After feverishly working the phones in an effort to do something to improve his team ahead of the 2021 Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft, Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning finally got a deal done. It was a good one too, as he acquired a third-line center who could be here for the foreseeable future. His name is Jason Dickinson and Benning only had to cough up a 2021 third-round pick to the Dallas Stars to get him on the West Coast.
Dickinson’s Journey to the NHL
Drafted out of the Ontario Hockey League’s Guelph Storm, Dickinson ended up playing a full four seasons with the team finishing with a solid 84 goals and 231 points in 253 games. He also captained the Storm during his final season in the OHL where he put up a career-high 27 goals in 56 games.
From there, Dickinson moved to the AHL’s Texas Stars where he hit more career-highs culminating in a breakout rookie season of 22 goals and 53 points in 73 games. He also made his debut with the Stars and scored his first NHL goal in his first NHL game. His first full NHL season came during the 2018-19 campaign, and he has never left since. Now entering his fourth straight season, he will be looking to bring the same tenacity and toughness he’s been known for since his days in the OHL with the Storm.
What Does Dickinson Bring to the Canucks?
Benning was looking for more size and heft in his bottom-six, and he got it in the form of Dickinson. A former first-round pick of the Dallas Stars in 2013 (the same year Bo Horvat was drafted), he has established himself as one of the best defensive centers in the NHL over the last few seasons. Averaging 16:12 of ice time for the defensively conscious Stars, he put up seven goals and 15 points in 51 games last season and drove play with a solid 55.3 Corsi-for percentage (CF%).
If Dickinson’s arrival does nothing else but takes the matchup center role away from Bo Horvat, this trade will be considered a massive win for the Canucks. Saddled with the tough minutes, defensive zone faceoffs, and first-unit penalty-killing duties for the last few seasons, I’m sure he will welcome the change. I know he prides himself on doing those things for the team, but freeing him up to play more offensive minutes will certainly help the team more in the long run.
…My defensive game, I feel like that is where I’ve been able to solidify myself. I’ve found my game. I know where I stand there and I love the matchup game. Once I’ve got a guy I know I need to outplay, that’s when my game starts to shine and I play at my best.
With the Stars, Dickinson often played the same tough minutes Horvat has been accustomed to since his third season in the NHL. He doesn’t have the same faceoff presence, averaging only a 44.3 percent career success rate, but what he does have is great underlying defensive numbers, which should make him a favourite of head coach Travis Green. In addition to that, he was one of the Stars’ most trusted penalty killers, averaging 1:41 of ice time behind only Radek Faksa and Blake Comeau.
All in all, Dickinson will most likely take over the first-unit duties, leaving Horvat to pick up the slack on the second unit. He won’t provide much offence as he has not hit double-digits yet in his NHL career, but he will be that insanely solid third-line center the Canucks have been missing since Manny Malhotra left the team in 2013.
Way Too Early Third Line Projections
I know we are far away from the start of the 2021-22 season, but it’s still fun to speculate where new players will fall into the lineup. Considering the expansion draft could take potential bottom-six forwards Kole Lind or Jonah Gadjovich, the third line could feature Dickinson centering a combination of Gadjovich, Tyler Motte, Tanner Pearson, or even Antoine Roussel.
If Dickinson ends up getting a duo of Motte and Pearson, that means Vasily Podkolzin has fit nicely on Horvat’s wing with Nils Hoglander. Doesn’t a new matchup line of Motte, Dickinson, and Pearson sound tasty to anyone else? They could turn out to be the perfect mix of tenacity, size, and shutdown potential that would frustrate teams night in and night out.
Changes to the Canucks’ Expansion Draft Outlook
With the Dickinson trade, the Canucks’ protection list will look like this,
Forwards (7): Elias Pettersson, Bo Horvat, J.T. Miller, Brock Boeser, Tyler Motte, Tanner Pearson, Jason Dickinson
Defencemen (3): Tyler Myers, Nate Schmidt, Olli Juolevi
Goaltenders (1): Thatcher Demko
That would leave the Kraken a menu of Lind, Gadjovich, Roussel, Matthew Highmore, Loui Eriksson, Jake Virtanen, Zack MacEwen, Madison Bowey, or Braden Holtby to choose from. Before the deal on Saturday, it was almost a certainty that Holtby would be their pick, but now with his salary being a sticking point, it’s become a little murkier.
Holtby could still be taken by the Kraken, but now with youngsters like Lind and Gadjovich available, they might end up going in a different direction. Now with the roster freeze in full effect, there will be no more movement until the eve of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. At least we know the Canucks’ third-line center position is adequately filled before we find out who they will be losing. So sit tight everyone, and enjoy the expansion draft and the unveiling of the NHL’s 32nd team and newest rivals of the Canucks, the Seattle Kraken.
Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, editor, part-time journalist, and scout who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.