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Ilya Mikheyev’s Stellar Play Since Return to Canucks Lineup

One of the reasons why the Vancouver Canucks are currently one of the top teams in the NHL right now is because of Ilya Mikheyev‘s stellar play.

The 29-year-old right winger has found himself a home on the Canucks top line with Elias Pettersson and Andrei Kuzmenko. Mikheyev got his sixth goal of the season in the Canucks 5-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens.

The Canucks took two out of three games on their Eastern Canadian road trip. Mikheyev managed three goals on the trip, with two coming in the 5-2 win over the Ottawa Senators. He has looked good in every game of the trip, except for the 5-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. But let’s face it, everybody on the Canucks looked sloppy in that game except for probably J.T. Miller. (Also, it’s crazy how each game of the road trip ended 5-2. Not sure how often where fans have seen three straight games end with the same scoreline for the same team.)

Mikheyev’s stellar play and his road back

The former Maple Leaf signed a four-year contract with the Canucks in July of 2022. It carried a 4.75 million dollar cap hit per season.

He brought speed, had penalty-killing experience, and a solid two-way game.

“His versatility and ability to do so many different things will be a huge boost to our group,” said Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin after Mikheyev’s signing was official.

But his first year as a Canuck was cut short after 46 games. Mikheyev hurt his knee in preseason and had to go through ACL surgery in January. Despite the knee injury, Mikheyev wanted to keep playing, which he revealed on his Twitter. He also said it was his decision to stop playing as he wanted to be ready for 2023-24.

Unfortunately, Mikheyev missed training camp and the entire preseason to recover from his surgery, and did not return to the lineup until October 21 against the Florida Panthers. However, it is fair to say he has been stellar since returning to the lineup. Mikheyev has six goals and three assists in 11 games since returning to the lineup.

Those are pretty good numbers. You would think it would take him a few games to get up to speed, considering he was recovering from ACL surgery. But it is fair to say Mikheyev has returned to the lineup and excelled.

The goal against Montreal was a very well-taken shot from him.

He’s been making smart plays with and without the puck. The best example is this defensive play against the Leafs which led to a goal from Pius Suter.

According to NaturalStatTrick, Mikheyev is in the top ten among Canucks in numerous 5 on 5 underlying stats, among players who have played at least 100 minutes this season. He is ninth in Corsi for (49.57%), seventh in expected goals percentage (50.10%), and seventh in high danger Corsi for percentage (50%).

Mikheyev has shown stellar play offensively, defensively, and even on the penalty kill. So far, he has looked like exactly the player the Canucks were hoping for when they signed him over a year ago.

Mikheyev’s impact on Pettersson and Kuzmenko

Pettersson leads the NHL in scoring with 25 points at the time of this writing. Yet, it feels like he hasn’t played well recently. He’s turned the puck over quite a bit over the last three games. He and Kuzmenko are in the top two among Canucks in 5 on 5 goals against. (Pettersson gave up 15 while Kuzmenko gave up 12.)

It’s not like Pettersson has been awful, it feels like the bar is very high for him. That goes to show the calibre of player he is.

But back to Mikheyev. He, Pettersson and Kuzmenko have played over 90 minutes together this season. They have scored nine goals, and given up nine goals against. The goals against likely have to be inflated from the last three games. But the trio is making a huge impact offensively at 5 on 5.

Without Mikheyev, Pettersson and Kuzmenko’s expected goals percentage together is 46.07%. But with him, it has jumped to 53.61%. They only managed 17 scoring chances before Mikheyev returned, but since, they’ve managed 46. That is the same for high-danger chances for, which have jumped from nine to 23.

Pettersson and Kuzmenko needed a guy with skill on their line, and Mikheyev brings that. The two of them have plenty of skill already, and Pettersson has become one of the best two-way players in the league over the last few years. But Mikheyev compliments Pettersson and Kuzmenko well. He can win battles in all three zones, and of course, put up points himself.

Kuzmenko’s best asset was goals last season, as he had 39. That likely would have easily won the Calder Trophy for Rookie of the Year if he was a few years younger. This season, he only has three goals, but has added 10 assists. It seems like he is focusing on playmaking this season, while Pettersson and Mikheyev are doing the scoring.

The three of them make a good line of skill and offence. Mikheyev and his speed also make the line more dynamic, especially in transition. He is the perfect linemate for Pettersson and Kuzmenko, and so far they have been clicking.

How good can Mikheyev be this season?

If Mikheyev can reach the 20-goal, 40-point mark, that is a successful season for him. Of course, he has to be consistent because last season, and when he was with Toronto, there were some dry spells.

But there is a good chance Mikheyev can have a career season, as long as his strong play with Pettersson and Kuzmenko continues. In fact, it feels like he is just getting started, and his final form hasn’t been seen yet.

Mikheyev and the Canucks welcome the New York Islanders to town on Wednesday and it is the return of a former Canucks captain.

Main Photo: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports


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