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Abbotsford Canucks make several offseason moves

Abbotsford and Vancouver Canucks loading up for 2023-24 seasons
The Abbotsford Canucks 2023-24 roster became a little more clear with moves made this month.

It’s been a busy month of transactions for the Abbotsford Canucks and their parent club in Vancouver, with both teams loading up for the 2023-24 season.

Abbotsford’s Noah Juulsen was one of the early signings this offseason, with the defenceman signing a two-year, two-way contract on June 30. The 26-year-old played 12 games in Vancouver and 49 games in Abbotsford in 2022-23.

“We are happy to have Noah back with our hockey club,” stated Vancouver Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin. “He showed last season that he can step up and compete for a spot at the NHL level and also was a key leader and contributor in Abbotsford both on and off the ice.”

Juulsen collected 20 points in Abbotsford and set career highs in the AHL for assists, points, shots and plus-minus.

Defenceman Chad Nychuk also re-signed in Abbotsford for one season on June 30.

The 22-year-old split time between Abbotsford and the ECHL’s Kalamazoo Wings last season. He recorded five points in 13 games in the AHL, while adding 21 points in 36 ECHL games.

“Chad made a great adjustment to the pro game last season,” stated Abbotsford Canucks general manager Ryan Johnson. “We are excited to continue to work with him and help him develop within our organization.”

The opening of free agency on July 1 saw a flurry of activity for the Canucks, with Abbotsford-related deals involving defenceman Matt Irwin and goalie Zach Sawchenko. Both players were signed to one-year, two-way contracts.

The 35-year-old Irwin is a Victoria product and played junior hockey with the BCHL’s Nanaimo Clippers.

He played 61 games for the Washington Capitals in 2022-23 and recorded five points and 61 penalty minutes. He has played 461 games in the NHL and competed in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final as a member of the Nashville Predators. Irwin has also suited up for the Buffalo Sabres, Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins and San Jose Sharks.

Sawchenko, 25, spent last season with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves and posted a 17-18-3 record to go with a 3.10 goals against average and a .895 save percentage. He has played in seven career NHL games with the San Jose Sharks.

The Calgary product played in the AHL for the San Jose Barracuda and the ECHL’s Allen Americans. He played his junior hockey with the Moose Jaw Warriors and also suited up for the University of Alberta Golden Bears.

“We are excited to bring both these players into our organization,” said Allvin. “Matt is a B.C. boy and will provide us with more options on the blueline and improve our overall depth. Zach is a player our staff is looking forward to working with as he continues his pro hockey journey.”

Abbotsford Canucks forward Tristen Nielsen had an impressive sophomore professional season and Vancouver singed him to a two-year, entry-level deal. The Fort St. John product had 41 points in 64 games for Abbotsford in 2022-23, a big jump from the 11 points in 41 games he had as a rookie in 2021-22.

“Our coaching staff in Abbotsford and our development team helped him out a lot this season working on his overall skillset and game,” Allvin said. “He put in the work and is now being rewarded with this ELC.”

Abbotsford then announced the signing of forward John Stevens through to the end of the 2024-25 season.

Stevens collected 19 points in 43 games for Abbotsford in 2022-23 and 43 points in 68 games in 2021-22. He added 10 points in 24 games for Canucks farm team when it was based in Utica.

“I am extremely excited to be back in Abbotsford for another two seasons,” said Stevens. “The support we have received from this city since we moved here from Utica has been incredible. The fans here have made this one of the best playing atmospheres in the league. We have an amazing group here.”

“John is a great player and person,” said Johnson. “He personifies what we are as an organization. I am ecstatic to have him with us in Abbotsford for two more years.”

Defenceman Akito Hirose is also eligible to play in Abbotsford after signing a two-contract. It is a two-way contract in 2023-24, meaning he could possibly spend time in Abbotsford. Hirose played seven games in Vancouver in 2022-23.

Abbotsford announced the signing of forward Jermaine Loewen on July 5. Loewen is the first Jamaican-born player to be drafted by an NHL team. He’s also a former captain of the Kamloops Blazers.

Loewen has spent the past three seasons with the AHL’s Henderson Silver Knights. He recorded five points and 84 penalty minutes in 51 games in 2022-23.

The Canucks then announced the singing of forward Nils Höglander to a two-year contract.

Höglander, 22, split the 2022-23 season between Vancouver and Abbotsford, recording nine points (3-6-9) and six penalty minutes in 25 games at the NHL level prior to his assignment to Abbotsford. In 45 regular season AHL games, Höglander recorded 32 points and 44 penalty minutes.

“Nils learned a lot this past season, especially playing meaningful playoff games in Abbotsford,” said Allvin. “It’s not easy to start the year in the NHL and then be sent down to the American League, but we were impressed with the way he took that challenge head on. He worked hard on his game and give credit to Jeremy Colliton, his staff, and our development team as well for helping Nils improve on things during the year. This experience should really help Nils compete for a spot on our team at training camp this fall.”

The Canucks recently completed a summer development camp at UBC and the Young Stars Classic event occurs from Sept. 15 to 18 in Penticton.

RELATED: Canucks announce ECHL partnership with Kalamazoo Wings

Ben Lypka

About the Author: Ben Lypka

I joined the Abbotsford News in 2015.
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