Weekend notebook: Trade lifts Pederson to new heights

📝 by Patrick Williams

Lane Pederson just cannot stop scoring.

In his latest nightly show, the Abbotsford Canucks forward had recorded a hat trick by the 11:39 mark of the first period in Wednesday’s 5-4 win at San Diego. With 10 goals and 15 points in his last seven games, Pederson is charging up the league’s scoring page.

Since joining the Canucks organization in an Oct. 28 trade from Carolina, Pederson has 17 goals (and seven assists) in 18 games. He is just one behind Laval’s Anthony Richard for the AHL lead in goals. He ranks first with nine power-play tallies. His 17 goals have come on just 48 shots, a remarkable accuracy of 35.4 percent.

Slice those numbers any which way, but going into Abbotsford’s two-game trip to Henderson this weekend, Pederson has become one of the most dangerous scorers in the league.

“It’s just a combination of playing with good players and getting [a] good opportunity,” Pederson said. “It’s definitely been a fun start to the season. I’m super thankful to have gotten the opportunity to have come to Vancouver and Abbotsford.”

The last five months have been a wild ride for Pederson. After four years with the Arizona Coyotes organization, he spent last season with San Jose, then went to Carolina on July 13 as part of the deal that also sent Brent Burns to the Hurricanes. He started the 2022-23 season with the Chicago Wolves, where he was scoreless in four games, before being acquired by Vancouver along with Ethan Bear on Oct. 28.

Pederson said the deal to the Canucks — just two weeks into his sixth pro season — came as a bit of a surprise.

“My agent had talked to me in the days leading [to it] that it was something that may or may not happen. But definitely I was a little shocked just as the season was just getting going.

“I’m just trying to prove them right with the decision of bringing me in, so it’s been a lot of fun.”

After playing 29 NHL games for the Sharks last season, this latest run has been Pederson’s strongest push yet for a full-time National Hockey League job. He originally signed with Arizona as a free agent in 2016 and spent most of his first four pro seasons with the Tucson Roadrunners, getting in 15 games with the Coyotes in 2020-21. Pederson broke training camp with the Sharks last season and spent most of the first half with the NHL club; he would also collect 18 points in 22 AHL games with the Barracuda.

The offseason deal to the Hurricanes provided a chance to play for a Stanley Cup contender.

“It’s always exciting when you’re wanted by a team of such a high caliber in Carolina,” Pederson said. “I was hoping for an opportunity just to be part of a Stanley Cup-contending team. I was definitely excited to be headed to a quality team like Carolina.”

But cracking that Hurricanes lineup is a tall task. Stefan Noesen, who scored a league-leading 48 goals for the Wolves last season, captured a spot coming out of training camp. Jack Drury, another star on Chicago’s 2022 Calder Cup team, began the season back with the Wolves but was ready for another shot in Carolina.

So another trade meant another opportunity, and Pederson has made his stand with Abbotsford, finding a niche recently on a line between Phil Di Giuseppe and top prospect Vasily Podkolzin, the 10th overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.

“They make life pretty easy on me,” Pederson said of his linemates, though it certainly has been a mutually beneficial arrangement for all parties. Podkolzin had 14 goals as a rookie last season with Vancouver before coming to Abbotsford last month following a slow start in 2022-23. Di Giuseppe is a ninth-year pro who has 201 NHL games on his card.

“I think we’re just three guys who have some good size that can hold on to the puck down low and win some battles,” Pederson said. “And then once we get the puck in the offensive zone, we’ve kind of developed a little bit of chemistry now, where we’re reading off one another and finding those soft areas.”

The goal-scoring is catching plenty of attention around the AHL, but it will be reliable two-way play that can keep Pederson on an NHL roster full-time. He has been working with new Abbotsford head coach Jeremy Colliton to round out his game further and play his way into a recall to Vancouver.

“[Colliton] has been huge for me,” Pederson said of their video and teaching work to fine-tune his play.

So what can get Pederson to the NHL to stay?

