Justin Bailey deserves to be on the line-up for the time being. The former second-round pick was one of the Vancouver Canucks’ few bright spots against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday, and his hard work has been impressive. He can make a difference every night and has earned the chance to be part of the NHL squad.

Bailey started the season with the Abbotsford Canucks and picked up where he left off in 2019-20 as one of the most dangerous players in the American Hockey League. He had six points in his first five games and scored the first-ever home goal in Abbotsford’s home opener. He was named the game’s second star after also supporting the overtime winner.

Bailey stood out early on as he worked on developing his overall game. He was an important part of Abbotsford’s specialty teams and found chemistry with Nic Petan and Phillip Di Giuseppe. Bailey, who is best known for his speed, does not give up his moves and consistently exerts pressure on the forecheck. His attention to detail and constant development earned him a Canucks calling for their home game against the Wild.

In Tuesday’s game, Bailey was strong in the forecheck, taking a penalty and blocking three shots even though he only played 10:06. Canucks head coach Travis Green placed him alongside J.T. even in the penalty shoot-out. Müller. More importantly, he didn’t cause significant loss of the ball and played with energy all the time. He passed the eye test, but do the analyzes support him?

Bailey started the game on the fourth row with Juho Lammikko and Alex Chiasson. Unfortunately, this line was mostly lined in its own zone, which contributed to its 38.89% Corsi rating. However, it also helped generate some offense when played with more offensive players. In 2:25 of the five-on-five ice age with Bo Horvat, Bailey registered a 50% Corsi, managed two shots and created a highly dangerous scoring opportunity. In essence, his stats against the game indicate that he can produce, but only if he is not responsible for most of the offense on a line at full strength.

If Justin Bailey can play a role as the regular PK guy, it would completely change both the #Canucks’ options and his prospects of staying in the NHL. Off to a good start.

The most impressive part of Bailey’s game, however, was the penalty kick. When he got into the game, he had never played more than 2:04 on penalties in a game; that game was also against the Canucks in October 2017. On his season debut he was behind J.T. Müller. During this time he blocked a shot and restricted the game to a shot on goal, which was not even registered as a scoring chance since it was a wrist shot from the blue line.

The duo worked very well together, not only limiting the shots, but also putting the opposing power play under pressure. With Vancouver’s usual penalty killers like Justin Dowling, Tyler Motte and Jason Dickinson recovering from injuries, this is Bailey’s chance to shine. He could secure a permanent place in the team with more performances like against the wild ones.

The Canucks are still tinkering with their lines, but Bailey has to play with offensive players. He can defend well, but like I said, he hasn’t developed the ability to be the game driver on a line. Based on that, Nils Höglander would be his perfect linemate. Both play a tough game of forechecking that can drive the opponent insane. You could team up with Miller as the center to create a third line that could go up against anyone. We already know Miller and Bailey work well together, so why not try these three at five on five?

“If Justin Bailey growls a bit when he’s feeling uncomfortable at times, he’s playing with it and I think he’s playing better.” Trent Cull # AbbotsfordCanucks pic.twitter.com/68gBWlRvCs

Regardless of his place in the line-up, the team must keep him away from Chiasson. In 3:55 of the common Ice Age, Bailey had a Corsi score of 16.67% while he was six to two outshots. Green has to give him a chance to succeed and playing him on the fourth row could stunt his development.

Although Bailey has played five games with the Canucks in the last three seasons, this was his most complete game. He has shown that when empowered to be successful, he can deliver. From the penalty kill to the fore check, there were no noticeable errors in his game. If he continues to perform like Tuesday night, he could be an NHL regular by the end of the season.

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