Restricted free-agent winger has teased of potential with a game that’s still growingName: Josh LeivoAge: 26.Position: Left wing/Right wing.Career stats: GP: 133, G: 24, A: 22, Points: 46, PIM 52.Contract status: Restricted free agent with arbitration rights on expiring one-year extension from Toronto that carries a salary cap hit of US $925,000.How 2018-19 went: Encouraging, but there should have been more consistency and productivity. He skates well enough, has a booming shot and battled with a solid 6-foot-2, 193 pound frame.However, in a transitional season split between Toronto and Vancouver, his combined grit-quotient stats showed he ranked fourth among Canucks forwards in takeaways, fifth in giveaways and ninth in hits and blocked shots. Then again, his Corsi-for puck-control percentage was 54.4 and led all forwards who played at least 30 games.Expendable when the Maple Leafs signed holdout William Nylander on Dec. 1 to beat the RFA signing deadline, Leivo was acquired for minor-league forward Michael Carcone. He scored in his Canucks debut on Dec. 4 and would finish with 18 points (10-8) in 49 games after six points (4-2) in 27 games with Toronto.Three goals in his first six games in an early look with Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser was an indication of potential. And so was his ability to play the right side when Nikolay Goldobin, Sven Baertschi, Loui Eriksson, Antoine Roussel, Ryan Spooner and even Tim Schaller were given left-side looks on the top two lines before Tanner Pearson arrived at the trade deadline.
Josh Leivo of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates with teammate Elias Pettersson after scoring a goal against the Calgary Flames on Feb. 9 at Rogers Arena.
Rich Lam /
Getty Images Files
Still, Leivo had but one goal in the final 14 regular-season games and finished with a paltry 8.8 per cent shooting percentage.The Canucks have to hope that 14 goals are an indication of at least 20-plus potential to help prop up a 26th-ranked offence (2.67 goals per game) and 22nd-rated power play (17.1 per cent) that should be better next season. It showed signs of life in final month of the season and over the last 13 games, it was 11-for-35 for 31.4 per cent efficiency, including going four-for-five the last two games.Defensive diligence always ranks high and Leivo got that tough tutelage from Mike Babcock in Toronto and here with Travis Green. Be good without the puck and you’re a good roster player. If you’re lax, you’ll be stapled to the bench.“You learn that you don’t want to make mistakes because you’re in and out of the lineup and in my situation in Toronto, I was always out,” said Leivo, a third-round 2011 draft pick by the Leafs. “I had to take care of the defensive part and trust that my skill and offensive abilities would just come. When I came here I could bring that defensive side and make that first impression look good. And my defensive game is getting stronger.“My shot was always there but the skating wasn’t and I’ve ben working on that the last five years. The hands have kind of been there and the hockey sense has always been there, so it’s just the love of the game and trying to figure it out.”UNDER THE MICROSCOPEIt has been over seven weeks since the Vancouver Canucks began their summer holidays, nine points shy of a wild-card berth into the NHL playoffs. Today we continue our microscopic examination of the team’s roster:Coming Tuesday: Tanner PearsonTyler MotteOlli JuoleviMarkus GranlundLuke SchennSven BaertschiBrandon SutterTravis GreenAlex BiegaJake VirtanenQuinn HughesNikolay GoldobinJim BenningChris TanevAlex EdlerTroy StecherBen HuttonLeivo put up credible numbers over a three-season period in junior and the minors with 32-, 29- and 23-goal seasons with the OHL Sudbury Wolves, Kitchener Rangers and AHL Toronto Marlies, respectively. But in six seasons in the Maple Leafs organization, he also learned that Randy Carlyle preferred to play veterans.Horvat thinks his former OHL nemesis has an upside.“His talents weren’t appreciated in Toronto as they should have been,” he said. “He proved to a lot of people and to himself that he can be a good player in this league.”How the future looks: Opportunity should be the incentive. A lot will depend on general manager Jim Benning’s pledge to acquire help at wing — especially for Horvat. And if Pearson’s late-season push on the left side keeps him aligned with the future captain, and Baertschi and Goldobin find some real traction, then there will be what every coach wants with competition and depth in the top six.Leivo did get looks on the right side with Horvat and that versatility, especially when Baertschi an Goldobin got their chances with Pettersson and Boeser, speaks to additional value that Green covets.“It will be up to him to see where he can play and how long and how many minutes,” said the coach. “The big thing with him is to make sure he’s on every game and every shift, which is nothing more than we ask of any of our players.”Greatest strengths: Smarts. Size. Good hands. Skates well.Greatest weakness: Consistency and selling out on every shift are challenges for forwards deemed top-six material. Showed flashes of being that guy and needs to do it better and more often.Is he trade bait: No. The Canucks are banking on opportunity being the catalyst to get his game to another level.The big question: If Pearson, Baertschi and Goldobin deliver early and there’s a new winger TBA, where does Leivo slot firstname.lastname@example.org/benkuzma CLICK HERE to report a typo. Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email email@example.com.