Found Money: The Canuck’s Fourth Line

By: Trent Leith / February 25, 2022  

The Mottely Crew, The Motto Line, The Fourth Line, The First Line, whatever you want to call them, Matthew Highmore, Tyler Motte and Juho Lammikko’s line has been an absolute homerun under Bruce Boudreau. These three players all came to the team in trades that were more about moving someone out, rather than trades targeting them to be brought in. 

This line has been found money for the Vancouver Canucks and something that has been a joy to root for, after all, who doesn’t love an underdog story? 

Where Did They Come From?

Each of these players came in a trade, some more controversial than others. It’s not uncommon around the NHL for the fourth line depth like this to be homegrown, but that’s not the case with this particular line.

Tyler Motte

Tyler Motte is the longest-tenured Canuck on this particular line, coming to the Canucks at the 2018 trade deadline. Motte came in return for pending UFA Thomas Vanek along with Jussi Jokinen from the Columbus Bluejackets. Jokinen was a waiver pick up by the Jackets earlier that season and flipped to the Canucks, which made Motte the prize gem of the trade. Jokinen played 14 games for Vancouver, which was the fourth team he played for in 2017/18, putting up points in each of his stops. Following the conclusion of the season, Jokinen went off to Europe, but Motte would stay and win the hearts of Canucks fans. 

Thomas Vanek was likely going to leave Vancouver as a UFA anyway, leaving the Canucks empty-handed and down a winger, so this trade was not looked at as a home run on the whole, but simply an asset management move to try and get something for a player that would otherwise leave the team with nothing.

Matthew Highmore

Adam Gaudette was traded by the Canucks at the deadline in April of 2021, in exchange for a regular healthy scratch for the Chicago Blackhawks, Matthew Highmore. At the time it was a head-scratcher of a move, as trading away the drafted and developed centreman one season removed from 33 points in 59 games. A lot of Vancouver was high on Gaudette and his emotional goal celebrations, even us. Highmore on the other hand never had more games played than 36 in a season with the Hawks and no more than six points in the same season. But, to his credit Benning clearly saw something he liked in Highmore and pulled the trigger on the unproven forward. 

To some degree though something did seem  fishy about the trade. At the time rumours circulated that the team wasn’t happy with Gaudette for being the first positive test in the teams initial COVID breakout that famously ravaged the club in the second half of the 2021 season, but it looks like the trade worked out after all. After only 15 games with the Blackhawks Gaudette was put on waivers and claimed by the Ottawa Senators. 

Juho Lammikko

The last part of the newly formed “best fourth line in hockey” is Juho Lammikko. Lammy was acquired when the organization’s patients with Olli Juolevi finally ran out, and they sent him to the Florida Panthers. In return for the former 5th overall pick was Juho Lammikko and Noah Juulsen. 

When the trade was made, it was once again a trade trying to salvage something from what looked like it would turn out to be nothing. Olli Juolevi was not working out in Vancouver, despite his high draft pedigree, he just couldn’t find his legs and as the pressure on the GM ratcheted up, the trade was finally made. 

At the time, people were more excited about Noah Juulsen who was a 26th overall pick a year prior to Juolevi in 2015. Both of these defenders were considered busts, Olli only played 23 games in the NHL before being traded and Juulsen was only slightly ahead of him with 48 games. It was expected that maybe Juulsen could be some nice depth, or maybe find his game with his third NHL team. 

A lot of coverage of the trade considered Juulsen the headline name in the trade coming back and Lammikko was but an afterthought, even we didn’t see his breakout coming. 

“Juho is likely just AHL depth unless he really forces his way onto the lineup in an unexpected way. The forwards are not the problem for this team right now anyways, if anything they were spoiled for choice in that department.” Brayden Fengler

That’s right, I’m dropping the receipts on my partner. I’m playing a dangerous game, I know. 

But Brayden did paint a picture of how Juho could crack this team, he would have to force his way into the line-up, and that he did. Since Boudreau came along Lammikko has been averaging almost three minutes more a night versus his time under Travis Green this season. Lammikko has made himself indispensable and turned the Olli Juolevi trade into a win. Since being moved, Juolevi has only played 10 games in the NHL for the Panthers and hasn’t earned a single point, whereas Lammikko has played 45 games, and has 11 points to his name.

I must say, it feels strange highlighting all these wins by Jim Benning, now that he is no longer with the club, but time has shown that at least these moves have paid off. 

The New Line

Who would have thought that these three players would come together and be one of the more effective lines for the Canucks. These three oddballs are a classic case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. None of these players were given much thought at the time of being acquired and now they are being played more than Pettersson and his younglings, Höglander and Podkolzin, in some games. 

In Monday’s game against the Seattle Kraken, the Lammikko line had 9:19 of ice time at 5-on-5 and the Pettersson line only had 8:46. While the underlying numbers praised Pettersson, Höglander and Podkolzin, the counting stats very much favoured Lammikko, Highmore and Motte scoring five points to the three that Petey’s line earned. 

Now, grinders getting more ice time than your prized centreman is not sustainable, especially as Pettersson continues to heat back up, but it goes to show the strength of Boureau’s trust in his newly formed fourth line. After their big game Monday night Boudreau had nothing but praise for his depth players.

 “I hope they continue it. It makes it a lot easier quite frankly to play four lines, you distribute the ice time a lot better and then you can play faster because you don’t have to play guys 25 minutes a night.”

Boudreau also said,

“They take direction really well and they do what you ask them to do. And they can all skate…and now they’re starting to score some goals and that makes them even more valuable in my mind.”

Really that’s all you can ask for from your depth players. When you earn the trust of your coach like that, the coach gives you chances, even the chance to take the opening shift of the game on home ice. 

Oh, they scored after a solid forecheck 11 seconds into the game? Yeah, that sounds right. Are they the fourth line? Are they the first line? They are The Fourst Line. While the Canucks have found something special here, it’s not exactly the ghost of Jim Benning playing 5D chess by any means. 

The Canucks fumbled a lot to get this line. To assemble it, it took them having a bust of a fifth overall pick, a potential third-line centre that didn’t work out and an aging winger that was traded for scraps. No one knew these players would break out together as they have, but credit where credit is due, a whole lot of nothing, ended up turning it into something valuable for this franchise.