 loss to the upstart Buffalo Sabres, could the Canucks perhaps deploy Korczak in the NHL right away? He is stuck behind a deep defense core in Vegas so that doesn’t really help things, but given that Korczak was amongst the very last cuts in training camp this year despite the Golden Knights having such a strong blueline, it is fair to say that the Canucks would likely be better off putting Korczak in the lineup immediately.

Becoming an NHL regular as a 21-year-old defenseman is impressive on its own, but If Korczak’s development goes well and at a steady pace, his defensive style of game could allow him to be a long-term solution to the Canucks right-side defensive woes.

Final thoughts

While a trade revolving around Hoglander for Korczak really makes sense for both teams, it is hard to envision this trade as simply being a one-for-one deal given a combination of factors.

The Canucks could be hard-pressed to extract an additional sweetener out of Vegas given that Hoglander has already developed into an NHL regular while Korczak isn’t quite there as of yet. However, on the other end of the spectrum, the Golden Knights can cite the notion that young defenseman are more valuable than forwards as a means for extracting an additional sweetener out of Vancouver.

Whatever the case, a deal involving these two players as a base definitely fits the bill for what both Vegas and Vancouver are trying to do.

The Golden Knights are a team attempting to go all-in, and due to the fact that they are against the cap, they might value adding an NHL forward currently on an ELC to their roster, especially at the expense of a young defensive prospect, since they do have other options in their system.

From the Canucks’ standpoint, the team’s forward depth isn’t an issue (on paper) but they’re severely lacking on the defensive side of things. Adding a young right-side defensive prospect who is potentially ready for third-pairing NHL deployment right away in exchange for a forward that lacks the coach’s trust, would certainly be most welcome by the organization.

What do you think Canucks fans? Do you think the Canucks are better off leveraging Hoglander as a trade asset rather than having him play in the bottom end of the lineup? Could Kaeden Korczak be an ideal target in such a deal and perhaps the solution to at least a few elements of the Canucks’ right-side defense problems? Let me know in the comments down below!