“Part of it is being the player I am in the American League,” Pederson outlined. “You’re not trying to change too much, but also continuing to emphasize that two-way game, being reliable defensively.

“[I need to] have the coaches trust me every time [they] send you over the boards that you can be relied upon, and they can trust you to play against anybody any given night.”


The Texas Stars have their sights set on first place as they visit the Iowa Wild in the AHLTV Free Game of the Week tonight (8 ET/7 CT).

Backed by five consecutive wins, the AHL’s longest active winning streak, the Stars have caught Central Division leader Milwaukee at 32 points (the Admirals do have one game in hand).

Texas is coming off a 6-3 win in Chicago on Thursday afternoon. Rookie forward Mavrik Bourque, a 2020 first-round pick by the parent Dallas Stars, led the way with two goals and an assist in the victory.

The road team has won 10 of the last 11 meetings between these teams, including the Stars’ sweep of a two-game trip to Des Moines on Oct. 21-22.

🏒 Iowa’s Sammy Walker, the top-scoring rookie in the AHL this season, and Belleville forward Jake Lucchini both made their NHL debuts this week, pushing the season total to 31 AHL graduates.

Walker, 23, has 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists) in 21 games for Iowa this season. The former Minnesota high school standout and University of Minnesota captain made his debut with his hometown Wild last Saturday in Vancouver before skating at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Monday and Wednesday.

Lucchini, 27, had a longer path to his NHL debut, which came Wednesday with the Ottawa Senators. The Trail, B.C., native played four seasons at Michigan Tech before appearing in 200 AHL games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Laval and Belleville. He led the B-Sens with 20 goals and 51 points last season, earning an NHL contract with Ottawa this past summer. This year with Belleville, Lucchini has seven goals and 16 assists for 23 points through 24 games.

🏒 At long last, the Coachella Valley Firebirds are heading home.

The first-year club will play their first home game at Acrisure Arena on Sunday when they host the Tucson Roadrunners at the brand-new 11,000-seat, $300-million facility in Palm Desert, Calif.

Playing the first two months of the season on the road (including four “home” games in Seattle, home of their NHL affiliate), the Firebirds have a record of 13-5-3-0 heading into tonight’s visit to San Diego.

🏒 Cleveland Monsters rookie head coach Trent Vogelhuber is getting the full gamut of emotions that come with the job.

Last Sunday in Hershey, the Monsters had gone down to the Bears early in the second period, 5-1. With an 8-1 loss at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to start the weekend followed by a 3-2 defeat in Hershey the following night, the Monsters were looking at a rough finish before their long bus ride back home.

“Those kinds of inconsistencies happen with a young team,” acknowledged Vogelhuber, who was an assistant coach with Cleveland for four seasons following a playing career highlighted by a Calder Cup championship with the Monsters in 2016.

“We went out hoping to throw our sticks in the middle of the ice and play some pond hockey, and that’s what happens in the second-best league in the world against the best team in that league. It was a rude awakening for us.”

It certainly was, and Vogelhuber made that clear to his club following the first period. The Monsters heard him and went on to score four unanswered goals against the AHL’s second-best club defensively before scratching out a 6-5 win via the shootout.

🏒 Having the league’s best record was never going to be enough for head coach Todd Nelson to let his Hershey club off the hook after that loss to Cleveland.

Nelson was not happy, and he made that clear to everyone. Even the AHL’s top clubs can and will find themselves going through the ups, downs, and frustrations of a long season. Nelson knows that, but he is trying to head off any problems before they fester for too long.

“I thought we had a great first period,” Nelson said, “and we stopped playing. This is starting to sound like a broken record to me. It’s up to the guys in the room, especially our leadership group, to take control of that situation. That’s something that they have to handle in the room. As coaches, you can talk about it. [But] it’s up to them to work on it.”

