Four of Canucks' five youngest players are now in the AHL

Dec 30 2022, 10:36 pm

Most of the Canucks’ young players are now in Abbotsford after beginning the season in Vancouver.

Nils Aman is the latest youngster to be sent to the AHL by the Canucks, albeit with 24-year-old Will Lockwood being called up to replace the 22-year-old centre.

The third-youngest player to suit up for the Canucks in Vancouver this season, Aman was a surprise selection for the team’s opening-day roster. A 6-foot-2, 179-pound centre signed as a free agent out of Sweden, Aman has appeared in all 35 games the Canucks have played this season, primarily on the fourth line. He has five points (1-4-5) in 35 NHL games.

The Canucks have sent down four of their five youngest players to the AHL in the last month, with 23-year-old Quinn Hughes being the exception. Vasily Podkolzin (21) and Jack Rathbone (23) were sent to Abbotsford on November 28, while Nils Höglander (22) was demoted on December 20.

It’s not necessarily a bad move, but it is telling.

The Canucks have the option to yo-yo young players up and down between Vancouver and Abbotsford, but that doesn’t appear to be the strategy here. This seems to be a development move, to ensure that young players get ice time and build confidence.

Not a bad strategy, given how this season has gone in Vancouver, in particular for Podkolzin, Höglander, and Rathbone. But the very fact that none of these players have taken the next step in the NHL is concerning — though there is time for them to turn it around.

Höglander has nine points (3-6-9) in 25 NHL games this season, while Podkolzin has no goals and three assists in 16 games. Rathbone has appeared in just six NHL games in 2022-23, registering a lone assist.

Given that Höglander and Podkolzin each had impressive NHL rookie seasons, and Rathbone scored at better than a point-per-game clip in the AHL last season, those are disappointing results.

Podkolzin has seven points (2-5-7) in 11 AHL games this season, while Rathbone has notched five points (1-4-5) in eight games with Abbotsford. Höglander has yet to register a point in two AHL appearances.

As for Aman, he was expected to start in the AHL this season, given he is new to North America, so his demotion is less surprising.

Aman was a sixth-round draft pick of the Colorado Avalanche in 2020, but stayed in his native Sweden, playing for Leksands IF in the SHL. He wasn’t a big point producer with Leksands, notching just 24 points in 102 games, spread over two seasons (2020-21 and 2021-22).

Aman has been a nice free agent signing by Canucks GM Patrik Allvin. Signed to a two-way deal for this season and next, Aman counts just $883,750 against the cap at the NHL level.

Going to Abbotsford will be a good chance for him to play bigger minutes, with more time with the puck on his stick.

Lockwood, meanwhile, is getting another look at the NHL level. A third-round pick by Vancouver in 2016, the physical 5-foot-11 winger has no goals and one assist in 16 career NHL games. That lone point came on November 15, in his only NHL game this season. Lockwood has 18 points (12-6-18) in 24 games with Abbotsford.

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