The Vancouver Canucks are over .500 for the first time this season.
That is thanks to three straight wins with the most recent one being a 6-2 beat down of the San Jose Sharks at Rogers Arena on Tuesday evening. That was a full team effort and one of the best Canucks games of the season.
It is funny to think that just a few games ago, the energy inside Rogers Arena was different. There were boos when the Canucks would lose big at home and jerseys were being tossed.
Now everything is lovely once again. Winning makes the atmosphere better.
During the Canucks win over the Sharks, Sportsnet 650 producer Josh Elliott-Wolfe kind of started a debate on Twitter. He stated that Ilya Mikheyev was the Canucks best winger. The Athletic’s Thomas Drance argued that it was JT Miller while others in the replies said it was Andrei Kuzmenko.
The case for Ilya Mikheyev
Ilya Mikheyev signed with the Canucks on a four-year deal worth 4.75 million dollars in the offseason. At the time, it looked like a bit of an overpay for a a player who hit the 20-goal mark for the first time in his career the previous season.
The 28-year-old looked like a decent middle-six winger. He was known speed and a good two-way game. It is safe to say the former Toronto Maple Leaf has come as advertised.
He has brought a ton of speed, skill and has looked good defensively. The guy is as fast as Sonic The Hedgehog out there. Gotta go fast!
Mikheyev has 12 goals and 10 assists for 22 points in 31 games at the time of his writing. At an 82 game pace, he is on pace for 58 points.
Mikheyev has been good at getting puck out of the defensive zone, winning battles and creating turnovers. The penalty kill is still
According to NaturalStatTrick, Mikheyev is fifth in expected goals percentage at 5 on 5 with 46.92%. He is also third in scoring chances at 5 on 5 with 29.04 and third for high danger chances per 60 at 5 on 5 with 11.98.
Mikheyev was injured at the beginning of the season and but since returning has consistently looked good.
The only argument for Mikheyev not being the best Canucks winger is that he isn’t much of a playmaker.
The case for Andrei Kuzmenko
Andrei Kuzmenko chose to sign with the Canucks last offseason and he has been a very good fit.
Part of Kuzmenko’s stellar play has been because he has been playing with Elias Pettersson. He has scored a bunch of goals that were assisted by Pettersson. Sure, many were tap-ins but a goal is a goal.
Kuzmenko likes to hang around the net. That’s a good quality for a an NHLer to have.
The former SKA St. Petersburg player has also been a decent playmaker. 14 goals, 16 assists and 30 points in 33 games is pretty good. It’s safe to say Kuzmenko has adapted to the NHL well.
Some may argue that Kuzmenko’s success has been because he’s been riding shotgun with Pettersson. He has played 365:39 minuted with Pettersson and 119:37 minutes without him. (At all strenghts.) He has scored 25 of his 30 points without him. Kuzmenko’s Corsi For with Pettersson is 62.91% which is really good. Without him, it is at 50.24% which is about average.
So Kuzmenko is riding Pettersson’s coattails in many ways. But there have been other players that have looked great with Pettersson and the best example right now is Lane Pederson.
While Kuzmenko’s success can be because of playing with Pettersson, I don’t think he is just a passenger. Without him, he has looked decent and that was most notable in a December 7 game in San Jose where he played with Jack Studnicka and Conor Garland.
The Canucks are going to give Kuzmenko a significant raise and depending on how much he wants, they should.
Oh yeah, Kuzmenko has a very contagious smile and happy personality. He seems like a fun guy to be around.
The case for JT Miller
Ideally, the Canucks best winger would be JT Miller. In fact, he would have easily been the best winger in the 2019-20 season.
When it comes to points, Miller is the Canucks best winger. Despite his poor passes and defensive issues, Miller has 30 points in 34 games and that is on pace for 72 points which would be his tied (with 2019-20) for the second highest point total in a season for him.
Let’s face it, Miller is better as a winger than a centre. He’s just not good at matching up against the other teams’ star players and we all know how poor he is defensively.
Miller has got a lot of his points on the power play. Actually, he’s got 15 points on the power so that is half of his points on the mad advantage.
When Miller is on the wing, he doesn’t really have to be relied upon defensively as he was as centre. The guy can still put up points, especially on the power play, but we need to see more from him at 5 on 5.
This is tough.
I’ve spent awhile just sitting here thinking like a Chess player deciding his/her next move. But, I’m going with Kuzmenko.
I feel like out of the three that is listed, he is the one that drove play the most this season. Mikheyev as mentioned, has been good and Miller is putting points. But Kuzmenko has displayed excellent playmaking and has been an offensive force.
But that’s just my opinion of course.