Now that the free agent frenzy is finished, the Vancouver Canucks lineup is set for next season.
Okay, that might not be totally true.
For now, JT Miller is still a Canuck and the blueline is still a mess.
There are things to like about this team, but the only thing oddsmakers like about the Canucks is for them to miss the playoffs for the eighth time in 10 seasons.
While Odds Shark might be drunk on Buffalo, they’re right in predicting that the Canucks are still a bubble team until they prove otherwise.
With the Canucks capped out, let’s pretend for a minute that this is the roster they’ll enter the season with.
You could come up with a barrage of different line combinations, but this one below was voted as (by no one) the sexiest possible Canucks lineup entering next season.
Of course, you’re encouraged to enter your most optimal lineup for the Canucks in the comments below.
Line 1: Ilya Mikheyev — JT Miller — Vasily Podkolzin
Let’s start by saying that until Elias Pettersson surpasses Miller (or Miller gets traded), the 99-point man is the #1 centre on this team.
This line looks like a handful on paper. Ilya Mikheyev has a great blend of speed and sandpaper, while Miller and Vasily Podkolzin aren’t easy to play against either.
Mikheyev’s underlying numbers pointed to a player who could handle top-six minutes, but also one who propped up third-line players. His most regular linemates, David Kampf and Pierre Engvall, saw their Corsi and expected goals numbers dip drastically without Mikheyev last season.
Miller and Podkolzin meanwhile, were successful in controlling possession during their time together last season.
These three would also make up a strong secondary matchup line to complement Bo Horvat.
Line 2: Andrei Kuzmenko — Elias Pettersson — Brock Boeser
There’s an argument to be made for slotting Andrei Kuzmenko alongside one of his fellow Russians to begin the season, but I doubt that the 26-year-old would be upset about playing alongside Pettersson and Brock Boeser.
Scouting reports suggest that Kuzmenko’s best attributes are elite skating and playmaking (primarily behind the net or off the rush).
Pairing that with a sniper in Boeser, and Pettersson, who profiles as both a shooter and a playmaker, gives this line some sexy balance.
You would hope that, at least on home ice, the Canucks could get this line away from matchup minutes in order to maximize their success.
Line 3: Tanner Pearson — Bo Horvat — Conor Garland
Whatever line Bo Horvat centers will end up as the primary matchup line, so pairing him with two intelligent wingers in Tanner Pearson and Conor Garland makes sense.
The trio spent 163 minutes at even-strength together last season. Despite facing tough matchups, they posted an expected goals-for percentage of 59.2%.
Although the Canucks have flaws, tossing this trio out there as a “third line” is one of the better luxuries in the league.
Line 4: Nils Hoglander — Curtis Lazar — Dakota Joshua
I debated trying to slot Nils Hoglander higher up in the lineup, but honestly, this is probably the best spot for him to start the season.
The 21-year-old does have top-six potential, but he’s also a feisty forechecker who should mesh well with Curtis Lazar and Dakota Joshua. Let him start the season here to earn his keep, and a promotion further up the lineup.
Lazar is the perfect fit as a fourth-line centre on paper, while Dakota Joshua’s physicality is much sexier than whatever the hell Jason Dickinson brings to the lineup. For the purpose of this exercise, “Big Dick” sits as the 13th forward.
First Pair: Quinn Hughes - Travis Dermott
With no disrespect to Luke Schenn, Quinn Hughes deserves a partner who has better puck-handling skills.
In extremely limited minutes together last season, Hughes and Dermott were dynamite. During their 25 even-strength minutes as a pair, they were on the ice for two goals for and none against while rocking an expected goals-for total of 72.3%.
There aren’t a lot of sexy options for the Canucks on the right side, but this pairing arguably has the best upside.
Second Pair: Oliver Ekman-Larsson — Luke Schenn
It would be easy to go back with Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Tyler Myers as a top-matchup pairing, but the duo saw their effectiveness drastically decline in the second half of the season.
Ekman-Larsson and Schenn, on the other hand, had a sparkling 67.8% expected goals differential in 80 even-strength minutes, with most of their shifts beginning in the defensive zone.
For the umpteenth time, the right side of this blueline needs upgrades, but this is an acceptable second pair to at least begin the season with.
Third Pair: Jack Rathbone - Tyler Myers
Jack Rathbone showed some flashes during his nine-game stretch last season, although there were other times where he looked overmatched.
However, it’s clear that he’s earned his opportunity to stick around in the NHL full-time, and he’s intelligent enough to succeed.
Instead of having Tyler Myers as your number one shutdown defenceman, a more interesting idea might be freeing him up in softer, third pairing minutes alongside Rathbone. The duo had some chemistry towards the end of the 2020-21 season, and there’s enough talent here to make this an intriguing third pair.
So, is this lineup for the 19th-best team in the NHL sexy enough for you? If not, tell us what you got.