Next up in our 2023 Fantasy Hockey Sleepers series is the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks weren’t very busy this off-season. Their big splashes were signing Teddy Bleuger and Carson Soucey. Both depth signings addressed specific needs on the roster. Outside of really deep pools, neither moves the fantasy needle.
The Canucks are doubling down on their existing roster to get it done. They were a much better team after the debacle of a coaching change.
The Canucks primary problem is an inherent inability to develop prospects into impact players through their farm system. Impact players the Canucks drafted are Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, and Bo Horvat. They spent zero development time in the AHL. The last impact players the Canucks developed were Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler. We’re going back 19 years folks. Guess who highlights the sleeper options for the Canucks? You guessed it.
Vancouver Canucks Fantasy Hockey Sleepers
He should have spent 2021-2022 in the AHL. Another prospect the Canucks have rushed and are seeing subpar returns. He was good while with Abbotsford Canucks last year but not dominant. He should be back in the NHL as a full-time player again this year. Where Rick Tocchet will play him and how much ice time he will receive remains to be seen.
Podkolzin can’t survive on 11 and 12 minutes a game. This is a player that needs to see a sizeable bump in ice time. He needs consistent minutes and power-play time. There’s room on the second power-play unit and the third line. A bump to 15:00 per game is reasonable
With 118 career games, there’s lots of time for Podkolzin to develop into a top-six forward. This is an important year for him to pull the pieces together and force opposing teams to take notice. The Canucks need him to take a sizeable step as well. If the Canucks want a third line that contributes offensively, Podklolzin will be a key piece.
The kid has an incredible work ethic and attention to detail that is starting to show through in his game. His underlying numbers, goals for per 60, Corsi for, and shots for, were all in the top 10 for the Canucks.
Expect him to entrench himself as a regular this year and be a real breakout threat next year. There’s a chance he can sneak in a 50-point season.
Copy and paste Podkolzin. They’re in the same situation. After spending significant time with the Canucks, he was ‘demoted’ to Abbotsford. I’m sure it felt like a demotion at the time. Again, Hoglander was rushed into the NHL. He should have spent his full first year in the AHL. Maybe even his second full season as well. Instead, only started to truly find his rhythm with Abbotsford last year.
Hoglander needs to make an impact offensively. The Canucks have decent depth in their top six. This will keep Hoglander in a depth role. That is unless Tocchet decides to mix up his lines and swap Hoglander and Boeser. This will limit Hoglander’s offensive output
He most likely pushes 40 points. If given an opportunity to play up in the lineup it could push his totals upwards of 50-points.
He didn’t take a step forward last year. A lot of fantasy owners pegged him as a potential sleeper last year. There was a gaping opportunity on the second power-play unit for him to walk in and claim. He wasn’t able to do that. Instead, his offensive production dropped by over 50% from 2021-22 to 2022-2023 (with Abbotsford Canucks).
In the meantime, the Canucks traded the first-round pick they acquired in the Bo Horvat trade, to the Detroit Red Wings for Filip Hronek. The acquisition of Hronek presents a potential roadblock for Rathbone. There will be an internal battle for the second power-play in camp. Until the Canucks drafted Wallinder, he was the only offensive defenseman in the Canucks system.
A few things need to go Rathbone’s way. The additions of Carson Soucy and Ian Cole should help more than hinder. They are both very strong defensive defencemen. If Rathbone makes the team out of camp, it should give Rathbone freedom to move the puck on the second or third pair.
There is every likelihood Rathbone’s offensive production is meager. Twenty-five points is likely. Given the right situation, he could push 40. The talent is there. It just has to click.
Connor Garland (Breakout Candidate)
It wasn’t a good year for Garland. Expectations were high. He was supposed to settle into Vancouver and build on his first year as a Canuck. Which, was a solid first year. Garland had 52 points in 77 games. It was supposed to be his breakout year, it wasn’t. Admittedly, he never felt uncomfortable in that first year.2023-2024 feels like a fresh start. The offensive talent is there as well. With the Tucson Roadrunners, it took three years in the AHL for everything to click into place. All Garland needs is consistent minutes and chemistry on a top-two line.
Most folks are expecting 50-55 points. He will slide into the late rounds in almost every draft. I’m in the middle of a 12-team, keep 12, draft. We are in the 11th round and Garland is still available. That’s 22 1/2 rounds and no one has drafted Garland. He sits at the top of my queue. I’m banking on a floor of 50-points and hope he wakes up to the tune of 70.
Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoyed it and found this helpful as you prep for your draft.
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Make sure to check out all of the sleepers and breakouts of the 2023 fantasy hockey season!