Still, Nelson is also a pragmatist and has seen enough of the ups and downs of a long AHL season throughout a career that features three Calder Cup championships as a player, assistant coach and head coach. While the Bears are positioned well, standings-wise, going into a three-in-three weekend that begins tonight at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Nelson knows that December’s issues must be addressed to set up a long postseason run come April.

Just as he did with the Grand Rapids Griffins on their way to a Calder Cup in 2017, Nelson entrusts his veterans with considerable influence within the dressing room.

“Teams that are championship teams, they keep on playing, because they want more,” he said. “That’s our goal here, to win [a Calder Cup]. But it’s human nature. Sometimes you think, ‘Okay, it’s going to be easy for the rest of the game,’ but it’s not. We have to overcome that, and that comes from within the room. Our leadership group has to hold the guys accountable and move forward.”

🏒 Is Henderson turning a corner after spending most of the season’s first two months near the bottom of the Pacific Division?

Head coach Manny Viveiros believes so.

“I certainly do,” Viveiros said Thursday, a day after the Silver Knights blanked San Jose, 5-0, behind 31 saves from Laurent Brossoit. “I think it’s just an accumulation of what we’ve been working on from the beginning of the season.”

The Silver Knights will take a five-game point streak (4-0-0-1) into this weekend’s two-game series with visiting Abbotsford. They have won four in a row, including two wins at Colorado last weekend to knock the Eagles out of first place.

“It’s taken us a little bit of time for it to come together,” Viveiros said, “but I think we’ve played some pretty good hockey. Maybe haven’t gotten the results we wanted, but our message always to the players is that if we play the game the right way and within our structure and how we want to play the game, we’re going to get rewarded for it.

“I give the credit to the players. They’re the ones that really stepped up and understood as a group what we need to do to be successful.”

🏒 With Providence Bruins star rookie forward prospect Fabian Lysell soon to represent Sweden at the IIHF World Junior Championship later this month, head coach Ryan Mougenel has a few simple hopes for that experience.

“Just go enjoy it,” Mougenel said.

“He’s obviously a big part of our offense here. I think playing in those big-moment games is going to be huge. He’s going to have many of them in his pro career. So how he handles the anxiety of that is going to be something that I think he can bring back to us.”

Part of a promising rookie class in Providence that also features Georgii Merkulov, Luke Toporowski, John Beecher and Marc McLaughlin, the 19-year-old Lysell is tied for seventh in AHL rookie scoring at 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 19 outings with the P-Bruins. He went to the Boston Bruins as the 21st pick overall in the 2021 NHL Draft.

🏒 The Rockford IceHogs will put their six-game point streak (4-0-1-1) to the test tonight when the North Division-leading Toronto Marlies visit.

David Gust started the IceHogs’ week off well, dropping his first career AHL hat trick on the visiting Iowa Wild in a 7-4 victory on Tuesday. Gust, whose AHL career-best in goals is 18 with Bakersfield in 2018-19, already has 13 goals in 23 games this season and has added 15 assists to tie him for seventh among AHL scoring leaders at 28 points.

🏒 San Diego appears to be heading into the weekend without goaltenders Lukas Dostal and Olle Eriksson Ek, both on recall to Anaheim following injuries to the Ducks’ John Gibson and Anthony Stolarz.

Dostal, who was leading the AHL in minutes played at the time of his recall last weekend, made 23 saves on Thursday night to help the Ducks to a 5-2 win at Montreal.

Garrett Metcalf, up from ECHL Utah, stopped 36 of 38 shots for the Gulls on Wednesday night in Abbotsford.

🏒 A 10-game scoring streak, the third-longest in the AHL this season, has propelled Syracuse Crunch forward Gemel Smith up the league scoring leaderbord with 24 points in 19 games overall. Smith has five goals and nine assists during the run.

The Crunch also have the AHL’s leading scorer in defenseman Darren Raddysh (32 points), while forward Alex Barré-Boulet is tied for fifth overall at 29 points.

“We’ll get it fixed by April.”
— Hershey head coach Todd Nelson on working through Sunday’s tough loss to Cleveland.